Vitamins are essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy life. Although most people get all the vitamins they need from the foods they eat, millions of people worldwide take supplemental vitamins as part of their health regimen.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many people consume more calories than they need without taking in recommended amounts of a number of nutrients. The Guidelines warn that there are numerous nutrients—including vitamins—for which low dietary intake may be a cause of concern. These nutrients are:
- calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A (as carotenoids), C, and E (for adults)
- calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E (for children and adolescents)
- vitamin B-12, iron, folic acid, and vitamins E and D (for specific population groups).
Regarding the use of vitamin supplements, the Dietary guidelines include the following:
- Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups. At the same time, choose foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
- Meet recommended nutrient intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as one of those recommended in the USDA Food Guide or the National Institute of Health's Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.
- If you're over age 50, consume vitamin B-12 in its crystalline form, which is found in fortified foods or supplements.
- If you're a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, eat foods high in heme-iron and/or consume iron-rich plant foods or iron-fortified foods with an iron-absorption enhancer, such as foods high in vitamin C.
- If you're a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant or is in the first trimester of pregnancy, consume adequate synthetic folic acid daily (from fortified foods or supplements) in addition to food forms of folate from a varied diet.
- If you are an older adult, have dark skin, or are exposed to insufficient ultraviolet band radiation (such as sunlight), consume extra vitamin D from vitamin D-fortified foods and/or supplements.