Supplements vs Diet: Are There Magic Pills or Magic Recipes?

Supplements and multivitamins are taken by over 100 million Americans. Despite the popularity of these pills, studies have found that getting essential vitamins and nutrients are best when they come from foods.

Most people that maintain a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish and lean meat are getting the nutrients they need. However, there are some circumstances in which increased levels of some vitamins and minerals are needed. The first step in determining what supplements are right for you is to speak to your physician.

What people need in their diet is dependent on a number of circumstances – whether or not they are on medications, their age, their lifestyle, medical history, diet and gender. These are all important to consider when picking up your weekly groceries and determining where some vitamin gaps may be.

Check out the list below to see which supplements you should discuss with your physician:


Vitamin D
Why it’s needed: Vitamin D is produced in the skin and the best way to get it is a sunny stroll in the park. However, many Americans spend significant time indoors and don’t get enough sunshine to produce this vitamin. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones because it is needed to absorb calcium from the intestines. It may also reduce the risk of various neuromuscular problems, which could lead to falling.

Get it naturally: Get vitamin D from spending time outside, eating oily fish and fortified dairy.

Through a supplement: D3 is recommended as well as D2. Take supplements with a fatty meal.


Why it’s needed: Calcium is needed to grow and protect bones throughout a lifetime. It is the most abundant mineral in the body with 99% found in teeth and bones. A proper level of this mineral can help prevent osteoporosis.

Get it naturally: Get calcium from milk, cheese and other dairy products.

Through a supplement:  Calcium carbonate or calcium citrate are recommended.


Fiber is great in keeping your digestive system on track by preventing or relieving constipation. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Get it naturally: Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, peas, beans, nuts and seeds.

Through a supplement: To also help lower cholesterol levels, consider taking psyllium.

Men under the age of 50 need 38 grams daily whichmen over 50 need 30 grams of fiber.
Women under the age of 50 need 25 grams daily and once they age over 50, need 21 grams of fiber.


Fish Oil or Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Why it’s needed: Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in brain function, normal growth and development and inflammation. (Harvard Health) The American Heart Association recommends 1,000mg of marine fatty acids DHA and EPA for people with coronary artery disease. It’s also good for those with major cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and diabetes.

Get it naturally: Eat fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Some plants are rich in another type of omega-3 fatty acid, good sources of these are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and canola oil.

Through a supplement: If you eat fish two to three times per week, a supplement is not needed. Avoid fish liver oil as it has high levels of vitamin A.


Studies are continuous in their search to discover the effectiveness of supplements. It is still much preferred to get all needed vitamins and nutrients through a healthy, balanced diet. Supplements, no matter how many, cannot replace the benefits of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.


When making a change to your diet and/or wondering if supplements are right for you, consult your physician. To find a physician, call Lovelace Care Concierge at 505.727.2727.