Should You Take Dietary Supplements?

Various color pills and capsules close shot“Food is the best source of nutrients, and individuals should aim to meet their needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods,” said CVMC’s Health First Center Wellness Dietitian, Renee Greene. “The best way to stay healthy is to choose a variety of foods from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, low fat dairy and lean proteins.” But sometimes even people with healthy eating habits, find it hard to get enough of the healthy foods that they need each day. “Dietary supplements can fill in the gaps and supplement our diet at certain times in our lives,” said Renee.

Nutrient deficiencies are not common among Americans. However, there are certain people who are more likely to need a supplement to ensure they’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Those include:

  • People who are sick, injured or recovering from surgery
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • People who eat very low calorie diets or don’t eat a variety of foods
  • Breastfed infants

Not all herbs and supplements are safe. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and can be sold without research on how well it works. Therefore, it is illegal for manufacturers to advertise that their product can diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. If you are unsure about the safety of a supplement, talk to your dietitian, pharmacist or doctor. Your doctor can order tests to see if a supplement would benefit you, and a dietitian can evaluate the foods you eat and make suggestions for ways to improve the quality of your diet.

When shopping for a supplement, Renee says keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a multivitamin that provides a variety of vitamins and minerals, unless your doctor has recommended that you take an individual vitamin or mineral.
  • Pick a well-known brand (or store brand) that provides the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for each vitamin and mineral. Taking more than the RDA can cause health problems.
  • If the supplement has the United States Parmacopeia (USP) seal, the supplement has been tested and contains the amounts of vitamins and minerals that are listed on the label.
  • Check the label for other ingredients, such as allergens like wheat, corn, eggs or gelatin.
  • It is appropriate to select a supplement designed for a gender or age group. Specialized supplements are tailored to the needs of those individuals, like women’s, men’s, senior’s, children’s or prenatal formulas.
  • Be cautious of supplements that promise quick and dramatic results. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Remember, supplements are not substitutes for a healthy lifestyle or healthy eating. Food is the best source of nutrients!

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