Getting all your nutrients from food—even if you’re dieting, from Harvard Women’s Health Watch

The best way to get the nutrients you need is from food. But some people doubt they can get everything they need from the foods they eat, especially if their daily calorie intake is at the low end of the spectrum, reports the July 2009 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch. Many women take a multivitamin for insurance. But do they need to? With the help of a registered dietitian, Harvard Women's Health Watch explores how you can meet your vitamin and mineral needs through diet alone, even at 1,500 calories or fewer a day.

A balanced diet—one containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—offers a mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that collectively meet the body's needs. It's not an issue of food quantity but rather food quality. Even a low-calorie diet can deliver all the vitamins and minerals you need with one exception—vitamin D. So plan to take a vitamin D supplement. Getting the rest of your nutrients through diet requires some planning and some knowledge about food. The focus should be on nutrient-dense foods such as legumes, Brussels sprouts, kale, eggs, seeds, almonds, and fish, which are packed with vitamins and minerals and have relatively few calories.

Harvard Women's Health Watch notes that one way to set up a plan that meets your personal nutritional needs is to work with a registered dietitian. If you're going to do the work yourself, here are some of the questions you'll need to ask: How much of each vitamin and mineral do I need? How many calories do I need? What do I eat? How do I know if my diet provides what I need? Harvard Women's Health Watch lists Web sites where you can find the answers.

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