ByNicole Ferring Holovach, MS, RD
Be honest — when was the last time you ate your suggested five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Despite your best efforts to eat a balanced diet, you may be falling short of the recommended daily amount of certain nutrients.
Many people turn to dietary supplements to get their recommended intake of those missing nutrients. Supplements can be used to fill in nutritional gaps in your diet and may be especially beneficial for certain groups of people (including pregnant women, menopausal women, vegans, vegetarians and people with food allergies) who may need higher levels of certain nutrients or whose diets may restrict the intake of certain nutrients.
Here are some general tips for adults who are considering taking a dietary supplement. Remember, even though these products are available without a prescription, you may want to talk to your doctor before you begin taking any type of supplement. Supplements may not be necessary for everyone. Your doctor can help you determine if a dietary supplement is necessary.
Be sure to follow the dosage recommendations printed on the label, or suggested by your doctor, when taking supplements. Remember, supplements provide additional nutrients to those you're already getting from your meals throughout the day. And there's no real health advantage to getting more of a particular vitamin or mineral than you need; in fact, getting too much of certain vitamins or minerals can cause uncomfortable side effects, like vomiting or diarrhea, and more serious health problems, like liver damage.
Be particularly careful when it comes to the following supplements:
Taking your supplement as directed doesn't just mean paying careful attention to the recommended dosage. It is also important to read the label of all of your prescription and OTC medications to understand how any supplement could potentially interact with the medications you take or the foods you eat.
It's important to do thorough research when considering a certain supplement — and this includes reading the labels carefully, as they can often be confusing. Supplements cannot claim to treat or cure diseases, and they must bear appropriate ingredient and nutrition labeling. Here are some important things to watch out for when considering a particular supplement:
When choosing a supplement, it's important to get accurate, up-to-date information. Ultimately, your doctor is your best resource for answering any questions you may have.
Over-the-counter vitamin and minerals can be used as a supplement to your diet, but they should never be used in the place of real food.
To prevent accidental ingestion, always be sure to store medicines and vitamins up and away and out of your child's reach and sight. And put the medicines or supplement back in its proper place every time you use them.
Published June 19, 2013
Nicole Ferring Holovach, MS, RD, is a Washington, DC-based nutrition communications professional, writer and health and wellness educator. She blogs about holistic health at www.WholeHealthRD.com.