The Basics of Vitamins, Supplements, and Diet Aids

You probably heard it from your parents throughout the years: “Take your vitamins!” But have you ever wondered exactly what supplements you should be taking to stay healthy? If you listen to every recommendation on the internet, you’ll be spending a lot of money at the drugstore! So here are some basics of vitamins, supplements and diet aids we hope will help you decide what to invest in for your health.

What Does Our Body Need to be Healthy?

Everyone’s body is different, but we all have some common nutrients that we have to ingest to keep us healthy. These are 6 compounds that our body can’t produce on its own:  protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. There are 14 vitamins our body needs to work at its optimal level, and 16 minerals that contribute to our overall health, as well.

Vitamins, Supplements, and Diet Aids – what exactly are they?

Vitamins & Minerals

Many of us think of the tablets we take each day as our “vitamins,” but that’s not technically correct. The vitamin compounds that the tablets contain are the nutrients we are using to give our health a boost. You can also receive the same vitamins through a well-balanced diet. We take vitamin tablets when our diet can’t provide enough of a vitamin or mineral that we need to be healthy, or when our body has trouble absorbing those nutrients from the food we eat. Some tablets are sold as single vitamins, and some are labeled as “multivitamins,” which, as you can guess, contain more than one vitamin nutrient for you to take daily. Minerals are similar to vitamins, and can also be purchased over the counter as tablets should you need to add them to your diet.

You can read the complete list of vitamins and minerals, their benefits, ideal amounts, and some common foods they are found in here: Listing of vitamins – Harvard Health


Dietary supplements can be sold in a variety of forms, such as tablets, pills, food additive powders, or even gummies! Supplements can contain additional nutrients beyond vitamins and minerals, as well. These could be protein, fatty oils, beneficial herbs and other edible items. Vitamin tablets can also be considered a type of supplement, because you are using them to add nutrients that you’re not receiving in your diet. Most countries require that supplements are labeled with their ingredients and exactly what their health purpose is. In the US, the FDA has stated that supplements cannot claim to treat or cure specific diseases.

Diet and Weight Loss Aids

Diet and weight loss aids are a controversial topic, so it’s important to have correct information when you’re considering using them to lose weight. They are often marketed using health lingo that may make it seem like they will help you lose weight. However, even if a weight loss aid includes beneficial nutrients,  the claims that it will help you “burn fat” often come from unreliable studies and anecdotal evidence. There are prescription weight loss drugs available on the market, but you should only take those when instructed and monitored by a doctor. As much as we would all love a “magical” weight loss pill, many studies show that the most reliable way to lose weight is to eat a healthy diet and exercise. 

How To Use Them

Use caution when adding vitamin tablets, supplements, or diet and weight loss aids to your nutrition routine. The best way to determine if you need to add nutrients through these products is to talk with your doctor. You may be experiencing symptoms of a nutrient deficiency that they will be able to pinpoint a precise solution for, rather than experimenting with different multivitamins and possibly causing unnecessary excess. Before taking any vitamin, supplement, or diet aid, read the entire ingredient list to insure you are not allergic to any of the substances used. Sometimes, unexpected ingredients are used as fillers or binders that may cause an adverse effect. Lastly, as you take these supplements, keep track of the overall effect of your additional nutrients and cease use if you experience any negative symptoms.