Do you need vitamin supplements?

Rating :  [Mouse-over to Rate]

Eat better

Text Size Print
There's a simple rule about taking vitamin supplements. But like many rules, it has a lot of exceptions. Here's what you need to know.

Eat right and you probably won't need to take any vitamins—that's the quick answer to the great vitamin debate. Most healthy, active people can most likely get all the nutrients their bodies need by following a well-balanced diet as recommended by Canada's Food Guide for Healthy Eating.

However, if you think that you're not getting enough vitamins and minerals, compare your diet to the Food Guide recommendations.

When supplements make sense

Now come the exceptions to the eating well rule. Some people may consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements. For example:

  • Women planning pregnancies or who are already pregnant
  • People who don't drink milk or alternatives
  • Smokers
  • Vegetarians, especially vegans
  • People with some medical conditions or a long-term illness
  • If you're recovering from surgery
  • People who have food intolerances or food allergies that require a severely restricted diet
  • Some high-level athletes (not your average jogger or weekend warrior)
  • Some people over age 50 ( who may consider taking Vitamin D supplements, for example)

And if you take a vitamin/mineral supplement, remember to take those supplements with food—it helps the absorption.

What vitamins don't do

Some of us seem to think vitamins will take care of just about anything. But the reality is that vitamins are designed to help get the nutrient levels in our bodies back up to normal. And that's it. There's no evidence that vitamins can do any of the following:

  • Give you energy
  • Relieve stress (caused by all the usual daily suspects)
  • Prevent or cure colds
  • Prevent or cure serious medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease

Too much of anything...

Yes you can take too many supplements—that is not a myth. Large amounts of some vitamin and mineral supplements:

  • Can cause stomach problems
  • Can throw off the proper nutrient balance in your body

So when it comes to nutrients, eating well is always the first choice. But if you think you want to take vitamin/mineral supplements, always consult your healthcare provider to help figure out if you really need them, what kind and how much you need.

To find out more, search "supplement" in Find Support.

This article may contain information related to nutrition, exercise and fitness and/or general information provided by select health care professionals. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment or advice provided by a qualified professional. Speak to your healthcare professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or beginning or discontinuing any course of treatment.


  • British Columbia Ministry of Health, Guide to Healthy Eating for Seniors, website
  • City of Ottawa, Healthy eating, website
  • Dietitians of Canada, Do I need a vitamin or mineral supplement?, website
  • Eat Right Ontario, Vitamins and minerals FAQs, website
  • Health Canada, Canada's Food Guide: Eating well with Canada's Food Guide, website
  • Health Canada, Canada's Food Guide: Educators and Communicators, website
  • Health Canada, Drugs and Health Products: Mulit-vitamin/mineral supplements, website
  • HealthLinkBC, Nutrition Series: Vitamin and mineral supplements for adults, website
  • Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District, Health Unit: Nutrition, website
  • Mayo Clinic, Nutrition and healthy eating, website
  • Region of Waterloo, Public Health: Vitamin supplements, website
  • York Region, Health Services Department: Nutrition matters, website

Want to get the latest tips and tools? Sign up for our e-newsletter! is updating its content twice per week. Subscribe to the e-newsletter to stay informed on the new information published on the website. Every 2 weeks, you'll receive an electronic newsletter with highlights from the 4 recently published articles from the past 2 weeks. will not share or use your e-mail address for any purpose except to send you the e-newsletter.