Eating a variety of foods is an important way to stay healthy. Food contains nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, and water, as well as many different vitamins and minerals, and other compounds that can keep you healthy. Your body uses all of these to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other tissues healthy and strong. Eating a mix of nutritious foods can also reduce your risk for many diseases and conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Dietary supplements are an easy way to add nutrients to your diet. The most common are pills, powders, or beverages. They usually provide vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, or other nutrients. Some, such as multivitamins or complete nutrition shakes, may provide a combination.
Experts recommend that healthy people get their vitamins and minerals by eating nutrient-dense foods rather than taking supplements. Most studies don’t show a clear link between taking supplements and preventing disease—unless those diseases are caused by a nutritional deficiency—so if you’re in good health, you’re better off getting nutrients from food. The vitamins and minerals in foods are often easier for the body to absorb.
But busy caregivers may not have the time or resources to purchase and prepare healthy meals, or may be caring for someone with little or no appetite. Supplements or fortified foods can help provide nutrients that you or your loved one might be missing, especially if you have:
If you answer “yes” to these questions, you might benefit from supplements or fortified foods:
Never start taking a supplement without talking to your doctor first!
Your doctor can tell you which nutrients you may need to supplement, and can tell you the appropriate dosage and form or source you should take. Calcium, for example, comes in many forms from different sources. Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend that you take a specific type, or that you take it combination with magnesium or vitamin D.