A few years ago, I stopped taking multivitamin supplements and simply started making a greater effort to eat more fruits and veggies after reading about studies questioning the effectiveness of supplements. Now, Slate’s Emily Anthes has taken a more comprehensive look at the supplement issue — that makes me glad I stopped popping those pills.

After all, actual nutritional deficiencies are less common today, and even when deficiencies exist, taking a vitamin supplement’s not the same thing as getting the same vitamins through healthy food. In fact, some studies about supplements are downright scary. Antioxidant supplements, for example, have actually been shown to increase the risk of death, Anthes points out, though why they do so is unclear.

“For every study that turns up disconcerting vitamin side effects, there seem to be two more that conclude that we simply don’t know enough yet about supplements to make evidence-based recommendations,” writes Anthes. “Until we do, we should stop treating supplements like health candy and more like prescription meds, to be used only when there’s a demonstrated need,” like a folate supplement for pregnant women or zinc for adults with age-related macular degeneration.

Want to ditch the multivitamins yourself? MNN contributor Stephanie Rogers has some tips to help you get the nutrients you need without supplements:

The best way to ensure that your diet is bursting with easily absorbable, natural vitamins and minerals is to go by color. Try to incorporate as many different colored vegetables, fruits and grains into your meals as you can — blue/purple, green, yellow/orange and red. For example, yellow/orange fruits and veggies like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and mangoes contain lots of beta carotene and vitamin A, while blue/purple foods like blackberries, purple cabbage and eggplant are packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C.
If you plan to continue taking multivitamins, read Rogers’ entire post to find out how to avoid eating lead that’s in some multivitamins.

Also on MNN: Do fish-oil capsules have mercury in them?

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