This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
There's nothing like a sound, low-fat diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to supply the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, we don't always eat well. Add to that the possible harmful effects of stress, aging, lack of exercise, pollution, and illness, and supplements become even more important. That's why so many experts now recommend that everyone take a daily multivitamin.
This chart outlines the key vitamins and minerals your multivitamin should supply and the main benefits of each nutrient. It also gives what's called the daily value (DV) - a new government standard that generally corresponds to the RDA. The DV satisfies minimum daily requirements and helps prevent a deficiency disease, such as scurvy (lack of vitamin C). The higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in many multivitamins may actually help prevent disease, delay its onset, or lessen the severity of certain ailments.
If you eat an optimal diet of low-fat foods, at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and chicken, lean meat, or fish several times a week, you can probably get away with a once-daily formula. But even those who consume a fairly well-rounded diet and yield to junk-food lapses only occasionally can benefit from an extra-strength formula. If your idea of lunch is a slice of pizza and a diet soda, look for a multivitamin in the upper ranges of our chart.