It’s time for some straight talk about vitamins. Is it okay to take supplements or are we better off getting our vitamins from the foods we eat? Here’s what doctors recommend to friends and family:  

  • First: Vitamin C protects against cancer, heart disease, and the common cold. But nutrition expert Dr. Mark Levine says most of us get plenty of “C” from food. Plus, our bodies can’t absorb the extra doses we get from supplements, which means most of the “C” passes right through our system. So, skip the supplements and eat high-C produce, like citrus, broccoli, and strawberries. 

  • Next: Let’s talk about vitamin D, which is linked to a lower risk of heart attack, cancer, obesity, and depression. It turns out, if you eat high-D foods like fish, eggs, milk and mushrooms, take a high-dose supplement and spend time in the sun, you may slide into vitamin D toxicity, which can cause constipation, vomiting, and weakness. That’s why the Institute of Medicine recently suggested that people get their D levels tested before automatically assuming they’re deficient. A lot of people pop pills with 5,000 International Units of D, and that’s beyond the upper limit of what’s healthy. So talk to your doctor first. 

  • What about calcium which keeps bones strong, and keeps our body’s systems running smoothly?According to vitamin specialist Dr. Clifford Rosen, you can get plenty of calcium by eating milk, yogurt, broccoli, and fortified cereal and orange juice. He says calcium supplements aren’t necessary unless you have osteoporosis. And then, you should only take 500 milligrams max, since too much calcium leads to constipation, kidney stones and heart attack. 

  • So what’s the one supplement that’s worth taking? Glucosamine and chondroitin, which can soothe achy, arthritic knees. Joint experts found that 80-percent of people taking G&C end up with significantly less arthritis pain. But it won’t help everybody. If you take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, and your knee pain doesn’t improve within three months, it never will. So don’t waste your money.