Most people’s diets are less than perfect. Vitamins and other supplements can help fill the gaps.

Vitamins and minerals help the body perform essential functions. Some vitamins help fight infections and maintain nerve health, while others help your body convert energy from food or assist in blood clotting, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Minerals ensure bones, muscles, the heart and brain are working as they should and are critical to enzyme and hormone production, according to medline plus.gov.

And while a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is the best way to get vitamins and minerals, said Tara Sallee, Hy-Vee dietitian, many of us fall short. Sallee likes to consider supplements an “insurance policy” for important missing nutrients.

For most people, she recommends a general multi-vitamin and fish oil supplement.

To pinpoint what nutritional deficiencies you may have, talk to your medical provider to determine if lab work is needed. Depending on the results, supplementation may be recommended.

Since some vitamins and supplements can interact with medications, Sallee recommends informing your provider of any supplements you plan to take. Some medications can speed up the metabolism of certain nutrients, resulting in a higher dietary requirement, while other nutrients may compete with or delay a medicine’s absorption, she said. A pharmacist also can be a great resource to check with for any potential medication/supplement interactions.

“Be especially careful with supplementation if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, on heart medication, have upcoming surgery or are on certain types of chemotherapy,” Sallee said.

Consuming vitamin and protein-fortified shakes along with a more balanced diet and exercise have helped Lisa Gray feel better than she did in her 20s.

Six years ago, the 48-year-old Gray, owner of Warrior Nutrition in St. Joseph and Savage Nutrition in Savannah, Missouri, was a borderline diabetic. With three daughters (one in her 20s, two in their teens) and her youngest son with autism, she knew she needed to make a change.

“I had to get my health back on track,” said Gray, who has lost 35 pounds since then and is now a Herbalife distributor.

“I made a decision that I needed to make a change. I needed to be around for (my son) and all of my children. I didn’t have time for diabetes to take over my life.”

At her businesses, she offers a free wellness evaluation to determine a person’s goals.

A protein estimator helps determine how much protein and calories a person needs each day. She combines this with diet and workout suggestions to help her clients work toward their fitness goals. Weigh-ins also are offered at no charge.

When shopping for supplements, it’s important to remember they are not all created equally, Sallee said.

She suggests always checking ingredient lists and being cautious of any supplement made outside the United States. Look for third-party testing logos, like NSF International, to guarantee the supplement has been tested for purity and quality.

“Whole food vitamins are a great choice because they are often in forms that are easy for your body to absorb,” Sallee said.

Whole food vitamins are made from little to no synthetic or “man-made” ingredients.

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