Dietary Supplements: Good or Bad?

What you need to know before taking a vitamin or mineral supplement.

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.

Getting our nutrients straight from a pill sounds easy, but supplements don’t necessarily deliver on the promise of better health. Some can even be dangerous, especially when taken in larger-than-recommended amounts.

How much of each nutrient do you need?

Here are the recommended levels of daily intake for several important nutrients.

Nutrient How much you Don’t exceed
Calcium 1,000–1,200 mg 2,000 mg
Folate 400 mcg 1,000 mcg
Iron 8 mg 45 mg
Vitamin A 700 mcg RAE* 3,000 mcg RAE
Vitamin B 6 1.5 mg 100 mg
Vitamin B 12 2.4 mcg No establishedmax
Vitamin C 75 mg 2,000 mg
Vitamin D 600–800 IU 4,000 IU
Vitamin E 15 mg 1,000 mg
*Retinol activity equivalents

In closing: be careful taking too many tablets for “health” but when used properly, vitamin supplements can help fill gaps in your dietary needs.

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