Whole foods tend to be loaded with nutrients.
In general, getting your nutrients from foods is better than getting them from supplements.
That said, some foods are much more nutritious than others.
In some cases, one serving of a food can satisfy more than 100% of your daily requirements for one or more nutrients.
Here are 8 healthy foods that contain higher amounts of certain nutrients than multivitamins.
Kale is extremely healthy.
Vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting and may play a role in bone health (2).
One cup (21 grams) of fresh kale contains ():
- Vitamin K1: 68% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 22% of the RDI
Furthermore, kale is high in fiber, manganese, vitamin B6, potassium, and iron.
SUMMARY A single serving of fresh kale provides a good proportion of the RDI for vitamins K1 and C.
Seaweed — such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame — are all very rich in iodine (8).
The RDI is 150 mcg per day. However, different types of seaweed contain varying amounts of iodine.
In general, brown seaweeds — such as wakame and kombu — provide higher amounts than green seaweeds, such as nori (9).
Kombu has a very high iodine content. One gram of dried kombu may contain 2,343 mcg, far exceeding the RDI (10).
It even exceeds the upper level of safe intake, which is 1,100 mcg per day.
For this reason, seaweed should not be consumed daily, as it may cause adverse effects (11).
Nevertheless, occasional seaweed consumption is a cheap, effective way to prevent iodine deficiency.
SUMMARY Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, as 1 gram provides 20–1,000% of the RDI. Note that brown seaweed is much higher in iodine than other types and should not be consumed daily.
The liver is the most nutritious part of any animal.
It’s rich in essential nutrients, including vitamin B12, vitamin A, iron, folate, and copper.
Vitamin B12 intake is particularly important, as many people are lacking in it. It plays a crucial role in cell, brain, and nervous system health.
Beef liver contains high amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving boasts (12):
- Vitamin B12: 1,200% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 600–700% of the RDI
- Copper: 600–700% of the RDI
However, be sure not to eat liver more than once or twice per week, as you may run the risk of nutrient toxicity.
SUMMARY Liver contains very high amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper. Yet, it should not be consumed more than once or twice per week.
If you’re lacking in selenium, Brazil nuts may be the perfect snack.
The RDI is 50–70 mcg, which may be achieved by consuming just 1 large Brazil nut.
Each nut may provide up to 95 mcg of selenium.
SUMMARY Brazil nuts are the single best dietary source of selenium. Just one large nut contains more than the RDI.
Shellfish, such as clams and oysters, are among the most nutritious types of seafood.
Clams are packed with vitamin B12. In fact, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) provide over 1,600% of the RDI.
Furthermore, they contain high amounts of other B vitamins, as well as potassium, selenium, and iron.
Oysters are also nutritious. They’re abundant in zinc and vitamin B12, with 3.5 ounces (100 grams) packing 200–600% of the RDI for each nutrient.
Clams and oysters may be the perfect food for older adults. Higher amounts of vitamin B12 are recommended after age 50 because your digestive system’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 may decrease with age (16, 17, 18).
SUMMARY Clams and oysters both contain high amounts of vitamin B12, which is especially important for older adults. Shellfish are also high in many other nutrients.
Sardines are small, oily and nutrient-rich fish.
Although commonly served canned, sardines can also be grilled, smoked, or pickled when fresh.
One 3.75-ounce (92-gram) serving contains more than half of the RDI for DHA and EPA. It also provides over 300% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
Furthermore, sardines contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need, including selenium and calcium.
SUMMARY Sardines are a very nutrient-rich fish. Not only are they loaded with essential fatty acids, but 1 serving contains over 300% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
Yellow bell peppers are one of the best dietary sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin. It’s also water-soluble, meaning your body doesn't store extra amounts. Therefore, regularly consuming vitamin C is very important.
One large yellow bell pepper (186 grams) provides almost 600% of the RDI for vitamin C, which is 75–90 mg.
In comparison, yellow bell peppers harbor about 3–4 times the amount of vitamin C found in oranges.
SUMMARY Yellow bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. One large specimen provides almost 600% of the RDI — up to 4 times more than oranges.
This is because the food sources of vitamin D are sparse. They include fatty fish, fish liver oils, and — to a lesser extent — egg yolks and mushrooms.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health. It’s also a crucial part of many bodily processes, including immune system function and cancer prevention (29).
Cod liver oil is a great addition to any diet — especially for people who live far from the equator, where no vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin during the winter months.
Only 1 tablespoon (14 ml) of cod liver oil provides 2–3 grams of omega-3 fats and 1,400 IU of vitamin D. This is more than 200% of the RDI for vitamin D.
However, the same amount of cod liver oil also harbors 270% of the RDI for vitamin A. Vitamin A can be harmful in excessive amounts, so adults are advised to take no more than 2 tablespoons (28 ml) of cod liver oil per day.
SUMMARY Cod liver oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin A. However, taking more than 1–2 tablespoons (14–18 ml) per day is not recommended.
Although multivitamins may be beneficial for some people, they’re unnecessary for most. In some cases, they may even provide excessive amounts of certain nutrients.
If you want to boost your nutrient intake through diet alone, consider adding some of these nutritious, whole foods to your routine.