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Do you need a multivitamin?

An assortment of pills arranged to create a star.

Nutrition experts recommend that most people get all the vitamins they need from the foods they eat.

As a kid, you may have taken a daily vitamin—maybe one shaped like a cartoon character. But now that you've grown up, is a daily multivitamin necessary?

Probably not.

In fact, you may not need to take any vitamin or mineral supplements at all. Whether you do depends on a variety of factors related to your sex, age, overall health and lifestyle.

Food vs. supplements

Nutrition experts recommend that most people get all the vitamins they need by eating a balanced diet. That includes eating a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

That's because—in addition to vitamins and minerals—real food contains other healthy substances a pill can't give us, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For example, foods provide dietary fiber and many naturally occurring substances that can't be found in supplements.

Who might need them?

There are some people who might benefit from taking certain supplements, though. These include:

  • Pregnant women, or women who want to get pregnant.
  • People who follow a vegan diet.
  • Adults age 65 and older.
  • People with vitamin deficiencies.
  • People who have had weight-loss surgery.

If you fall into one of these categories, talk to your doctor before you decide to take a supplement. They can tell you what you should take, how much and for how long.

Why talk to your doctor?

You should always tell your doctor about any medicines you take, and that includes vitamin supplements. Supplements can interfere with certain medications and medical tests. Some supplements need to be stopped before you have surgery.

If your doctor thinks you could benefit from specific targeted vitamins, follow that advice. But there's no need to take a multivitamin on top of that. You actually can incur negative side effects by consuming too-high doses of some vitamins.

Make the most of your meal

How you prepare your produce affects it nutrient levels. Learn how to get the most nutrients out of your produce.

reviewed 9/18/2019

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