Who needs vitamin/mineral supplements?

Some people may have slight nutrient deficiencies due to illness, surgery or other conditions. These people may need vitamin or mineral supplements because their condition may alter their appetite, limit their food choices, or impair their nutrient absorption. Many older adults need more calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

What kind of vitamin/mineral supplements should I take?

Select a single, balanced multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Choose one that provides no more than 100 percent of the Daily Values (DV) of most nutrients listed. Avoid supplements that contain extra ingredients such as choline, lecithin, herbs, and enzymes. These ingredients add to the cost but have no proven nutritional value.

How do antioxidant vitamins work?

When the body burns oxygen to produce energy, free radicals (oxygen byproducts) are formed. These free radicals can damage body cells and tissues, which may lead to the onset of serious health problems.

Antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene) serve to neutralize free radicals and thereby counteract their potentially damaging side effects.

Should I take antioxidant supplements to promote health and prevent aging?

Currently, there continues to be debate about taking antioxidant vitamin supplements. There is uncertainty about how much of the antioxidant supplement is enough and how long you should take it, as well as the potential side effects of long term-use.

Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is the wisest approach to obtaining the antioxidants you need. Many foods are already fortified with vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene.

Which foods are high in antioxidants?

  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, berries, melon, red and green peppers, dark leafy green vegetables, potatoes, and tomatoes
  • Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, margarine, salad dressings, whole grain products, wheat germ, seeds, nuts, and peanut butter
  • Beta carotene: Sweet potatoes, carrots, mangos, green leafy vegetables, red and green peppers, apricots, cantaloupe, and tomatoes

Are all brown breads whole-grain?

No. In some brown bread, the coloration comes from an artificial food coloring, usually caramel coloring. Only breads labeled "whole wheat" are made from 100 percent whole wheat flour. To choose breads with more fiber, compare nutrient labels and select those breads made with whole-wheat or other whole-grain flours.

Should I take a fiber supplement to promote regularity?

Fiber-rich foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes) are preferred over fiber pills and powders for promoting regularity. High fiber foods provide nutrients that fiber supplements do not. Fiber supplements bridge the gap between the amount of fiber that you need and the amount of fiber you get from your foods each day.

If you do need to take a fiber supplement, follow the written directions for dosage and the amount of fluids to drink. If you take any medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist when you should take the fiber supplement. You may not be getting the full benefit of your medications if you take them along with your fiber supplement.

What is the benefit of soy?

Researchers are studying the potential benefits of substances, called isoflavones, found in soy products. Soy may play a role in reducing the risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Soy beans are a good source of fiber.

Which fluids are best?

Plain water is usually your best choice. Juice and milk also are good choices; juices offer vitamins, and milk provides calcium. (However, avoid using juices and milk as thirst quenchers if weight loss is your goal.) Also, limit those beverages high in caffeine and sugar, such as coffee, tea, regular soft drinks, and alcohol.

Whom should I consult for nutrition advice?

Registered dietitians practice the science of medical nutrition therapy and are in the best position to answer your nutrition questions. "Nutritionists" may or may not be educated in the science of nutrition. These individuals, as well as others who dispense nutritional information, may lack the credentials to give you appropriate advice.

Registered dietitians are available to answer your nutrition questions and to help you create a meal plan that meets your individual health needs.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/08/2014.


  • C. Cataldo, L. DeBruyne, E. Whitney, Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 4th ed., West Publishing (St. Paul: 1995).
  • R. Duyff, The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Chronimed Publishing (Minneapolis: 1996)

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy