Folate: Women who can bear children also should eat more foods containing folate, such as beans, peas, oranges, orange juice and dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and mustard greens. Because folate and folic acid (the nutrient’s synthetic form) help prevent neural-tube defects in infants, women who can become pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid (from fortified foods or supplements); pregnant women should consume 600 mcg of folic acid daily.
Vitamin B12: Some people age 50 and older have trouble absorbing Vitamin B12 from food. To compensate, people 50 or older should increase consumption of cereals fortified with this vitamin or take supplements of it. Because B12 occurs naturally only in animal-based protein, vegetarians and vegans also should eat fortified cereals or take supplements. Most adults need 2.4 mcg per day.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
Writes the Eat, Drink & Be Healthy column and Lean & Fit e-newsletter, and blogs for The Checkup.
Four nutrients most people need more of
Roberta Anding, director of sports nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, advises consulting a physician or dietitian to determine the types and quantities of supplements that might benefit you. You can also consult the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements Web site (ods.od.
nih.gov) for information, including potential interactions between supplements and medications. “Too much of a good thing is not a good thing,” Anding says. “The dose determines whether it’s beneficial or it’s poison.”
MacKay, whose job might seem to require him to push supplements over food, observes that good nutrition is “not an either-or situation.”
“Focus on food first. Maintain a varied diet,” MacKay suggests. “Once you take a snapshot of your diet, then figure out where to supplement to make sure you get everything you need.”
The USDA is adamant that people try to get the fiber, potassium, Vitamin D and calcium they need by eating more fruits and vegetables. But the Harvard School of Public Health suggests a daily multivitamin, calling it “a great nutrition insurance policy.”
MacKay agrees with that approach.
A multivitamin can smooth the “ups and downs of diet,” he says. “It’s not a magic bullet, and it’s not promising anything, just filling in.”