A visit to the health food store can be an overwhelming experience. It's tough to figure out what to choose from among the dizzying assortment of dietary and nutritional supplements on the shelf. From vitamins to minerals to weight loss pills, there are thousands of options to choose from. But do you really need any of them? Do they really work, and if so, which ones are best?
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If all you have time for is a quick snack from the gas station or drugstore, know that you do have options, and if you know what you're looking for, it will be easier to find. When we asked registered dietitians to recommend snacks to buy at the drugstore, they tended to go for things like nuts and seeds that pack plenty of flavor (hi, wasabi chickpeas), plenty of protein, and not a whole lot else.
Nutritional supplements are exactly that, supplements to a healthy, nutritious diet. One should not take nutritional supplements in the hope that they will make up for a poor diet and lack of exercise, they will not! There are some nutritional supplements including some vitamins and minerals, as well as other nutrients/cofactors that one can use in conjunction with a healthy diet to promote optimal health. For example, to consume the amount of vitamin E that has been shown to protect the body against free radical damage, one would have to consume a very significant amount of fat calories as vitamin E is found in foods that are high in fat such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. it makes sense to take a supplement of vitamin E rather than consuming lots of fat. The same goes for vitamin D. It's very difficult to get vitamin D in your diet as it isn't found in many foods and studies show that most people do not get enough vitamin D.
Meal supplements are used to replace or fortify meals. They may be designed for people with special needs, or for people with illnesses that may affect digestion capabilities and nutritional requirements. Meal supplements may contain specific blends of macronutrients, or proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber. Some meal supplements consist of raw, unprocessed foods, or vegetarian or vegan options, or high protein and low fat composition. Meal supplements are available to support some popular diet programs. Meal supplements are often fortified with vitamins, minerals, herbs, and nutrient-dense foods.
Health care experts haven't reached a consensus on the issue of vitamin and mineral supplements. Many say that if you are healthy and eat a well-balanced diet, you don't need any. But not all of us eat a well-balanced diet. And sometimes, you may follow a nutritious diet and still be deficient. Many women fail to get the adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. Stress increases your need for vitamins and minerals, especially C, B-complex and zinc.

The average American diet leaves a lot to be desired. Research finds our plates lacking in a number of essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and D. It's no wonder that more than half of us open a supplement bottle to get the nutrition we need. Many of us take supplements not just to make up for what we're missing, but also because we hope to give ourselves an extra health boost—a preventive buffer to ward off disease.

A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and one 30 or above is considered obese. For an idea of what this means, a 5-foot 5-inch woman who weighs 150 pounds is overweight with a BMI of 25. At 180 pounds, she would be considered obese, with a BMI of 30. Keep in mind that the tables aren't always accurate, especially if you have a high muscle mass; are pregnant, nursing, frail or elderly; or if you are a teenager (i.e., still growing).
An optimum intake of all nutrients is difficult to achieve even for those who eat almost exclusively an excellent diet of nutrient dense foods, such as meat and innards, fish, shellfish, fowl, eggs, nuts, mushrooms, and vegetables, berries and nutritious fruits. Some nutrients such as folic acid or carotenoids in vegetables are absorbed better from processed than unprocessed foods. Although vegetables are often considered to be a good source of vitamins, for example vitamin A from carrots, vitamin A is only found in animal products such as liver, egg yolk, fish cod and cod liver oil. Although eating raw vegetables is helpful for several reasons (vitamin C, fiber, microbiota), carotenoids (alpha/beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene) in vegetables are less well absorbed from raw than cooked food and better absorbed in the presence of added fat. [38,39]. Nutrients in vegetables are better absorbed when finely chewed, graded, or mashed [38], and cooking and grinding meat reduces the energy required to digest it [40] and increases nutrient absorption [41].
"These products provide a subtle, incremental effect. You can't use a sports supplement for a week and expect to gain pounds of muscle, but if used properly, research shows they can provide a slight, not overwhelming, edge," says Andrew Shoa, PhD, vice president for regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association for the dietary supplement industry.
^ Fortmann, SP; Burda, BU; Senger, CA; Lin, JS; Whitlock, EP (Nov 12, 2013). "Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: An Updated Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force". Annals of Internal Medicine. 159 (12): 824–834. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00729. PMID 24217421.
For instance, foods rich in vitamin E and beta-carotene are healthy and can help reduce cancer risk. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend against taking vitamin E or beta-carotene for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. People who smoke or are at risk for lung cancer also should avoid beta-carotene. It can increase their risk of lung cancer.
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