Why You Need Vitamins and the Best Places to Get Them

When it comes to getting the right amount of vitamins, grabbing a quick pill might seem like the easiest option. But what most people don’t know is that there’s almost no proof that multivitamin pills offer any long-term health benefits.

A well-balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs but can’t make on its own. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains offer key vitamins and minerals that keep you functioning at your peak. Plus, adding more healthy foods to your daily rotation can help ward off things like the common cold and aid the health of your immune system. Here’s a brief guide to some of the most important vitamins and the easiest, most delicious ways to get them.


Two Boys Having Breakfast with Their Mom

Why we need it: Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth, and it aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction. The human body does not produce calcium on its own, yet this mineral is essential for keeping us alive.

Where to get it: Your best bets are lean dairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Because these foods can be high in both fat and sodium, make sure you’re not eating too much! Also, caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda can pull the calcium out of your body, so watch how many of these beverages you consume.


Variety of Healthy Food

Why we need it: Iron is another powerhouse mineral that makes life possible. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough red blood cells. This can lead to a condition called anemia. Lack of iron can leave you feeling fatigued and dizzy. Pregnant women who don’t get enough iron are more likely to give birth to underweight or premature babies.

Where to get it: The good news is there are plenty of tasty foods that can help you get enough iron. The best sources are animal proteins: chicken, fish, beef, and especially liver are rich in iron. You can also find iron in lentils, beans, cereal, tofu, and even dried apricots.

Vitamin B6 and B12

Raw Beef Liver

Why we need it: Vitamin B6 is important for your metabolism, or how your body breaks down your foods for energy. It’s also been shown to promote brain health and cut the risk for Alzheimer’s. B12 helps keep the nerves and blood cells healthy. When its lacking in the body, you may feel fatigued and dizzy – in severe deficiencies, you could experience muscle and coordination problems.

Where to get it: Foods like turkey, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, potatoes, and bananas as well as fruit (other than citrus) are B6 rich. B12 is naturally found in animal products (meat and dairy products) and is added to fortify plant-based foods like veggie burgers. Beef liver and clams contain the highest amount of B12, with 3,460% of the recommended daily allowance in one serving.

Vitamin C

Grapefruit Orange and Lemon Cut in Half

Why we need it: Vitamin C protects our cells from damage caused by free radicals which are harmful compounds found in air pollution, the sun’s UVA rays, and cigarette smoke. It’s also vital in the production of collagen and helps the immune system fight off diseases.

Where to get it: Vitamin C’s impressive health benefits can come from many fruits and vegetables like strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, kale, and spinach. The most popular source of Vitamin C is, of course, oranges. A single orange delivers almost your entire daily dose.

Vitamin D

Salmon on Cutting Board

Why we need it: Vitamin D has numerous benefits related to cancer prevention, bone health, mental health, and your immune system. Vitamin D helps your body better absorb calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and decreases the risk of bone fractures in older adults. There’s even been a study that suggests vitamin D may help fight depression.

Where to get it: Dairy products, nut milks, and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, giving them an extra helping of this important vitamin. Fatty fishes like tuna, salmon, and cod rank high on the list of nutrient-filled foods. Rare mushrooms and egg yolks also contain small amounts.

Reaping the Benefits


Supplements can be an added bonus to our daily diet but should be considered as a secondary option when it comes to sourcing the proper nutrients for our bodies. Incorporating foods that nourish our bodies and are loaded with minerals is essential to a long and healthy life. Even if you’re eating at a restaurant, you can still make smart choices and meet your nutritional goals. Check back regularly for more healthy living tips and ideas!

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

AltaMed Making Healthy Choices When Eating at Restaurants

Making Healthy Choices When Eating at Restaurants

Who said eating out has to be unhealthy? The secret is to be more aware of the food you eat. We have a few ways to help make your dine-out meals enjoyable, healthy, and still delicious!

Drink Water

Woman Drinking Lemonade Glass

Drinking a glass of water instead of a sugary drink before you take a bite into your delicious meal can help you eat less at the dinner table. A glass of water before your meal aids your digestion and helps you feel more full, which can help you eat less. Plus, it saves you a few dollars on your bill while also saving you calories! If you want to add a little flavor to your water, ask for a slice of cucumber or lemon. Lemons add a tangy flavor and are a great source of Vitamin C.

Choose Chicken or Fish

Tuna with Vegetables Dish

Even if you’re going to a fast-food restaurant, you can still make healthier selections. Red meats like hamburger and steak are both high in saturated fats, which may raise the risk of cancer and heart disease. Most restaurants and even hamburgers stands offer chicken and fish options. However, if you have to choose between a bucket of fried chicken and a hamburger, get the burger but hold the fries.

Keep Your Plate Colorful

Veggie Dish

Your plate is your canvas. Spice it up and eat the rainbow! Making sure your plate has more colorful veggies and fruits ensures that you eat the right amount of nutrients. Make it your goal to cover two corners of your plate with fruits and veggies. Try substituting the ‘bad carbs’ found in fries and mashed potatoes with complex carbohydrates, like brown or wild rice, and hearty veggies like broccoli, asparagus, and carrots. If you’re craving a juicy burger, ditch the bun and wrap it in lettuce. Lettuce-wrapping your burgers can shave off extra calories and helps you load up on veggies.

Substitute the Salad Dressing

Salad Bowl

Choosing to eat a salad for lunch or dinner can still be a fun meal. But even a hearty salad can be unhealthy if you choose the wrong dressing or load it with unhealthy toppings like croutons or a lot of cheese. Substitute those toppings with healthy seeds, nuts, or roasted chickpeas, and instead of ranch, blue cheese, or French dressing, try a vinaigrette! The best dressings for your colorful salads are the ones you can see through. Try a balsamic, raspberry, or Italian vinaigrette for a flavorful substitute.

Portion Control

Pasta Dish

It’s not your imagination: restaurants are serving bigger portions. That doesn’t mean you have to eat everything they put in front of you. Two ways to downsize your plate are to order an appetizer or two for your meal, or just eat half of your entrée. If you order appetizers as a main dish, ask for your food to arrive with the rest of the entrees. Also, if you have a big entrée, try sharing it with your friend, or taking half of it home with you for a meal the next day. Who doesn’t love leftovers?

Don’t Go Extra with the Extra

Sauces and Condiments

All that gooey ketchup you’re slathering on your sandwich is a hidden source of sugar and extra calories. Just two tablespoons of ketchup have two teaspoons of sugar – in fact, ounce for ounce, ketchup has more sugar than ice cream. Other condiments that contain extra sugar include:

  • Barbeque sauce
  • Honey mustard sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce

On the salty side, soy sauce, sweet relish, and mustard should also be used in moderation because they’re loaded with sodium.

If you’re looking to add extra flavor without the extra calories, try smarter options like:

  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Guacamole (in moderation)
  • Lemon juice
Kid drinking orange soda

Your Guide to Choosing Healthy Drinks for Your Family

Maybe you’ve heard the recent news about a group of pediatricians calling for a tax of sugary sodas to help curb consumption.

You may have also read recent reports that drinking diet sodas has been linked to health problems like stroke, heart attacks, and even a higher risk of diabetes.

Or maybe you’ve been warned about giving your kids too much juice, as the extra sugar maylead to cavities.

All of this information can leave you thinking, “What are my children and I supposed to drink?”

Relax! AltaMed’s got you. Learn more about your drink choices, and how to drink them while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Soda and Sugar

Soda is full of empty calories meaning there are no nutritional benefits or vitamins in soda. Sugar-sweetened beverages may be the leading dietary cause of Type 2 diabetes.

  • The added calories and sugar in soda can lead to weight gain and obesity, which can lead to diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
  • The sugars and acid in soda are also bad for your teeth, promoting tooth decay, oral disease, and even bad breath.
  • Soda’s mix of sugar and caffeine may make you urinate more frequently, potentially leading to dehydration.

The bottom line: Consider soda a treat like chocolate cake or a candy bar and only consume it once a month. Soda is not recommended for children still drinking from a bottle.

Diet Drinks/Sugar-Free Soda

Choose Between Water and Soda

People often choose diet soda, thinking it’s a healthier option and that fewer calories can help weight loss efforts. But almost all the research says the opposite: consumption of diet sodas has been tied to weight gain. This may be because of aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in diet soda. The way diet soda delivers sweetness without providing calories or nutrients may trick thebrain into overeating. Over time, aspartame may also dull your taste buds, so you need increasingly sweet tastes before your brain realizes you’re eating something sweet.

  • Even though they don’t have sugar, diet sodas have been linked to stroke, diabetes, and increased risk of obesity.
  • Some people experience sensitivity to artificial sweeteners that could result in headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
  • Added caffeine may make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.

The bottom line: Sip these as sparingly as the full-sugar versions – no more than once or twice a month.

Sports Drinks

Girl drinking sports drink

Even though you would think you’re getting something healthy, sports drinks aren’t much better than sodas. It’s true that sports drinks have added nutrients like sodium, potassium, and calcium, but you don’t need them, unless you’re participating in strenuous exercise.

  • Added sugar could cause obesity or diabetes.
  • Added sodium may elevate blood pressure.
  • Most sports drinks contain food dyes – some of which have been linked to hyperactivity in children.

The bottom line: Unless you or your child is doing vigorous exercise for 30 minutes or longer, skip the sports drinks.


Girl Clutching a Juice

Juice seems like it should be all-natural, right? But many juices you buy at the store contain significant amounts of added sugar. Even though it’s made from fruit, juice doesn’t deliver the same nutritional benefits you’d get from eating the whole fruit.

  • Juice delivers a concentrated amount of fruit sugar with none of the fiber.
  • These extra calories in juice can lead to weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and more.
  • When placed in baby’s bottle, juice can lead to tooth decay.

The bottom line: If you’re going to buy juice, read the label carefully to make sure it has as few ingredients as possible – ideally, just juice from the fruit and nothing more. It is ok to enjoy juice occasionally, but if you’re giving it to a child, make sure you give them a kid-sized portion in a cup, not a bottle!


Father Helping His Son to Drink Water

Water should be your whole family’s go-to drink! It’s cheap and free of calories, chemicals, and additives. Here’s a few more reasons why we love water:

  • Water helps keep you hydrated.
  • It helps you feel full, which could mean eating less and saving calories at meal time.
  • Drinking water hydrates your skin and your joints from the inside out.

The bottom line: The old advice about drinking eight ounces of water eight times a day isn’t bad advice, but some people might not need quite so much. If you’re athletic, breastfeeding, or living in a hot or humid climate, you may need more.

Looking for more tips on healthy living for you and your family? Bookmark the AltaMed Health and Wellness page! Find articles about making fitness fun, kid-friendly oral health tips, disease prevention, and much more.

Why You Need Vitamins and the Best Places to Get Them