Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi

Are you getting the most from your vitamins?

Brittany Simmons, RDN, LD, CCP

It’s incredible the amount of money we spend on nutritional supplements. Nutritional supplements are a huge part of every grocery store, and according to Consumer Reports, we spend billions of dollars per year on them. I usually think it’s making a difference at first, but then I don’t really know. Is it just the placebo effect? What I really want to know is, am I getting what I paid for?

The USDA and FDA regulate our food but do not evaluate our nutritional supplements. This means there is no telling what is really in those expensive supplements. Two independent companies have taken charge to test products for consumers to help them get the most bang for their buck. USP (United States Pharmacopeia) and NSF (NSF International) are two labels to look for on your supplements. Go home and check your supplement bottles for these labels. If you don’t see one of these, then you may want to consider tossing it. You can search a supplement on to see which ones have the label. I searched Biotin, and there were only eight manufacturers that had been inspected for truth in the claim on the label, potency and contaminants.

Gummy vitamins have been shown to not be as potent, and children may get toxicity by taking too many since they taste like candy. Even I wish the dose for my multivitamin was more than just 2 gummies. If you can only stomach gummies because the other pills make you nauseous or taste bad, then gummies are a good option for you.

When to Supplement

Now, let’s evaluate if you really even need to take a supplement. If your doctor recommends it, of course! Here is a list of just a few signs you might not be getting enough vitamins and minerals (deficiency):

Please don’t simply google these signs and symptoms then purchase a vitamin based off what the internet tells you. This is how most people waste their money. Your symptoms could be situational, temporary or just plain inaccurate. Go to your primary care provider for expert advice on choosing the right supplement if you suspect a deficiency. If medically necessary, your doctor can check your blood work to know for sure if you have a deficiency and what dose to prescribe.

Will it really help?

Unfortunately, no amount of supplements will help you have a healthy body if you eat terribly and lay on the couch. Smoking, drinking alcohol and skipping sleep will definitely not help either. On the other hand, if you are eating healthy by including a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and lean protein then you should already be getting your vitamins and minerals.
Special considerations:

  • If you are Vegan, you should supplement with Vitamins B12 and D.
  • If you are pregnant, you should take a prenatal vitamin with Folate.

All other supplements should be individualized. Your body is unique, and no one person needs the exact same as another.

Getting Your Vitamins Naturally

Tips for a healthy body without supplements:

  1. Visit your Blue Primary Care Network Provider for your annual wellness visit.
  2. Enjoy the sunshine.
  3. Be physically active.
  4. Drink plenty of water.
  5. Eat colorful, healthy food.

You can get all of your essential vitamins and minerals from food. Colorful foods contain the most vitamins and antioxidants to fight cancer and keep unhealthy cells from forming.

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