Supplement Facts to Know and Tell

How often have you wondered which vitamins and minerals are worth taking and which are not? You might ask yourself, what am I missing?

Despite the huge array of supplements available, most of us don’t need more than a few of them. According to Debbie Petitpain, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “If you can’t meet your needs through food, supplements can help bridge the gap”.

Here’s what experts say about getting the nutrients you need, though there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Ask your doctor about screening for nutrition deficiencies. It’s often a simple blood test.

There are five nutrients that Americans are commonly deficient in Vitamin D, Iron, Potassium, Calcium, and Fiber.



Role: For strong bones and immunity.

Dosage: 600 to 1,000mg.

Found in: fortified dairy products, fish, and mushrooms.

Take note: It’s hard to get enough D from diet alone. Your body makes vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlight.  The exact amount of supplement needed varies from person to person. Thus, talk with your physician first.


Role: To help red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body.

Dosage: For women up to age 50 aim for 18mg daily; for age 51 and older aim for 8mg.

Found in: red meat, salmon, poultry, dried beans, and iron-fortified cereals.

Take note: You might need iron if you are a woman with heavy periods or have anemia (extreme fatigue, cold hands, and feet). Have your iron levels checked before you start supplementing, however too much iron can be toxic.


Role: For the health of your heart, kidneys, muscles, and nerves.

Dosage: 2,600mg daily.

Found in: Potatoes, beans, bananas, tomatoes, apricots, and leafy greens.

Take note: It’s best to get your potassium by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Supplements may easily supply you with too much potassium (some medications also affect potassium levels).  Only use a potassium supplement if your doctor prescribes it.


Role: For strong bones and healthy teeth.

Dosage: Aim for 1000mg per day (1200mg for women over 51).

Found in: Dairy, nondairy milk, fortified cereals, orange juice, and leafy greens

Take note: Try to get your calcium through the food you eat. Recent studies have not provided strong proof that calcium supplements protect bones. If you need a supplement, take no more than 500mg at a time for better absorption.


Role: To keep your digestive system running smoothly, regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol.

Dosage:  Aim for 25-28 grams per day. An easier way to remember this is to aim for about 8gms per meal, three times a day.

Found in: Whole grains, beans (especially lentils), fruits, and vegetables.

Take note: Be sure to increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid bloating and constipation. Drink plenty of water daily with dietary fiber or supplements.


Reading Nutrition Labels

A good way to determine what nutrients a processed food can offer you is to read the nutrition label on the package. Vitamin D, Iron, Potassium, and Calcium are typically listed as the last four nutrients on the bottom of the label. Regrettably, Fiber is not always listed.

The % Daily Value listed on the right side of the nutrition label represents the percentage of nutrient that is available in a serving of this food item (based upon a 2,000-calorie diet). Since many nutrition labels do not always include the fiber content, try to purchase bread or cereal that provides a minimum of 3 grams or more per serving.

Supplements are often sold as a gummy. When buying a gummy supplement, aim for one that has less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar!


Some experts consider a multivitamin to be an insurance policy in case you are not eating a well-balanced diet; others disagree. In either event, however, taking a multivitamin is unlikely to do you any harm. Just be sure to check the percentages on the label and select one that has no more than 100% of the recommended daily amount for each nutrient listed.

Overdosing on certain nutrients poses a potential danger, especially fat-soluble nutrients A, D, E, and K, which can build up in your system. Also, if you are post-menopausal, do not take iron, as it may cause toxicity and GI side effects. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacists to recommend a supplement brand they trust.


Not eating meat doesn’t necessarily mean you need a supplement if you eat dairy and eggs. If you don’t, you’ll likely need a B12 supplement and possibly calcium, iron, and zinc. If you don’t eat fish, consider an algae-based omega-3 supplement, Petitpan adds.

Bottom line: If you’re vegetarian or vegan, review your eating habits with a supplement-savvy doctor and a registered dietitian.


Your nutrient needs can change with age. Here’s a glance at what to consider.

IN YOUR 20s, 30s, AND 40s

  • Folic Acid – This B vitamin is crucial to take before becoming pregnant to prevent serious birth defects. Fortified cereals and bread have some folic acid. The CDC recommends that all child-bearing age women take a 400mcg supplement.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 Fatty Acids support brain and heart health and lower inflammation. Aim to eat fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, twice a week. If you don’t eat fish, ask your doctor about a supplement and dosage.

 IN YOUR 50s

  • Vitamin B12 – Starting in your 50s, you might not make enough of a stomach protein that helps absorb B12. Most adults over 50 should consider taking B12 containing 100-400mcg per day to protect the nervous system and keep energy levels up. Some medications such as metformin for diabetes and ones for acid reflux also interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12.


  • PROTEIN – You need to be aware of protein requirements for maintaining muscle mass and overall strength increase with age. Aim to eat some protein at each meal and or at a snack.
  • EYE-PROTECTIVE VITAMINS/MINERALS – AREDS OR AREDS2 are often recommended for those that have been diagnosed with moderate to severe age-related macular degeneration (AMD)- the most common cause of blindness. Both have been clinically shown to delay and prevent blindness in those with AMD.


BH&G April 2022 by Barbara Brody

Debbie Petitpan, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics., “The New Nutrition Facts Label”.

Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: She will look forward to meeting you!