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Can I supplement my food with … supplements?

Can I supplement my food with … supplements?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


In a 2019 survey conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, 77% of adult Americans take a dietary supplement. Are they helpful? Yes, they are. According to the National Institutes of Health, some dietary supplements can help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients if you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods. However, supplements can’t take the place of the mixture of foods that are important to a healthy diet.   


Q: Should I get my vitamins from food or supplements?  

A: Mother Nature provides enough nutrients in fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat. Our body digests, absorbs and pulls the goodness from natural sources better than their artificial counterparts. 


Q: Are vitamins different from supplements?  

A: Vitamins are considered supplements. A dietary supplement must be one or any combination of the following substances: 

  • A vitamin, 

  • A mineral, 

  • An herb or other botanical, 

  • An amino acid, 

  • A dietary substance used to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (e.g., enzymes or tissues from organs or glands), or 

  • A concentrate, metabolite (substance produced by or taking part in metabolism), constituent or extract. 


Q: Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?  

A: Many supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects in the body. Always be alert to the possibility of bad reactions like nausea, diarrhea or stomach cramps, when taking a new product.  


Q: How do you know if you should take supplements?  

A: Talk to your doctor first. Manufacturers may add vitamins, minerals, and other supplement ingredients to foods you eat, especially breakfast cereals and beverages. As a result, you may get more of these ingredients than you think. MyPlate.gov is a good source for ideas and tips to help you create a healthier eating style that meets your individual needs and improves your health. 


Q: Are supplements effective?  

A: Some dietary supplements can improve overall health and help manage some health conditions. For example:  

  • Calcium and vitamin D help keep bones strong and reduce bone loss.  

  • Folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects. 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils is said to help some people with heart disease.  

  • A combination of vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin (known as AREDS) may slow down further vision loss in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  


Q: Can vitamins interfere with medication? 

A:  Yes, sometimes, these drugs and supplements may interact in harmful ways. 

It’s important to tell all your health care providers about all dietary supplements and drugs you take. That way, they can help you avoid harmful interactions. 


Genesis HealthCare System’s Health and Wellness content conveniently provides accurate and helpful information. Your health history and current health may impact suggestions provided through our Health and Wellness content. Although we hope this information is helpful, it is not a substitute for your doctor's medical advice. Before making any significant changes, please consult your doctor.