You’ve probably seen the bewildering array of supplements available in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores. And it seems that there’s a new miracle supplement that cures nearly everything almost every year.

These miracle supplement stories are based on actual research of the benefits of substances in natural foods. There’s just one catch: The individual substances are not nearly as good as the whole food and may even be harmful in therapeutic doses. So eat your carrots; don’t take Vitamin A. Eat your nuts and seeds with the germ; don’t take Vitamin E. We believe that most people are better off with a healthy diet than taking supplements. But there are exceptions, and  we’ll deal with them individually.

Do we need to take supplements to be healthy?

That depends. Young and healthy people eating foods in an as-close-to-grown state as possible are unlikely to need supplement, with some exceptions as noted below. The problem with supplements is that they are not absorbed as well as the nutrients in food, and it is really easy to get the body out of balance by taking certain supplements and not others, when there is a naturally synergistic relationship between nutrients.

On the other hands, we are all very different, and our needs vary because our bodies are more efficient at using some natural nutrients than others. And, as we age, our bodies tend to get really sloppy at producing and/or absorbing some nutrients. Vitamin B12 is one example. But we’ll explore some other nutrients as well.

The bottom line is to educate yourself and listen to your body. No one else can know your body the way you can, providing you educate yourself re how your body works and, in this case, how it deals with nutrients and how a healthy body should function.