Get The Low-Down on Supplements

According the Farlex Dictionary, the definition of a supplement is “something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen a role.” A dietary supplement, therefore, is any product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. Many people mistakenly think a supplement is something body builders use, but in reality your daily multivitamin is a supplement. The extra calcium chews that women take is considered a supplement. So it then becomes important to understand what supplements do and what the benefits and dangers can be.

When choosing a supplement always remember “safety first.” Some supplement ingredients, including nutrients and plant based ingredients, can be toxic based on their activity in the body. Do your research and think twice before following the latest headline. Sound health advice is generally based on research over time, not a single study touted to the media. Be wary of results claiming a “quick fix” that depart from scientific and established dietary guidance. Remember: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

There are a few independent organizations that offer “seals of approval” that may be displayed on certain dietary supplement products. These indicate that the product has passed the organization’s quality tests for things such as potency and contaminants. These “seals of approval” do not mean that a product is safe or effective; they provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, that it contains the ingredients listed on the label and that it does not contain harmful levels of contaminants. These organizations include:

NSF International Dietary Supplement Certification

U.S. Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplement Verification Program

Before taking a supplement, consumers should ask themselves the following questions:

1. Is the product safe?

2. If safe, is it effective?

3. If effective, is it necessary for health?

4. If necessary, am I willing to risk the side effects?


Major health and nutrition organizations recommend taking a multivitamin because most people do not obtain all the essential nutrients needed on a daily basis from diet alone. However, it is important to note that a multivitamin cannot undo the harmful side effects of an unhealthy diet!

The following are suggestions when choosing (and ingesting) a multivitamin:

1. Look for 100% of the daily value (DV) for Vitamin D, and B vitamins, and 20 micrograms of Vitamin K, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, and chromium.

2. Look for 5,000 IU’s of Vitamin A with 40% in the form of beta carotene. (More than 6,000 IU’s of vitamin A actually increases the risk of fractures in people over 50)

3. If a calcium supplement in necessary take a separate supplement.

4. Iron: pre-menopausal women look for 100% of DV of iron. Men and post-menopausal women need only 45% of DV.

5. Strict Vegetarians probably need extra B12, zinc, iron and calcium.

6. Women of childbearing age can benefit from 400 IU’s folate.

What Supplements do you take?

I take a multi-vitamin, Omega 3 fish oil, and calcium everyday.


37 Responses

  1. Good post. I think it’s so easy to fall into the hype. I take a multi-vitamin, vitamin D, and a B complex (since I am vegetarian).

  2. i only take fish oil 3 times a week, although i’ve thought about taking over-the-counter prenatal vitamins a couple times! great info kelly!

  3. My mom used to have me taking 40 pills a day of supplements. Since I graduated highschool I have yet to touch another one. I was so tired of caring around ridiculous baggies with vitamins in them. Of course I don’t even know what she was giving me, I just figured since she was my mom she knew what she was doing. Then I went to the doc for my cycts and he found out I was very close to overdosing on mangenese. Haha oh mom. After that I stopped taking everything!

    • 40 pills a day? WOW! That sounds like my Dad. When I was younger he took tons of vitamins but now he is down to only a multi! 🙂

  4. I stopped taking anything which is not good, but I am having a hard time finding a multi vitamin without soy. I normally take calcium with D, but just ran out…I guess you didn’t ask what I need to be taking…I think I need to get back on the supplements again!

  5. Great resources. I take omega-3 fish oils, vitamin D, and a joint pain supplement my doctor recommended.

  6. I take the same three things as you, but probably every other day on average. The calcium is the one thing I’m really an advocate of since my injury in December… gotta keep those bones strong! 🙂

  7. I take a fish oil capsul, a multi-vitamin, vitamin D in the winter, and CoQ10. I’m kind of a supplement lover, but I always check mine out with my doctor anytime I add something new!

  8. Great post, very informative. I don’t take any supplements-but only because I’m lazy. I buy and don’t take, so it sits on the shelf.

  9. As far as supplements go, I stick with multivitamins and get the rest from food, the sun, etc!

  10. I just take a multivitamin and calcium daily … what are the benefits of taking fish oil daily? I’ve heard of people taking it that don’t like fish… but I do! Is it just for the omega 3s?

    • Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid, which means it cannot be manufactured by our own body and therefore must be obtained through our diet alone. The thing is, most people’s diet’s contain an insufficient amount of omega 3. Not to mention, they also contain a very high amount of the omega 6 fatty acid. The ideal ratio of the two is something near 2:1. In reality for the average person, it’s more like 20:1 or even more. Most people just lack omega 3, which is why a fish oil supplement could be beneficial to pretty much everyone. For more information check out this website:

      Hope this information helps!!!

  11. Thank you for the info – especially guidelines for choosing a good multivitamin. I used to take them, but they always made me nauseous so I stopped. I should probably take 1/2 or something. Maybe I’ll give them another try.

    Omega 3 Fish Oil is a recommended supplement for children with autism. I’ve seen many of my students make drastic improvements after their parents started giving them fish oil. I also know other adults who swear by it. I’m thinking I should add this into my diet.

    • Oh that is cool! I have also heard that there seems to be success with a gluten-free diet and autism. Have you seen any of that firsthand?

  12. Those are my 3 too. Plus probiotics. I know the science is not definitive, but I figure it can’t hurt.

  13. I just started taking fish oil, and thats really all I take. Other than bee pollen, but I dont think that counts. I was reading today that fish oil significantly reduces your risk of breast cancer too – so now Im EXTRA glad that I take it.

  14. I probably take too many vitamins but I don’t take them everyday. I rotate every other between a multi, Calcium + Vit D, fish oil, cinnamon, Vit C, 5-HTP, Milk Thistle (Dr. Oz recommended), B12 after a few cocktails only, and Reservatrol.
    I also take Amazing Grass caplets (up to 5) if I’m low on veggies that day.
    I feel like I workout a lot (especially with Bikram now) so I lose a lot of nutrients in the process.

  15. You know…a few years ago, I was seeing a PT and she was all about me taking something…I can’t even remember what it was. But, I thought that was strange. It wasn’t a multivitamin, either. It was some kind of muscle recovery other than protein. I’m just having a mind block right now. Anyway, glad to see you are a PT and advising clients to really do some research.

  16. I take a pre-natal and calcium. I get Omega 3s through flax seed meal,

  17. Interesting post! I used to be a firm believer in getting all nutrients from food, however I recently started taking a Vitamin D supplement after reading that most Americans are deficient! I’m considering adding a fish oil supplement too!

  18. Right now all I take is my prenatal vitamin plus a DHA pill. Sometimes I wonder if I should take extra calcium… I don’t drink milk and don’t eat as much yogurt as I used to. The only major source of calcium I eat right now is cheese. I’m not sure if that’s enough.

  19. I take a multi-vitamin, Vitamin D, fish oil, and Kyolic Garlic. I used to not believe in supplements, but I am now a huge believer:).
    I used to get sick at least 2-3 times a year where I would need an antibiotic; however, after I started taking the Kyolic Garlic, I haven’t been sick since and my allergies have gotten better as well!!

  20. I take a multivitamin every day (well…every other day). It’s a whole-food supplement (it’s green) so I figure it’s more bioavailable than an isolated capsule!

    And being vegan, the requirements for my vitamin are: vitamin B12 & iron 😀

  21. Premium insurance caps (like a multi vitamin), calcium, iron, vitamin C, fish oil, and currently I am on advil. That should cover it!

  22. I have such a huge distrust of supplements. I wish I could use consumer labs to research, but I don’t want ot pay the membership fee. I’ve heard from several doctors that multi-vitamins are basically useless so I don’t take that anymore. I take calcium and vitamin D and try my best to eat a great variety of veggies and fruit. And protein, of course.

  23. thanks for this, because it reminded of me of how awful I am for not even taking multi-vitamins everyday. I MUST start doing that.

  24. Gross story I heard: A woman that works in a nursing home – she changes the old timer’s diapers. And those Centrum vitamins come out whole. They don’t even break down during digestion. In and out. Fully intact.

  25. I only take a multi-vitamin now. Maybe I should be taking the omega 3 also!

  26. I take a multivitamin and omega III supplement daily. I have super dry eyes, so the extra omega III’s are really helpful!

  27. I don’t take a multi-vitamin anymore, not sure why?? But I do take fish oil and evening primrose AND probiotics. I guess I can only swallow so many pills at once. 🙂

  28. Thanks for this! I take a multivitamin & iron but i just looked at the packet, it only has my DV for Vitamin D and all the B vitamins (B1, B2, B12) But no Vitamin K, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, or chromium.

    I also take a Omega 3 fish oil capsule, i started yesterday but i’m not sure what the benefits are supposed to be, i just know i rarely eat fish so i probably need it!
    I’m looking into some kind of supplement for energy and PMS if you know any?
    I get it awful and feel drained for about a week before my period, i also get bad mood swings, bloating and awful skin on my chin around my period.

  29. I take omega 3 and probiotics. Also once a month I take a 10 day boos of iron, I have tendensy to get anemia easily (and yes I do eat meat).

    Did weight lifting again, oh I am so proud of myself 😉 I hope to keep this habit!

  30. I take a prenatal vitamin and fiber every day!

  31. I don’t take any, though, I probably should…multivitamins always make me sick (have made me vomit on numerous occasions). I’ve tried all different kinds. I’ve tried taking them with lots of food. In the morning and the evening. Always makes me vomit. So weird.

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