Should I be taking a vitamin and mineral supplement?

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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Ultimately, you and your doctor should decide if you need to take vitamin supplements. However, here are some factors from nutrition.gov that you may want to consider before talking with your doctor.

First and foremost, nutritional needs should be met by eating a variety of foods as outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines.

In some cases, vitamin/mineral supplements or fortified foods may be useful for providing nutrients that may otherwise be eaten in less than recommended amounts. If you are already eating the recommended amount of a nutrient, you may not get any further health benefit from taking a supplement.

Teen girls and women of childbearing age may need to take an iron supplement if they do not consume enough dietary iron. Heme-iron from meats is the best source of iron. Plant foods such as beans and spinach contain nonheme-iron and should be consumed with a source of vitamin C.

Pregnant women and women of childbearing age should talk with their doctor about the need for folic acid. The best dietary source of folic acid is fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

Adults over the age of 50 years may need to consume vitamin B12 in supplement form if they do not consume enough dietary B12. The best dietary source of B12 is fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

Older adults and people with dark skin may need to get their vitamin D from supplements or fortified foods such as milk.

Other questions to consider are:

  • Do you eat fewer than two meals a day?
  • Is your diet restricted? That is, do you not eat meat, or milk or milk products, or eat fewer than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day?
  • Do you eat alone most of the time?
  • Do you take more than three prescription medicines a day?
  • Do you have more than three alcoholic drinks a day?
  • Have you lost more than 10 pounds without wanting to in the last 6 months?

To find science-based information about vitamin and mineral supplements go to: nutrition.gov. For additional information concerning health and nutrition, call the Extension office at 940-627-3341.

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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