Why take vitamin and mineral supplements?

Why take vitamin and mineral supplements?

Many vitamins and minerals are essential, contributing to the body's normal function. While dietitians recommend that you obtain most vitamins and minerals through your diet, this isn't always possible.

For example, if you don't consume enough fruits, vegetables or other healthy foods, a multivitamin may fill nutritional gaps. A multivitamin also may be beneficial if you have certain food allergies or intolerances, are pregnant, or have a disease or condition that affects nutrient intake.

Here are a few tips regarding supplements:

  • Avoid megadoses.
    High-dose supplements can cause toxic levels of nutrients to build up in your body. Select a vitamin that provides about 100% of the daily value, unless your health care professional tells you otherwise. A brand-name product is not necessary.
  • Look for "USP Verified" on the label.
    This label ensures the product meets strength, quality and purity standards set forth by U.S. Pharmacopeia, a testing organization.
  • Be aware of extras.
    Don't feel the need to purchase products with special ingredients, or added herbs, enzymes, amino acids or unusual ingredients. These extras usually add nothing but cost.
  • Check the expiration date.
    Vitamins and supplements can become less effective over time.
  • Ask the experts.
    Check with your health care professional or pharmacist if you have questions about what vitamin and mineral supplements you should take.

A multivitamin cannot replace a healthy, well-balanced diet. The body recognizes and absorbs the nutrients naturally found in foods much better than a supplement.

For example, when it comes to vitamin C, you can obtain 100% of your needs by taking a vitamin C capsule. Or you can consume an orange and receive not only vitamin C, but also beta carotene, calcium and other nutrients.

But which is a better choice?

The orange is a better choice. Because many foods also contain fiber and phytochemicals — substances that may protect against certain cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Supplements don't include these substances. However, as mentioned above, a daily vitamin is sometimes a good option to support health and well-being.

Anne Harguth is a registered dietitian in Nutrition in Waseca, Minnesota.