Sep 23 • 2014

The best way to get the essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber you need to stay healthy is to eat a well-balanced diet. By using online resources, such as ChooseMyPlate.gov, you can develop a healthy and well-balanced eating plan. If you eat a well-balanced diet, you may be able to avoid regularly taking a multivitamin supplement.


For many, consuming the healthy amount of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates daily can be difficult, especially if you’re older than 50, follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, have certain medical conditions, or are pregnant. In these situations, a basic daily multivitamin supplement may be recommended to help you achieve the necessary nutrients your body needs.


Before starting a daily multivitamin supplement, you should talk with your primary care physician to ensure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients. This is important because consuming too much of some nutrients can be harmful. For example, if you do not have an iron deficiency, but you eat an iron-rich diet and take a multivitamin with iron, you could be taking in more iron than your body can eliminate. The iron can collect in body tissues and organs, such as the liver and heart, and damage them.


In addition, if you’re taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (also known by its brand name of Coumadin), your physician will probably recommend a supplement without vitamin K. Vitamin K lowers the drug’s effectiveness and can make it difficult for your physician to prescribe the correct dose of your blood-thinning medication.


Because the multivitamin industry is not regulated by the FDA, it’s also important that you carefully read the labels and know exactly what is in the supplement you are selecting. For example, “broad-spectrum” multivitamins include the recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals your body needs and are typically formulated specifically for children, adults, men, women, seniors, pregnant women, etc. However, size is not considered, meaning a 110-pound woman will be taking the same amount as a 175-pound woman.


Some multivitamins may have a higher amount of a certain vitamin or mineral such as iron for those with a deficiency, or vitamin D for bone health. There’s also multivitamins designed to include certain additives to improve conditions such as menopause or the immune system.


While multivitamin supplements may be just what you need to complete your balanced diet, it’s important to consult your physician to determine what is best for you.