Multivitamins Aren't as Good as You Think: Eat These Real Foods Instead

by Ashley Marcin on 12 May 2014 1 comment

Before you head to the store, take heed! You don't need to stock your medicine cabinet with expensive vitamins and supplements to experience optimum health. In fact, many experts agree that concentrated pills are often a waste of money. And some popular vitamins may even be harmful to the body if taken incorrectly. (See also: What You Can Learn From People Who Take Vitamins)

Most of us turn to vitamins to fill gaps in our nutrition that we should really correct with eating whole foods. More specifically, superfoods can improve our vitamin and mineral stores and taste good while they're at it. So, pocket the money you spend on vitamins and put it toward your next grocery bill. Not only will you enjoy better health, but you may also learn to love some new tastes and textures.

Here are 10 frugal foods that are packed with good-for-you nutrients.

1. Kale

Of all the superfoods, kale has become an international favorite. This dark, leafy green is teeming with vitamins A and C. At over 100% of the daily dose per cup, there's no need to supplement. Kale is also a plant-based calcium source. To save on this nutrient staple, try your local farmers market or buying in bulk. In addition, some varieties (standard versus Tuscan or Dinosaur kale) tend to be a better bargain than others.

2. Spinach

Popeye knew his stuff. With 66% of the daily requirement for folate per cooked cup, spinach is a wonderful addition to any diet. This dark green is also high in vitamin A. I like to buy frozen spinach, which lasts longer than fresh, but still contains all the essential nutrients. (See also: 35 Tasty Ways to Use Frozen Spinach)

3. Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes are notoriously affordable and in high supply. The next time you're at the store, stock up on any variety — but especially sweet potatoes. A cubed cup of sweet potatoes will give you a hefty 377% for your daily requirement of vitamin A, making them one of the best natural sources of beta-carotene. You'll also get 15%of vitamin B6 and potassium to boot.

4. Cauliflower

Whoever said to "eat your colors" is only half right. White cauliflower is an amazing supplier of vitamin C, calcium, iron, and magnesium, and vitamin B6. It has a little of everything that — in combination with other whole foods — will help you get complete nutrition on the daily without supplementation. Plus, one head goes a long way in a variety of recipes, helping you get more bang for your buck.

5. Avocados

What most vitamins don't include is a dose of healthy fats that help brain function and satiety. Avocados contain 20% of your daily requirement for potassium, and also 21 grams of healthy fats per cup. These fats are the monounsaturated fats that are responsible for reducing bad cholesterol and lowering your risk of heart disease and other other related illnesses. I've found avocados on the cheap at discount grocers like Aldi. Otherwise, stock up when they're on sale — you can actually freeze pureed avocados for use in guacamole and other dips!

6. Salmon

If you've ever considered adding an omega-3 supplement to your regimen, first look at adding it to your diet. Many fish (salmon being a good, low-mercury choice) contain this essential fatty-acid that researchers say is responsible for a "decreased risk of arrhythmias . . . triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure." One 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains 1,500 mg, and experts at the the Mayo Clinic recommend eating it twice a week. A budget-friendly option is canned salmon. (See also: 50 Ways to Use Canned Salmon)

7. Eggs

The incredible edible egg is my favorite cheap protein go-to. Did you know that eggs are also a great source of choline? Each contains 250 mg of the recommended 550 mg pregnant women should get each day to support fetal brain development. (The rest of us can benefit from better memory skills, too, along with vitamins A and E.) However, don't stock up on liquid egg whites. While protein is contained in the whites, the majority of the vitamins and other benefits are in the yolk.

8. Bananas

Perhaps the cheapest option of all, bananas contain 20% of your daily B6, along with a respectable amount of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. And that's just in one medium-sized natural package. Though they're already inexpensive, you can save your pennies by buying conventional versus organic, as bananas are not on the dirty dozen produce list. (See also: 19 Bizarre Uses for Banana Peels)

9. Almonds

Though nuts may seem expensive, it's important to consider the nutrients they provide. An ounce of raw almonds contains 19% of your daily requirement for magnesium, as well as 7% for calcium and 6 grams of protein. Best of all, this same serving packs 37% of your daily value for vitamin E. To save on almonds and other nuts, check out your grocers bulk foods section. You can also buy dry roasted and make your own lower-cost nut butters from scratch. (See also: The Best and Worst Nuts, By Nutrition and Price)

10. Cabbage

I tend to overlook cabbage when drafting my weekly menu plans, but I'm going to add this healthy ingredient onto my next grocery list. A single serving of cabbage contains up to 85% of your daily vitamin K requirement plus 54% of vitamin C, among other things. Not only is cabbage cheap, but it's also lasts a really long time in your refrigerator — less food waste means more dollars in your pocket. (See also: 15 Delicious Ways to Prepare a Humble Head of Cabbage)

What're your favorite multivitamin supplements? Please share in comments!

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Emily

On cabbage: we have recently discovered how wonderful fried cabbage is with a heaping helping of leftover cooked brown rice. Just cook the cabbage thoroughly with evoo, salt, and a little pat of butter if you dare, add cold rice, warm through. Drool!