Do I Need to Take So Many Supplements?

Dear Nancy,

I am a 24-year-old grad student who runs six miles a day. I take many vitamins each day and am wondering if it is all a hoax. I follow what books and doctors have told me and am just trying to maintain my health. The pills are not only a hassle to take but are also expensive.


Do I really need all of these? Cost/pill

  • 1 Super-B complex (supposedly for energy) 10?
  • 1 Centrum Daily Multivitamin (because doc says so) 15?
  • 3 Citracal + D tablets (helps build bone) 45?
  • 1 Magnesium (helps absorb calcium) 35?
  • 2 Glucosamine-Chondroitin tabs (supposedly helps joints) 75?
  • 1 Conjugated Linoleic Acid (build muscle and lose fat?) 30?
  • 1 E (supposedly helps skin and nails) 7?
  • 2 Cinnamon tabs (supposedly helps blood sugar) 25?
  • 1 Flaxseed oil capsule (doctor said so) 6?
  • 1 Fish oil capsule (doctor said we need Omega 3) 10?

Cost/day: $2.58

I try to eat well and exercise. A typical day looks like this:

Approximate Calories

BREAKFAST: packet oatmeal + an orange 200

RUN (after b'fast): 6 miles-5 days/wk; lift- 2/wk (-600)

SNACK (post-run): light string cheese + 20 almonds. 250

LUNCH: large salad, dry + can of tuna + 4 oz. yogurt 350

SNACK: Luna Bar 200

DINNER: large salad, dry + 2 Boca Burgers + cooked veg 400

I inevitably end up grazing in the afternoon and evening on goldfish crackers, cookies, trail mix, hot cocoa, candy bars. Every night without fail, I succumb to some sort of chocolate bar or frozen yogurt. Or both.

Writing all this down makes me feel like I eat too much... Help!!


Dear Jessica,

You spend ~$75 per month on nutrients you could easily eat at meals. Here's my assessment:

At 5'4", 120 lbs. and running six miles a day, your body requires (believe it or not) about 2,400 calories. In about 1,500 wholesome calories, you can consume the nutrients you need. In 2,400 calories, you have the opportunity to consume even more nutrients and can eliminate the pills.

To your detriment, your skimpy meals account for only 1,400 calories. No wonder you graze a lot; you are hungry! To abate the snacking (and cravings for sweets), experiment with eating about 600 calories of wholesome food at four meals a day: breakfast, first lunch (10-11 a.m.), second lunch (3-4 p.m), and dinner. Why just snack at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. when you are hungry enough to eat a whole meal? By changing your endless grazing into an early lunch, then a second lunch (a sandwich? or yogurt/granola/nuts?), you'll boost your intake of the same vitamins/minerals you now take as a supplement.

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