An easy guide to getting the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.

Do you worry whether you are eating a healthy diet? I bet you do, and so do a lot of other people. Over the past 30 years, I have provided dietary counseling to thousands of patients and know how difficult it is to eat well. I start by advising my patients to consume mostly nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, dairy products, legumes, meats and seafood. Unfortunately, it is just too hard to eat like this all of the time. In reality, most people end up eating a rather nutrient-poor diet comprised mostly of fatty foods and snacks.

Enter vitamin supplements — instead of trying to get all the required nutrients from food, patients can benefit from taking daily vitamins. Many physicians advise their patients to use one, but don’t offer much guidance on which ones are best. Read on to find out which supplements are best for you.

Who gets enough nutrients?

It turns out that virtually no man, woman or child gets all of their nutritional needs from their diet, even when the diet includes fortified foods like breakfast cereals. Nutrients consumed at low levels in adults are vitamins A, C, D and E, and the minerals calcium and magnesium. For children, deficiencies in vitamins E, D, B6, thiamin riboflavin, niacin, and the minerals zinc and iron are common.

Many nutrients are consumed at only 50 percent of what is needed. These nutrients would be even lower without consuming fortified foods like breads and cereals. Although there is an ongoing debate on the use of supplements, many of the top medical professionals in the United States advise their patients to take vitamins and minerals daily.

How to select vitamin supplements

Picking a supplement depends more on specific characteristics of the person rather than the quality of their diet — most diets are missing vitamins and minerals. Find your deficiency and personal characteristics on the following table to match yourself to the appropriate supplement for you.


Dr. Stacey Bell is a registered dietitian and nutritionist and has a doctorate in nutrition. She served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where she conducted nutritional research studies. She is currently a consultant to food and supplement industries, including Yevo International, a company that manufactures and sells nutrient-fortified foods.