We need vitamins to live. We also need certain minerals. Together, these substances, which are naturally found in food, help our bodies grow and function. At times, adding vitamins and minerals to your diet can give your body a boost. But supplements alone can't provide all that you need to stay healthy. That’s why it’s best to eat a balanced diet.
Supplements can be helpful for people who have special nutritional needs. They may also help people who eat small amounts or limited types of foods. You might need a supplement if any of the following is true for you:
I rarely eat a balanced diet. (A balanced diet includes vegetables, fruits, dairy, and grain products. It also includes protein foods, such as meats, eggs, and beans.)
I am pregnant or breastfeeding.
I am a vegetarian or vegan.
I am often on a diet of less than 1,600 calories.
I can't eat certain types of foods.
I am age 50 or older.
I have dental or health problems that limit my diet.
I am in poor health or recovering from an illness or injury.
Tell any health care provider you visit what supplements you take.
Everyone’s vitamin and mineral needs are different. Talk with your provider to choose the right supplement for you.
The FDA doesn’t test supplements for quality. So look for supplements that have been independently tested for quality. These will have a seal of approval from U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, or NSF International. These seals don’t guarantee a product is safe or effective. But they do guarantee that it has the ingredients listed on the label and doesn’t contain contaminants.
If you take supplements, also be sure to:
Read the label to find out which vitamins and minerals a product contains.
Make sure the product won't expire soon.
Store supplements in a cool, dry place, away from sun and heat.
Take supplements with food or at bedtime to help prevent nausea.
Eat a balanced diet to get all the nutrients your body needs.
Vitamins and minerals are found in almost all foods. Yet each food has a unique makeup. Try to eat a balanced diet that includes all of the following:
Whole grains and grain products (rice, breads, cereals, tortillas)
Low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
Lean meat, poultry, and fish; nuts or beans