top of page

Quick Guide for using Supplements

Since I became a Nutrition Consultant, a common question is 'What supplements should I take?"

"You can call anything a dietary supplement, even something you grow in your backyard" ~ Donna Porter, RD PhD. Congressional Research Service.

People often take supplements as an insurance policy against problems caused by poor diets. Although multivitamins and mineral supplements may help fill in some of the nutrition gaps caused by poor food habits, they cannot make a lousy diet good.

Dietary supplements come in many forms:

  • Vitamins and minerals (Vit C, E, selenium)

  • Herbs(botanicals) (Dong Quai, ginseng

  • Proteins and amino acids (Shark cartilage, creatine)

  • Fats (Fish oils, DHA)

  • Other plant extracts (Garlic capsules, fiber, cranberry)

Adding supplements to your diet should be a personal choice. Unfortunately, many advertisements for supplements will provide information and health claims that are not approved and most likely have no scientific research to back them up.

It is wise to research on your own before quickly deciding that a supplement is right for you.

When purchasing a supplement, finding out who makes the product is good. What research has been done? What types of side effects may the product have? What is the dose of the product needed to achieve the health benefits?

This is information that does not have to be on the package. Sometimes it is easier and cheaper to eat a particular food and receive the same health benefit as the product claims to provide. Make sure to discuss with your doctor any supplements you take.

What should you consider when buying a supplement?

  • Because the potency of most vitamins may be decreased by sunlight, ensure the container is dark enough to shield the contents properly. Supplements should be kept in a cool, dark place.

  • Know what type of supplement you need. Make sure you understand the ingredients in the supplement.

  • Multivitamins are a good choice if you are not sure about other supplements.

  • Don't buy a supplement just because you heard it on the news or in an advertisement. Supplements are just as personal as your workout and diet.

The Multivitamin

"I don't want to disparage people who take multivitamins — it's their choice as a consumer," Dr. Neuhouser said. "What we're presenting is the science showing it's neither beneficial nor harmful. If they want to choose to spend their dollars elsewhere, this might be a good place to do so. Perhaps they can buy more fruits and vegetables."

Vitamin D:

Sources: fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil. The sun also contributes significantly to the daily production of vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies.

Function: vitamin D is to maintain normal blood calcium and phosphorus levels. In addition, vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It is used, alone or in combination with calcium, to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures. Recently, research also suggests that vitamin D may protect from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Sources: fish oil and certain plant/nut oils. Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while some nuts (English walnuts) and vegetable oils (canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, olive) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Functions: There is evidence from multiple studies supporting the intake of recommended amounts of DHA and EPA in the form of dietary fish or fish oil supplements lower triglycerides and reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease slow the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries") and lowers blood pressure slightly. However, high doses may have harmful effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding. Although similar benefits are proposed for alpha-linolenic acid, scientific evidence is less compelling, and beneficial effects may be less pronounced.


Sources: Milk, yogurt, hard cheeses, fortified cereals, and spinach.

Function: Essential for bone growth and strength, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and the transmission of nerve signals

Choline (Vitamin B complex)

Sources: Milk, liver, eggs, peanuts.

Functions: Plays a key role in the production of cells and neurotransmitters.


Sources: Meats, poultry, fish, and some cereals

Function: Help control blood sugar levels.


Sources: Seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole grains.

Function: Important in the metabolism of iron


Sources: Bran cereal, peas, lentils, black beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Function: Help with digestion and the maintenance of blood sugar levels; reduces the risk of heart disease.

Folic Acid (Folate)

Sources: Dark, leafy vegetables; enriched and whole grain bread; fortified cereals.

Function: Key for developing cells, protein metabolism, and heart health; in pregnant women, it helps prevent birth defects.


Sources: Processed foods and iodized salt

Functions: Important in the production of thyroid hormones


Sources: Fortified cereals, beans, lentils, beef, and eggs.

Functions: Key components of red blood cells, and many enzymes


Sources: Green leafy vegetables, Brazil nuts, almonds, soybeans, halibut, and quinoa

Function: Help with heart rhythm, muscle and nerve function, and bone strength.


Sources: Nuts, beans, other legumes, tea, and whole grains.

Functions: Important in forming bones and some enzymes.


Sources: Milk and other dairy products, peas, meat, eggs, some cereals, and bread

Functions: Allow cells to function normally; help the body produce energy; key in bone growth.


Sources: Sweet potato, bananas, yogurt, yellowfin tuna, and soybeans

Functions: Important in maintaining normal fluid balance; helps control blood pressure; reduces the risk of kidney stones.


Sources: Foods to which sodium chloride (salt) has been added, like salted meats, nuts, butter, and a vast number of processed foods.

Functions: Important for fluid balance.

Vitamin A

Sweet potato with peel, carrots, spinach, and fortified cereals

Functions: Necessary for normal vision, immune function, reproduction

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Sources: Whole grain, enriched, fortified products; bread; cereals.

Functions: Allow the body to process carbohydrates and some protein.

Vitamin C

Sources: Red and green peppers, kiwis, oranges, strawberries, and broccoli.

Functions: Antioxidant that protect against cell damage, boost the immune system, and form collagen in the body.

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

Sources: Fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, and vegetable oils.

Functions: Antioxidant that protect cells against damage.

Vitamin K

Sources: Green vegetables like spinach, collards, broccoli; brussels sprouts; cabbage.

Functions: Important in blood clotting and bone health.


Sources: Red meats, some seafood, and fortified cereals.

Functions: Support the body's immunity and nerve function, which are essential in reproduction.

As you can see food provides many of our needed Vitamins and Minerals. With proper diet and eating a vast variety of healthy foods your body will be able to gain nutrition it needs through your diet.

When in doubt, allergies to certain foods or food intolerances, or the simple fact you dislike certain foods, a supplement can be added to the diet safely.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page