Food should be your first source of nutrients, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans and healthy fats. Eating a balanced diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
If you are not eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep or exercising regularly, you may not have good energy levels. Your body also may have trouble fending off illness. Dietary supplements may be necessary for an additional nutrient boost. But before taking a supplement, talk with your health-care provider. It’s important to know about safety and usefulness of supplements before making a decision.
Safety of Dietary Supplements
Be careful when choosing supplements. While dietary supplements are under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration, they are regulated differently than conventional foods and drugs. Manufacturers do not have to prove a supplement is safe or even that it works before it is sold. The FDA can take action to remove or restrict the sale of a supplement only after it has been on the market and been proven unsafe.
The Role of Fortified Foods
Supplements don’t only come in a bottle. Many foods like cereals, breads, pastas, energy bars and drinks are fortified with vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Foods should be factored in when considering a dietary supplement. Consuming too much of one nutrient may pose serious health threats. Click on the ‘Find a Registered Dietitian’ button at the top right of this page to located a registered dietitian to evaluate your daily diet prior to starting a supplement regimen.
There are several reasons people may need supplements. They include:
Calcium and vitamin D are key nutrients for bone health. If you fall behind on getting these nutrients, you may need a supplement separate from a regular multivitamin, since they usually do not contain enough calcium to meet recommendations.
Men need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day; men older than age 70 need 1,200 milligrams a day; teens need 1,300 milligrams a day.
Men also need 600 IU of vitamin D each day. After age 70, this increases to 800 IU of vitamin D.
Carotenoids, such as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, have shown promise in eye health. Start eating more fruits and vegetables like kale, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
Reviewed December 2012