Nutrition

We Wish Multivitamins Didn't Need to Exist

6 min read

Even if you eat a healthful diet, chances are you still have some nutritional gaps—which is where a multivitamin can come in handy.
Even if you eat a healthful diet, chances are you still have some nutritional gaps—which is where a multivitamin can come in handy.

Ritual was started with a simple question: “Do we need multivitamins at all?”

If you’ve ever wondered the same, know that you’re in very good company: Our founder & CEO never took multivitamins regularly before launching Ritual, and as a lifelong healthy eater, she wondered what nutrients she was actually missing from her diet. 68 percent of our customers are on a similar wavelength, reporting that they were never consistent with other vitamins in the past. In other words, we were made for skeptics, by skeptics. And we all kind of wish multivitamins didn’t need to exist.

It’s why we developed our multivitamins with a less-is-more approach—we think that some things are better left unsupplemented. Unfortunately, there are a few other specifics that come into play, even for those who go out of their way to eat a balance of healthy, nutrient-rich foods. But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine, for a moment, a world where we didn’t need multivitamins at all. What would some of those scenarios look like?

Do I Need Vitamins

Scenario 1: Dietary restrictions are nonexistent.

If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or have any food allergies, it can leave you vulnerable to certain nutrient gaps. Vitamin B12, for example, is an important contributor to energy-yielding metabolism and brain function—but it’s found primarily in red meat and other animal products. Omega-3 DHA, which helps with vision support and brain health, is generally sourced from fish. In a world without supplemental vitamin options, cutting out these kinds of foods would be off the table—which is kind of a tall order for some of us, right?*

Scenario 2: It’s easy to eat a perfect spectrum of nutrient-dense foods, 100% of the time.

Make no mistake. We always encourage filling your plate with a variety of nutrient-rich foods—all the better to maximize your dietary nutrient intake. But in a world without supplements, there wouldn’t be much wiggle room at all. You’d probably need to spend a lot of time and effort ticking all the boxes for the nutrients you need, especially those that can be tough to get through diet alone.

Vitamin D is a great example. Roughly 75% of Americans are low in vitamin D, due to a variety of factors ranging from pollution to climate and SPF—you know, things that filter out the sunlight our bodies use to synthesize vitamin D. That’s coupled with the fact that diet isn’t always a reliable source of vitamin D. For starters, dietary vitamin D can be found mostly in animal products like salmon and beef liver—not great for our vegan and vegetarian friends. And there are also other variables that come into play. “There can be variation depending on the type of salmon, for example,” says dietitian Michelle Davenport, PhD, RD who is a member of Ritual’s Scientific Advisory Board. “Farmed salmon, for example, commonly only contains about 25% of the D3 typically found in wild salmon.” (2,3)

Scenario 3: Genetic variations aren’t a thing.

You’re a beautiful, unique creature—and that starts with your DNA. That also means that for some of us, there are genetic variables that make it trickier to efficiently utilize certain nutrients. For example, up to one-third of adults have a genetic polymorphism that makes it difficult to properly utilize folic acid, a synthetic form of folate often found in supplements.* (4)

Scenario 4: Soil quality is top-notch—guaranteed.

Fact: Many of the fruits and vegetables many of us eat today may actually be less nutrient-dense than they were, say, 50 years ago—that’s something that was illustrated in a landmark study published in 2004. The culprit? Scientists found that due to modern agricultural practices, our soil may actually be less nutrient-rich than it was decades ago. The workaround could be to shop organic, and/or source your produce from local farms who engage in sustainable farming practices. (Hello, CSA box.) (5)

Scenario 5: A full-fledged farm in the backyard.

On that note, here’s a simple equation: more miles traveled = less nutritional value. That’s according to studies tracking the nutrient content of produce that has been shipped a long way, versus those that are sourced from local farms. Consider a case study on broccoli published in 2008, which found that the broccoli that had been grown out of season and transported a far distance had half the vitamin C content than the variety grown seasonally and locally. So… ready to get gardening? (6)

Scenario 6: Uncooked food, all the time.

There are several things that can contribute to nutrient degradation, and cooking is one of them. When cooking vegetables, for example, the heat can break down the cell walls that house nutrients—which means that some of them are likely to be impacted. Studies show that water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and B-vitamins (like folate) are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cooking. (7)


It’s all a lot to consider, right? The thing is that these scenarios would have to essentially be true simultaneously to avoid nutrient gaps. Think about it: Even if you don’t identify as vegan, frequent your local farmer’s market and fancy yourself a very healthful eater, you could have a genetic variation impacting your folate intake—not to mention you probably cook your food. These are all really good reasons why a multivitamin can help fill gaps.*

On the flip side, some of these scenarios aren’t so outlandish—and certainly worth adopting in the name of meeting your nutrient needs. It’s our food-first philosophy, after all, to make the very most of the nutrients that are on your plate—and that might mean reconsidering the soil your veggies are grown in, for example. Or how many miles your food has traveled before it lands on grocery store shelves. We think it’s worth it to know which foods are the best sources of certain nutrients, and to know how things like cooking can have an impact.

All in all, we’ll always advocate for some healthy skepticism and curiosity around the things you’re putting into your body—all in the name of building better nutrition habits. That rings true for your multivitamin, but it starts with what’s on your plate. Even if we former skeptics have learned that multivitamins can be essential—and never skip a day without taking our two—what if we still tried to eat like they didn’t exist? Food for thought.

References:

  1. Ritual Brand Sentiment Survey, 2019-2020
  2. Ginde, A. A., Liu, M. C., & Camargo, C. A. (2009). Demographic Differences and Trends of Vitamin D...in the US Population, 1988-2004. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(6), 626. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2008.604
  3. Jones, T. (2019, December 19). 7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D. Retrieved from Healthline
  4. Folate (Folic Acid) – Vitamin B9. (2019, July 2). Retrieved from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  5. Davis, D. R., Epp, M. D., & Riordan, H. D. (2004). Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(6), 669–682. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719409
  6. Wunderlich, S. M., Feldman, C., Kane, S., & Hazhin, T. (2008). Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin C as a marker. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 59(1), 34–45. doi: 10.1080/09637480701453637
  7. Lee, S., Choi, Y., Jeong, H. S., Lee, J., & Sung, J. (2017). Effect of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables. Food Science and Biotechnology. doi: 10.1007/s10068-017-0281-1

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