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Dietary supplements are defined as products that are ingested and are intended to add to or “supplement” the diet. They come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, liquids, gummies, powders, and bars. The number of dietary supplements available today has expanded more than 20 times over the past 30 years, and they are sold in drugstores, grocery stores, big box stores, dollar stores, convenience stores, gyms, doctors’ offices, and online. The variety of choices and the supplement combinations can be overwhelming. You may wonder: Are supplements safe? Should I be taking supplements? How do I know which ones to take?

Understanding the basics about dietary supplements:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not authorized to approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed, meaning that some supplements may be introduced to consumers before the FDA has been notified.
  • Dietary supplements are categorized under the general umbrella of “foods,” unless the product meets the definition of a drug that is labeled to treat or mitigate a disease.
  • Dietary supplements have strong biological effects and may interact with, enhance, or inhibit, prescribed medications.
  • The FDA requires supplement manufacturers to follow good manufacturing practices to ensure the identity, purity, strength, and composition of dietary supplements; however, there are no laws or regulations that limit the serving size of a dietary supplement or the amount of a dietary ingredient that can be in a serving of a dietary supplement.

Scientific research related to the effectiveness of dietary supplements varies widely and few supplements show conclusive evidence of significant health benefits. Most people who eat a well-balanced diet, like the Mediterranean Diet, that includes fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts do not need supplements. Dietary supplements are not a substitute for a healthy way of eating.

If you choose to take dietary supplements, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Use only single-ingredient supplements: With multi-ingredient supplements, it’s harder to know which substance is having an effect, whether good or bad.
  • Talk to your doctor. Tell your doctor about any supplements you take because some supplements may interact with prescribed medications.
  • Look for the USP or NSF stamp. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International are independent, nongovernmental organizations that test dietary supplements. USP verifies the identity, quality, strength, and purity of supplements; NSF confirms that the supplement contains the listed ingredients and nothing else.

Try the recipe below for a nutrient rich trail mix as part of a healthy diet.


  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • ⅓ cup cashews, unsalted
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • ¼ c dark chocolate chips (60% cacao or higher)


Add all ingredients together and mix. Keeps in an airtight container for 7 days.