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Dietary supplements and their role in your health

From taking our favorite gummy vitamins as kids to taking an adult multivitamin with breakfast each morning, nutritional supplements have been on our radars for much of our lives. If you’re worried you aren’t getting all the nutrients you need from food, reaching for vitamins can be a great way to support your healthy diet.

Whether you’re trying to boost your daily vitamin D intake or are working multivitamins into your morning routine, here’s what you need to know about nutritional supplements.

What are nutritional supplements?

Also called “dietary supplements,” nutritional supplements are typically available in pill, gummy, liquid and powder form and are a way to increase your intake of certain nutrients. They’re made up of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and enzymes to deliver an extra nutrient boost to your body.

Common dietary supplements include:

  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics
  • Fish oil
  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • B12

“If you feel or are told you aren’t getting enough of a certain nutrient, supplements can help,” says Amanda Otruba, registered dietitian at Geisinger Medical Center. “They’re an easy way to add nutrients into your diet when you aren’t meeting your nutrient needs by food alone.”

Who should take dietary supplements?

While a balanced diet will help you get the nutrients your body needs, sometimes taking supplements can be beneficial.

For example, as you age, you naturally absorb fewer nutrients from foods because your body isn’t able to break down and absorb nutrients like it used to.

“This is why it might be beneficial for some seniors to work dietary supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, into their daily routine,” says Dr. George Avetian, family medicine practitioner at Geisinger 65 Forward.

But seniors aren’t the only people who can benefit from supplements. As many as 90% of people don’t get the recommended amount of nutrients needed from food alone.

Benefits of taking supplements

Each supplement has its own benefits. For example, taking calcium and vitamin D can help support strong bone health, while Omega-3s can help support heart health.

If you have a specific health condition, your doctor may suggest taking specific vitamins to help improve your symptoms, too.

“Whether it’s from lack of appetite, picky eating or strict dieting, many people aren’t getting all the nutrients they need,” says Ms. Otruba. “But the benefits of taking supplements go beyond the physical ones. They can also boost immunity, help you sleep better and even improve your mood.”

How to choose a dietary supplement

When it comes to choosing the dietary supplement(s) right for you, talk with your healthcare provider before incorporating any supplements into your routine.

“It’s important to know that certain supplements can interact with medications you may already be taking to manage a health condition,” says Dr. Avetian. “If you’re considering adding a supplement to your diet, start by talking with your healthcare provider.”

Your doctor can also work with you to determine how much of and how frequently you should be taking nutritional supplements, in addition to which ones you should be taking.

“Not all supplements are appropriate for everyone, so consulting with your doctor is an important step,” says Ms. Otruba. “As your partners in health, we all want to make sure you’re getting the support and nutrients you need to optimize your body’s health.”

Next steps:

Want to meet with a registered dietitian? Find a nutrition specialist near you
65 or older and need a new doctor? Learn about Geisinger 65 Forward

Meet George Avetian, DO

an older couple in their kitchen