carrot iconWhat is a vitamin and mineral supplement?

Posted January 17, 2014

A vitamin and mineral supplement provides a variety of nutrients that are also found in food. These supplements are often called multivitamins. They come in the form of pills, chewable tablets, powders, and liquids.

A standard multivitamin usually contains:

  • Water-soluble vitamins. These vitamins pass in and out of the body easily. Most do not build up in the body's cells. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, folic acid, and B12.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are stored in the body's cells and do not pass out of the body as easily as water-soluble vitamins do. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Minerals. These include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.

Some multivitamins also contain other ingredients that aren't vitamins or minerals. These include substances such as the antioxidants lutein and lycopene.

Why take a supplement?

The best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need is by eating a wide variety of healthy foods. A supplement can't make up for unhealthy eating habits.

But sometimes even people who have healthy eating habits find it hard to get all the fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods they need. A supplement can help fill in the gaps.

Should I take a vitamin?

Certain people are more likely to need a supplement. They include:

  • People who eat a calorie-restricted diet, which does not provide enough vitamins and minerals.
  • Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • People who are sick, injured, or recovering from surgery or who have a long-term health problem.
  • Infants, especially to be sure they are getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
  • People who can't or don't eat a variety of foods, such as people who have food allergies or people who eat a vegetarian diet.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk and milk products, and seafood as part of a nutritious food plan.

Many Americans do not eat enough of these foods that provide the important nutrients calcium and vitamin D, potassium, and other key vitamins and minerals.

Source: Healthwise, Incorporated. Copying of any portion of this material is not permitted without the express written permission of Healthwise, Incorporated. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.