When should I take supplements?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Consider supplements as a smart choice if they have the right doses of nutrients and if it's hard to get them from your daily diet. For example, your body needs a good supply of selenium, folic acid and beta carotene -- first from food and second from a supplement with appropriate doses of these nutrients. Supplement megadoses increase the risk of cancer, but getting the right amount of nutrients from green veggies, fruits, fish, nuts and deep orange-colored produce (or an appropriate multivitamin) protects against all kinds of disease, including cancer.

Here are great sources:
  • Selenium: your goal is 70 to 200 mcg daily. Try tuna, cod, turkey, and sunflower seeds -- or just one Brazil nut a week!
  • Folic acid: your goal is 800 mcg daily, with about half of that from food. That's half a cup of lentils, 1 cup of papaya and eight asparagus spears in a day. Also try spinach, avocado, or cantaloupe.
  • Beta carotene: the human body converts this into vitamin A. Choose sweet potatoes (one equals more than three times the recommended daily dose of vitamin A), spinach, carrots, cantaloupe and mangoes. Take a multivitamin with less than 2,500 IU of vitamin A. If you're pregnant, take less than 3,500 IU daily.

Continue Learning about Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.