What’s the REAL Scoop on Vitamins?

What’s on your list of things that are vital to your health? Exercising? Eating right? Getting enough sleep? How about taking your daily vitamins or supplements? According to a recent poll, a whopping 86% of Americans say that they take vitamins or supplements – that’s more than 4 out of 5 of us. Yet the same study shows that only 24% of those people actually have any kind of nutritional deficiency that would require them to take dietary supplements. Another study has found that we spend more than $12 billion a year on vitamins and supplements! It might be time to re-examine why you’re taking vitamins and supplements and whether they’re actually doing anything positive for your health. At best, some could be useless and a waste of money; at worst, some could actually be harming you. 


orange pill bottle laying on a table with long white pills spilling out of it
Multivitamins are essentially useless because we get all the vitamins we need from food.

If you’re going to find one type of vitamin in someone’s cupboard, it’s probably going to be a multivitamin. These pills have been touted as a necessity for everyone, claiming to pump you full of all the vitamins that your body needs, and that you’re probably lacking in. The truth is, though, that you’re probably not lacking in these nutrients. Most of us get all the vitamins that we need, like C, A, and B, from the foods that we eat. 

Beyond the very doubtful necessity of taking a multivitamin, there might be even bigger drawbacks to these little pills or gummies. While many studies on them have produced mixed results, with some claiming slight benefits and others showing no benefits at all, some studies have actually found an increased risk of mortality and cancers in people who regularly take multivitamins. In addition, people who consume normal amounts of things like vitamin A and iron in their diets should be careful with supplements: too much of these things can be toxic

Vitamin D

This is one vitamin that is difficult to get from foods. We also get it from sunlight, but because of where many of us live, or the lifestyles we lead, it can be difficult to get enough that way, as well. Because vitamin D is necessary for strong bones, teeth, and muscles, and because recent studies suggest that it may help fight off infections, you should consider talking to your doctor about adding this supplement into your routine. 

strawberries on a chopping block with them split in half
You are better off eating strawberries to get your vitamin C than taking supplements.

Vitamin C

File this one under: complete waste of money. In the 1970s, chemist Linus Pauling suggested that vitamin C could help fight colds, and the idea stuck, eventually spawning a whole industry of “immune-boosting” products containing vitamin C. But study after study has found no evidence that taking vitamin C supplements helps with, well, anything. Eat your strawberries instead! 


So it turns out that taking extra vitamin C is pretty useless (you’ll just end up peeing out the excess, which could even lead to painful kidney stones), but zinc might actually be the one thing that can help you if you’ve got the sniffles. Studies have found that this mineral interferes with the replication of rhinoviruses, the bugs that cause the common cold. In fact, one recent study compared people sick with colds who were taking zinc versus those who were taking a placebo, and did find that the ones taking zinc experienced less severe symptoms and recovered more quickly than those taking the placebo. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects our body from free radicals and boosts our immunity, and for a while, many people were excited by the idea that taking it as a supplement could help ward off everything from cancer to heart disease. But the results of studies have been mixed at best, and the current recommendation is that healthy people should not be taking a vitamin E supplement. sunflower seeds unpeeled in a pile

Like vitamin A (which can be toxic in large amounts), and unlike vitamin C (which is water soluble) vitamin E is fat soluble, meaning it will be absorbed and stored by your body, so large amounts of it can build up. And high doses of vitamin E have been linked to an increased risk of bleeding, stroke, and even certain cancers, like prostate cancer. So skip the supplement and dive into some leafy greens instead! Don’t like getting your Popeye on? Then all you need to do is eat a handful of sunflower seeds and you’re good to go.

Folic Acid

The answer to whether you should be taking folic acid really depends on who you are. This supplement is important for pregnant women or women who want to get pregnant; in fact, the National Institutes of Health recommends that these women take 400 micrograms of this nutrient daily to support their bodies’ as they carry a growing fetus. In addition, several large studies have suggested that taking folic acid during pregnancy helps reduce the risk of neural-tube defects, and serious, life-threatening birth defects of the baby’s brain, spine, or spinal cord.


These bacterial supplements might be the priciest pills on the list: they can cost upwards of $1 per pill, and their wild popularity with people looking to support their gut health has spawned a $23 billion dollar industry. So are they worth the cost and the hype? For now, we’re going to have to say no. For one thing, there just hasn’t been enough promising research that suggests they actually do anything positive for everyone who takes them. As Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, Ph.D., M.P.H., a nutritional epidemiologist, points out, the same issue with most supplements applies to probiotics, as well: “More research needs to be done on probiotics in general and probiotic supplements, but it’s always better to get your nutrients from food rather than supplements. They just don’t deliver the same benefits as food.”

drawing of intestine on a blackboard with red and white pills inside of the drawing
Probiotics can actually disrupt the bacteria balance in your gut.

Daniel-MacDougall also points out that there’s a chance probiotic supplements could have a negative affect on your body. “Maybe a probiotic supplement will have a positive effect on your digestive system if you’re lucky, but it’s likely it will have no effect,” Daniel-MacDougall says. “And it could even disrupt or displace some of the good bacteria you already have.” These pills could disrupt the delicate and very personal balance of bacteria in your gut and you could end up with chronic stomach aches or problems with digestion and bloating as your body struggles to adjust. Our suggestion? Stick with plain yogurt (regular or Greek, jazzed up with fruit or honey if you don’t like it plain), or, if you’re into them, fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. 

When it comes down to it, with a few exceptions like zinc, vitamin D, and folic acid, which can be used in specific ways for specific people, most vitamins and supplements don’t seem to be worth the money we’re spending on them. There just aren’t studies that consistently prove that they live up to their hype, and there are even some studies suggesting that some could be harmful. Vitamins and supplements can also vary wildly in their quality and ingredients, since they aren’t as closely regulated as food and medications. Your best bet is to stick with eating a balanced diet so that you can be sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need – in their purest and most potent form! Oh, and don’t forget the exercising and getting enough sleep part! Too bad they can’t put those in a bottle…

Get Well Soon! 10 Tried & True Home Remedies For Cold and Flu Season

As we navigate one of the worst public health crises of our lifetimes, something ominous looms on the horizon. With a severe cold and flu season ahead, as well as a surge of COVID-19 cases, it’s important to be proactive with your health and, to be frank, honest about the reality: most of us will get sick at some point or another this winter! However, armed with common-sense practices (like wearing a mask, avoiding crowded spaces, and washing hands for thirty seconds with soap and hot water!), and our list of 10 tried and true home remedies, we can all make it through the season unscathed. 

african american man with a jogging suit on running on the road
Regularly exercising can help build up your immune system.

Preventative Measures

In football, they say the best defense is a good offense, and the same goes for your health. Keeping your body in tip-top shape reduces your risk of catching a cold or other communicable illness. Here are five things that, if added to your regular routine, can help keep you healthy all season long: 

  • Reducing Stress. Stress wreaks havoc on our entire body, particularly the immune system. Corticosteroids, released when the body is under stress, suppress the immune system, meaning you’ll be less able to fight off viruses and infections.
  • Getting regular exercise. Regular, moderate exercise supports a healthy immune system by increasing the circulation of immune cells throughout the body.
  • Eating Vitamin C-rich foods. Vitamin C helps maintain your immune system, preventing illness and helping you recover quickly. Try to add produce like oranges, strawberries, red peppers, and broccoli into your diet on a daily basis.cleaning supplies in a bucket with a purple cloth on it
  • Cleaning regularly. This keeps you, your house, and anyone who visits or lives with you safe from germs! Wiping down often-touched surfaces, like counters and doorknobs, stops viruses from spreading. 

Top 10 Home Remedies

Of course, nobody wants to get sick. But if you do fall ill despite taking preventative measures, these ten home remedies will have you feeling better in no time. 

  • Shorten symptoms with a zinc supplement. Experts believe that zinc can shorten the duration of a cold, because it prevents the rhinovirus (the virus responsible for most common colds) from reproducing in the body. garlic bulb and cloves
  • Stave off bacteria and viruses with garlic. Add a hefty amount of this antibacterial, antiviral superfood into your soup, make garlic toast with fresh, diced garlic, or make a simple broth by boiling carrots, celery, half an onion, and as much garlic as you can in a big pot of water. 
  • Relieve coughing with soothing honey. Plus, honey’s microbial properties allow it to fight off some bacteria and viruses. Stir a heaping spoonful into tea, or even just hot water with a slice of lemon, to feel results almost instantly. 
  • Reduce nausea and indigestion, as well as coughing, with oregano oil. Often used for respiratory support, oregano oil supports bile flow, which reduces indigestion and promotes a healthy gut. 

    caucasian woman flushing her nose with a white neti pot
    Flush your nose to prevent cold symptoms.
  • Soothe your throat with a salt water gargle. Dissolve ¼-½ teaspoon of table salt into an 8oz glass of warm water to pull out undesirable fluids from throat tissues and soothe a scratchy throat irritated by post nasal drip.
  • Flush your nose with a neti pot. Neti pots use a medical grade saline solution to rinse particles and mucus from your nose, preventing illness and alleviating cold symptoms.
  • Get a good night’s sleep by propping your head up to encourage any congestion to drain from your sinuses overnight. A hot compress on your face as you relax in bed supports this process. Sleep is critical for healing – it’s when your body produces important proteins that help fight infection and inflammation!
  • Open airways with menthol-based treatments. You can make your own vapor-rub by adding a few drops of mint, tea tree, or eucalyptus essential oils to your favorite lotion or vaseline and rubbing on your chest before bed to support easy breathing all night. 
  • Reduce congestion and draw out toxins by taking a hot bath with epsom salts. The humidity and steam from the hot water will ease congestion, and the epsom salts will help draw out toxins and reduce body aches.

    glass cup with a light brown liquid in it
    Warm milk blended with cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, and black pepper can help reduce inflammation!
  • Reduce Inflammation with spices like cloves, cayenne, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon. You can make a warm, soothing beverage like golden milk (warm milk blended with cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, and black pepper) or a cup of bone broth with a dash of cayenne.

Despite the threat of cold and flu season fast approaching, we can all stay happy and healthy. With common sense health practices like washing our hands, staying home to stop the spread, and incorporating natural preventative measures into our daily routines, we will make it through the season. If you do end up under the weather, using these antimicrobial home remedies should help – but always be sure to check in with your primary care physician if your symptoms persist or get worse.