I understand your confusion – everyone’s a nutrition expert these days it seems! I think the straightest answer is that while it’s possible for many people to get the full recommendation of all vitamins and minerals from their diet, not everyone does, and almost certainly not every day. The government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey gives a good clue as to the nutrients and groups that are of most concern – these include vitamin D for every age group, magnesium (low in 25 percent of women aged 19-64) and iron, also low across age groups but particularly in women and girls. Worryingly in women of childbearing age, 89 percent also have a red blood cell folate concentration low enough to put them at increased risk of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. Vegans, or those with more plant-focused diets will also not be getting vitamin B12 from their diet. Experts have varying opinions on how to correct micronutrient deficiencies, but a good multivitamin (check it has at least 10 micrograms of vitamin D) is one of the most practical and simple ways to ensure the gaps get filled. But it really is essential that this strategy is combined with a balanced diet rich in fibre, fruit and vegetables, and that also includes some dairy, or else a calcium and vitamin B12-fortified plant alternative.
Freelance health journalist / registered nutritionist