No one is looking forward to dropping dead. So we fight our terminal fate by exercising, eating right, and enjoying life. But there is one more thing that you can do: take some vitamins, minerals, and supplements. When you were younger, you could take one Dino chewable, and that would give you the extra health boost you needed… but now that you're older, your needs are a bit more complex. We encourage you to move out of Bedrock and learn about the proper vitamins, minerals, and supplements that we grown-ups need.

Here's a quick note, though: we're not talking about ginko bilboa, testicle-of-rabbit, or any other herbal remedies. We're talking about scientific vitamins. So while herbal remedies are becoming the quick fad, there will always be a place for vitamin C and calcium right here in this SYW.


First off, we're going to change the terms we're using. While vitamins and minerals are different stuff, they are often grouped under the term "dietary supplements" (that is, anything intended to add something to a person's diet). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses this term, so we will too.

Food is the preferable way to get all the healthy stuff you need because in eating it, you are also getting a ton of other good-for-you things such as phyotchemicals and antioxidants (which have been rumored to prevent the aging of cells). But most of us have irregular eating habits and don't eat a balanced diet, so some kind of added bonus can only do us good. In case you're wondering what a perfectly balanced diet entails, take a look at this list.

A multivitamin is a good way to start, because it includes most of the stuff you need in one little pill. When choosing a multivitamin, look for one that provides 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin B2
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Copper
  • Chromium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

The multivitamin supplement should also contain at least 10% of the RDA for magnesium. If you can't remember all of these different items, at least try for a multivitamin that contains 20 or more vitamins and minerals. However, it is important not to go too far over the 100% RDA for each nutrient. Vitamins and minerals can be toxic at certain dosages.

While multivitamins are a great way to start attaining proper nutrition, they don't target your specific needs and deficiencies. It's like putting a patch on your jeans instead of just buying a new pair. So our recommendation is that you start out with a multivitamin and then back it up with any supplements that you particularly need.


As you know, there are tons of different vitamins and minerals that you need, each of which helps you perform a different function. Because we're sure that you don't remember your 9th grade health class, here's a list of how the main vitamins and minerals help you. If you seem to be having health problems that are all explained by the lack of a particular vitamin, go to your doctor so that he/she can assure you that you need to start adding that vitamin to your diet:

Vitamin A
Vitamin B family
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
The trace minerals

Vitamin A

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 1000 micrograms (mg) for men, and 800 mg for women. This vitamin promotes better vision, supports the immune system and aids in the growth and maintenance of bones, cells and skin. But beware of overdosing; too much of vitamin A (six or seven times the RDA) can cause dry skin, headaches, joint pain and insomnia.

The Vitamin B family

The members of this family are key to keeping your body energized.

  • B1 (a.k.a. thiamin) helps keep your appetite stable. The RDA is 1.5 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women.

  • B2 (a.k.a. riboflavin) also helps with energy metabolism. Riboflavin aids your eyes and works for healthier skin. The RDA for men is 1.7 mg and women should aim for 1.3 mg per day.

  • B3 (a.k.a. niacin) is actually made by your body. Niacin helps your metabolism, improves the condition of your skin, and supports both the digestive and nervous systems. Since you may have enough B3 in your diet, the RDA is merely an estimate. Men should get 19 mg per day and women should get 15 mg.

  • B6 allows you to think more clearly, supports the immune system and hormone activity. The intake of alcohol prohibits your B6 activity, so people who drink should especially watch for their B6 levels. Men should get 2 mg a day and women should get 1.6 mg.

  • B12 protects your nervous system and supports both bone growth and metabolism. Men and women should get about 2 mg a day.

  • Folate (a.k.a. folic acid) is essential for new cell development. And yet, your body is a snob when it comes to accepting this B vitamin. While you can get folic acid from eating leafy greens, legumes and liver, your body doesn't like to absorb it from these sources. Only half of the folate you get from foods will be accepted. Instead, your body prefers the so-called "free" folate found in supplements. Men should get 200 mg a day and women should get 180 mg per day.

Vitamin C

Pay close attention to the following fact; it is bound to be the correct response to a $250,000 question on that Millionaire show. The first nutrition experiment ever performed on a human took place in the 1700s when doctors experimented with vitamin C to find a cure for scurvy. Vitamin C helps prevent disease and infection and promotes the body's absorption of iron. It also helps bones grow, is involved in the formation of scar tissue, and strengthens the blood vessels. The RDA for men and women is 60 mg a day. Be wary of getting too much - more than 1,000 mg can cause cramps and diarrhea.

Vitamin D

The RDA for this vitamin is rather low because your body is capable of making it with the help of sunlight. Vitamin D fortifies the bones and plays supporting roles in the maintenance of your brain, pancreas, skin, muscles, reproductive organs and immune system. People between ages 19 and 24 need 10 mg every day and those 25 and older need 5 mg. If you spend enough time in the sun, you may not need any supplement. But if you're stuck inside that little cubby of an office for 80 or more hours a week and rarely emerge from your batcave on the weekend, you may want to look into getting some extra vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps give you healthy skin, can heal scars, and even protects the lungs from air pollutants. While legend has it that vitamin E increases sexual virility, there isn't really any proof for that. Sorry. Men should aim for 10 mg a day and women should get 8 mg.

The trace minerals: Calcium, Copper, Chromium, Iron, Selenium, and Zinc

While the body needs only very small amount of each of these five minerals, they are essential to overall good health.

  • Calcium is best known for keeping your bones strong and preventing them from becoming brittle. As everyone knows, calcium is found in milk, but one study showed that 80% of all teenage girls (who need the highest level of calcium) don't even get half of their daily need. Prevent the hunchback syndrome by adding 1000 mg to your diet every day.

  • Copper helps you absorb iron and heals wounds. Adults need 1.5 to 3.0 mg of copper each day.

  • Chromium helps maintain the body's balance of glucose (blood sugar) and is required for the body to release the energy from the glucose. Adults need anywhere from 50 to 200 mg a day.

  • Iron is essential for the transport and release of oxygen throughout the body. Men need 10mg a day and women need 15 mg.

  • Selenium supports the functions of vitamin E and is thought to prevent against cancer. Men need 70 mg of this antioxidant each day and women should get 55 mg.

  • Zinc plays a role in your sense of taste, helps make sperm, heals wounds and aids in making genetic materialsand proteins. Men should get 15 mg a day and women should get 12 mg (though it will not help them make sperm).


Now that you know what all of these vitamins can do, it's time to draw up a profile and see what you most likely need. While this list is a fantastic start, remember that you're playing with your health, so you should always let a doctor know when you are about to embark on a new vitamin regimen.

  • Smokers: If you insist on puffing away, you are probably in need of extra vitamin C. Smokers have lower vitamin C levels in their blood than nonsmokers and could benefit from supplementation of up to 500 mg a day.

  • Women:
    - Women are in particular need of stronger bones as they age, so you should start looking into a calcium supplement TODAY. Ideally, there should be an extra 1000mg of calcium in your diet every day. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate are considered the best supplemental sources. To maximize the amount of calcium your body can absorb from the supplement, it is better to take no more than 500mg doses at a time with food. - If your favorite monthly visitor (that is our witty code for "menstruation") habitually reeks havoc and you experience extensive bleeding, consider an iron supplement. The extra iron can sometimes already be found in your multivitamin. - If you take birth control pills, you could be deficient in vitamins B6, C, folic acid and calcium. Luckily, a multivitamin will usually make up for the pill's interference. - Should you ever want to get pregnant (not tomorrow, but in 5 or 10 years) think about taking in extra folic acid. Research has found that having sufficient levels of folic acid during the first trimester of pregnancy does wonders to prevent birth defects such as cleft palate and neural tube defects. Or if you don't want to be bothered at this time, your OB/GYN will probably put you on prenatal vitamins once you decide it is time to start having those cute little babies (or loud little babies, depending on how helpful your husband is).

  • Vegetarians and Vegans: If you do not eat animal products such as meat and dairy, it is possible you are missing out on certain essential nutrients that carnivores have in abundance. Usually a multivitamin and mineral supplement will supply a plant eater with the needed vitamin B12, calcium, iron and zinc.

  • Fruit and Vegetable Haters: What did they ever do to you? Fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of most of the must have vitamins and your body prefers to absorb them via food. If you don't eat enough fruit and veggies, you might be deficient in vitamins B1, B6, C, calcium, magnesium and potassium. And funny thing, these are the ones that serve to protect your body from cancer and heart disease. The best solution: start nibbling regularly on bananas and broccoli spears. You should also be especially careful that your multivitamin has 100% of the RDA for these specific nutrients.

  • Dieters: Think about that grapefruit diet that was so en vogue a few years back. Odds are, if you're only eating grapefruit for weeks at time you are not getting the nutrients from any other food groups. Dieters and people who avoid entire food groups may require a multivitamin and mineral supplement to replace missing nutrients.

  • Daily Exercisers:Vitamins C, E and the mineral selenium could help your body recover from the stress of working out five or more times a week. For those who are really hard-core, you may want to supplement your multivitamin with separate supplements of extra vitamins C and E.

  • Those taking prescription medicines: Certain medications can interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Some medications and supplements, especially herbal supplements can be extremely dangerous if combined. It is best to talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to you drug regimen.

  • Heavy drinkers: You lush you. First, try rehab. After that, your body may need extra vitamin B6. Alcohol destroys the body's stores of B6 and if you become deficient in this nutrient you could develop anemia, icky skin conditions, kidney stones and start convulsing. Oh and your brain waves will become abnormal and you'll become extremely irritable.


  • Dietary supplements can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, soft-gels, gel-caps, extracts, and liquids. These products are found virtually anywhere; health food stores and drug stores usually have the best selection. You can also purchase these products through mail order catalogues, the television and the Internet. Those big warehouse stores where you can buy a lifetime supply of anything also carry dietary supplements, but since most supplements have a set shelf life, you should avoid buying your pills in bulk.

  • Take the time to read the supplement labels carefully. Some companies claim to provide results that are neither accurate nor humanly possible.

  • Just because a product is labeled "natural," "herbal," or "natural and herbal" does not guarantee it is safe to use. Consider poisonous mushrooms. They're natural but they're still POISONOUS.

  • Natural and synthetic vitamins are basically the same thing. If you think about it, nothing that comes in a pill form is "natural." Mother Nature created a bunch of crazy stuff, but she managed to stay away from tablet and gelcap production. Basically, synthetic vitamins are just cheaper to make.

  • A vitamin's price doesn't reflect its potency. Higher priced vitamins aren't any better than the bargain variety.

  • If you're sensitive to bee stings or have asthma, supplements containing bee pollen or royal jelly could cause an allergic reaction.

  • Look for products whose ingredients carry the U.S.P. notation. This indicates the manufacturer has followed standards established by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. (This should make you feel better about the product.)

  • Consider the name of the manufacturer or distributor. Supplements made by a nationally known food and drug manufacturer, for example, are more likely to have been made under tight controls because these companies already have set in place manufacturing standards for their other products.

  • Check the expiration date on the bottle.

  • It's fine to buy supplements containing sugar and starch. These are sometimes added to ensure better nutrient absorption.

  • Store brands may be just as good as name brands. Bet you didn't know that both brands could even be made by the same manufacturer. Store brands are usually less expensive because you're not paying for advertising.

Don't think for one minute that merely graduating from the chalky Fred to an adult multivitamin will ensure you a healthy and productive future. No pill, regardless of its color or flavor, can substitute for living an overall healthy lifestyle. Dietary supplements will help make up for nutritional deficits in your diet, but you still need to exercise, avoid smoking and excessive drinking, and manage your stress.

And be optimistic, too - optimists tend to have longer lives than pessimists. If you feel that you have nothing to be optimistic about, at least be happy that you're going to live longer, thanks to this SYW.