The dietary supplement industry is massive. In the United States alone, it’s a $46 billion industry — and growing! As popular as adding vitamins and minerals to your diet in a convenient pill or powder may be, not all supplements are good for you. Some don’t do what they say they’ll do, for example. Others interfere with processes that your body's already doing (and doing very well in many instances). Still others can actually cause damage. Here are five supplements most people should avoid.
You're probably shouting, “Wait! Aren’t antioxidants good for you?” You bet! The thing is, you already produce these incredible cell-repairers on your own. Your body uses them to keep free radicals in check when you train, and the more often you train, the better your body gets at the entire process. Add extra vitamin C into the mix, and you can throw the entire operation dangerously off kilter. You know what they say: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Instead of interrupting your body’s existing routine, get your vitamin C from fruits, veggies and other foods that are rich in vitamin C, including:
Red bell peppers
Shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters
Your body needs magnesium and, if you’re like most men and women in America, you’re probably not getting enough. The type of magnesium supplement you take matters, though, and magnesium oxide makes this list because the human body has a hard time absorbing it. For a supplement with staying power, choose magnesium glycinate instead.
Better still, make sure your diet includes plenty of foods that are full of magnesium, such as:
Dark, leafy greens
Nuts and seeds
The only people who should take a folic acid supplement are pregnant women — and even then, it's always smart to consult your doctor. For expectant mothers, folic acid can prevent anemia and neural tube birth defects. For everybody else, research suggests that excess folic acid may undercut your immune system and boost your cancer risk.
Most people need 400 micrograms of folic acid each day, and this all-star member of the B-vitamin family is found in a plethora of foods you probably eat already, including:
Beef and poultry
Dark, leafy greens
Here’s another one that may have you scratching your head. Calcium is great for protecting your bones as you age, but as with other supplements in this roundup, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Over the past decade, a growing pool of research suggests that calcium supplements can elevate your risk of a stroke or heart disease. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why just yet, but they think that it might stem from the supplement being absorbed not by your bones as intended but by the walls of your arteries.
Instead of a supplement, get your calcium from foods such as:
Everybody's been there: You want to make major gains in the gym, and you want to do it as fast as possible. Creatine may have helped athletes and fitness fans bulk up for decades, but it can also wreak havoc on the kidneys.
What’s more, since it ramps up protein synthesis in your body by drafting water in your muscles’ cells, creatine can also severely dehydrate you, kickstart cramps and lead to heart-related health issues. Instead of relying on a supplement for protein power, count on your plate. Fill it with natural amino acid derivatives from beef, poultry and fish for a safer way to get stronger.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are incredibly tempting. They promise quick results and require little or no change to your daily routine or diet. They’re not all created equal, however, and may end up doing more harm than good. In most cases, eating a colorful diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains will ensure that your body is well stocked with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive.