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Supplements can help provide nutrients not consumed in ample amounts from food. One way to know if a supplement is safe is to check Consumer Reports for the product you are buying, or look for USP Verified on the label. The USP Dietary Supplement Verification Program is a voluntary testing and auditing program that helps dietary supplement manufacturers ensure they are making quality products for consumers. Always make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any supplements you are taking.  There are several types of popular dietary supplements:

Multiple Vitamin/Mineral Supplements –A multi-vitamin/mineral supplement can help fill nutrient gaps in our diets. These should not provide more than 100% RDA (recommended daily amount) for most of the nutrients they contain. 

Omega-3s/Fish Oil – It is recommended to consume fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc. two to three times each week. If you don’t like fish or do not consume it regularly, an omega-3 or fish oil supplement can be very helpful. It is recommended to consume at least 500 mg of EPA + DHA from an Omega-3 or fish oil supplement.

Individual Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs – There are many situations in which an individual vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement is needed. Below are the most popular individual supplements:

  • Vitamin C – People who smoke, have inflammatory conditions or have wounds likely need more vitamin C than a healthy individual. Talk with your healthcare provider about your needs.
  • Vitamin B-12 – There are many conditions that can reduce your ability to absorb B-12. If you are told your level is low, look for a sublingual B-12 to enhance absorption. A Hy-Vee pharmacist or dietitian can help you choose the one right for you. 
    Vitamin D – If you are told to take vitamin D supplements because your level is low, make sure to take them with food that contains a little fat to enhance absorption.
  • Folate – Deficiency of folate or folic acid can cause birth defects. Women who may become pregnant should consume 400 mcg of folic acid from a supplement or fortified food in addition to consuming a healthy diet.
  • Probiotics – Keep probiotics refrigerated for freshness. Patients with inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases may benefit from a product containing saccharomyces boulardi. For general health, a product containing lactobacillus and bifidus are recommended in the dosage of 1 – 10 billion CFU. A probiotic can help with the side effects of taking an antibiotic.

There is a wide variety of supplements on the market, and not all of them are necessary. It is important to remember that foods provide us with vitamins and minerals. Consuming a variety of foods and following the MyPlate model can help ensure an adequate diet. For a list of food sources of each vitamin and mineral and for additional supplement questions, please contact your Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.

Sources:Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient Supplementation, 2009.
FDA 101: Dietary Supplements, 2008.
Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, 2nd Edition, The Institute for Functional Medicine.
Etherton, Penny et al. “Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease.” Circulation, 2002.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Weight Control.
Preventing Nueral Tube Defects, CDC, 2009.

Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002;56(8):365-379.

Using Dietary Supplements in Practice: What you Need to Know. The Integrative RDN, Fall 2013.

This information is not intended as medical advice. For individual medical advice, please contact a health care provider.

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