Vitamins & Supplements Buying Guide

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Wed May 15 2024.

Pile of vitamins.

Most of us get essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the foods we eat. But certain health problems and the natural aging process can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and effectively use them. The right vitamins and dietary supplements can support you or your loved one’s health and reduce the risk of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. 

How Do I Know If I Need Vitamins and Supplements?

Vitamins and supplements support people who aren’t able to optimize nutrition through food alone. Vitamins and supplements come in various types and formulations. You may need these supplies if you or your loved one are living with:

  • Liver failure

  • Kidney disease

  • Malabsorption syndrome

  • Anemia

  • Diabetes

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (for example, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

  • Arthritis (for example, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout)

  • Mood disorders (for example, depression or generalized anxiety disorder)

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

  • Osteoporosis

  • Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia

Sometimes, vitamins and minerals are used to support pregnancy. For example, you might opt to take a prenatal vitamin if you’re currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant. 

Vitamins and Supplements: How Do I Choose?

Choosing the right vitamins and supplements can be challenging. There are dozens of brands, which makes shopping tricky. Thankfully, following a few basic guidelines can help.

“Vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated like medications,” explains James Wilkinson, CEO of Balance One Supplements. “This lack of rigorous oversight means you need to exercise discernment. It’s vital to investigate and choose brands known for their high quality and transparency.”

Here are Wilkinson’s tips for doing that:

  • Buy products that engage in third-party testing and adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Wilkinson says these endorsements “indicate products are free from impurities and faithfully contain the advertised ingredients at the claimed levels.”

  • Check product labels for clear ingredient sourcing (E.g. Where did the ingredients come from?)

  • Look for fillers and additives, like gelatin and cellulose. (The more fillers a supplement contains, the less likely it is to work as stated)

  • Make sure the supplement label lists specific ingredient quantities

  • Look for products with clear dosage information

  • Read customer reviews

  • Visit the manufacturer’s website. Wilkinson says “reputable firms provide info on their research and development practices.”

The vitamins and supplements we sell at Carewell meet all of the above guidelines. We’re happy to answer your questions and make product recommendations if you need help. 

Before Taking a New Vitamin or Supplement Do This

Vitamins and supplements can help support your health goals, but you should speak with your doctor or healthcare provider first.

“Discussing supplement use with your doctor is crucial for several reasons,” says Krutika Nanavati, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “First, you need to identify potential interactions. Certain supplements can interact with the medications you take, causing adverse side effects. Second, you need to rule out underlying medical conditions. Some nutrient deficiencies indicate underlying health problems requiring treatment. Third, you need personalized recommendations. Your doctor can recommend supplements based on your individual needs and health history.” 

Vitamins and Supplements: Product Types

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements are made from plant-based ingredients, like seeds, stems, leaves, and flowers. They’ve been used for thousands of years all over the world to manage everything from inflammation and stomach problems to headaches and sore throats. 

Herbal supplements come in various forms, including capsules, teas, oils, and ointments. Instead of increasing nutrient levels, they address specific symptoms or medical issues.

Best For:

  • Minor medical concerns, like trouble falling asleep or feeling stressed

  • Supporting immunity

  • Relieving minor symptoms, like congestion, body aches, and upset stomach

Shop Herbal Supplements

Immune Support

Immune support supplements contain ingredients like vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea. These nutrients boost your immunity and reduce the side effects of illnesses, like the common cold and flu. Taking supplements in this category won’t necessarily keep you from getting sick, but they can minimize symptoms and help shorten the duration of illnesses.

Best For:

  • Boosting immune system function

  • Reducing side effects of the cold and flu

  • Providing extra defense during cold and flu season

Emergen-C Vitamin C Chewables
Emergen-C Vitamin C Chewables

Price: $11.97

Airborne Immune Support Gummies With Vitamin C
Airborne Immune Support Gummies With Vitamin C

Price: $11.83 - $18.99

Shop Immune Support Supplements

Mood Support

Mood support supplements manage common mental health conditions, like anxiety, stress, and worry. They contain mood-enhancing ingredients, like ashwagandha, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and L-theanine. These additives have calming effects, making it easier to relax in times of stress and overwhelm.

Best For:

  • Quieting the mind

  • Supporting mild anxiety and stress

  • Promoting a relaxed mental state

OLLY Goodbye Stress Gummies
OLLY Goodbye Stress Gummies

Price: $12.88

OLLY Sleep Gummies
OLLY Sleep Gummies

Price: $12.15 - $79.49

Shop Mood Support Supplements 

Fiber and Digestive Supplements

Fiber and digestive supplements promote healthy digestion. Aging and/or taking prescription medications can affect your digestive health, increasing the risk of constipation and hemorrhoids.

Eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward improving digestive health, but it isn’t always enough. That’s where these supplements come in. They help bulk up and soften stool so it's easier to pass and promote regularity. 

Best For:

  • Preventing and treating constipation

  • Promoting regular bowel movements

  • Relieving symptoms of irritable bowel disease (IBS)

Research suggests that fiber supplements may also help lower cholesterol and make you feel fuller longer.

Shop Fiber and Digestive Supplements

Iron Supplements

Iron is an essential mineral that the human body needs to function. It plays a key role in the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Iron is found in many foods, but not everyone absorbs enough of it to maintain good health. 

Though anyone can experience iron deficiency, it's more common in women than men. If you aren’t able to maintain adequate iron stores through diet alone, your doctor might recommend iron supplementation.

Best For:

  • Pregnant people

  • People who experience heavy periods

  • Those who take iron-depleting medications (for example, prescription antacids)

  • People with certain blood disorders, like sickle cell disease 

  • Those who have undergone gastric surgery

McKesson Multivitamin with Iron
McKesson Multivitamin with Iron

Price: $8.99

Shop Iron Supplements

Joint Health Supplements

Joint health supplements promote joint function and mobility. They contain ingredients like glucosamine, curcumin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Nutrients that reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and prevent cartilage breakdown. 

With a healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes, these supplements can help you stay active. That means less sitting and more time visiting friends and grandkids. 

Best For:

  • People with arthritis

  • Those who experience chronic joint pain and/or stiffness

  • People who can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Folks who suffer from limited mobility because of joint pain or cartilage breakdown

Prostate Support

Prostate support supplements are formulated to reduce the risk of prostate problems, like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. 

These supplements often contain ingredients like saw palmetto, selenium, and zinc. Saw palmetto is thought to relieve BPH symptoms like increased urination and weak urinary flow, while selenium and zinc may support prostate function and help protect against prostate cancer.

Best For:

  • Men with a family history of BPH and/or prostate cancer

  • Men experiencing urinary symptoms, such as increased urination or weak urinary flow

  • Men suffering from prostatitis (prostate inflammation)

It’s important to remember that taking a prostate supplement can’t cure or treat prostate disease, nor will it prevent prostate problems. However, it may provide peace of mind and help support prostate gland function.

Nature's Bounty Saw Palmetto
Nature's Bounty Saw Palmetto

Price: $17.30

Shop Prostate Health Supplements

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins contain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Specifically, they include folate (a B vitamin) that supports the growth and development of a baby. Studies show that women who take prenatal vitamins daily during pregnancy are less likely to have babies with brain, spine, and neural tube defects

Best For:

  • Pregnant people

  • People trying to get pregnant

  • Women of reproductive age who are sexually active

HealthStar Prenatal Vitamin Supplement
HealthStar Prenatal Vitamin Supplement

Price: $8.54 - $49.99

Shop Prenatal Vitamins

Multivitamins

Multivitamins are one of the most popular nutritional supplements available, and for good reason. They contain vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients (like fiber) that you might not get through diet alone.

When taken daily as part of a healthy lifestyle, multivitamins may offer various benefits, including improved nutrition and chronic disease prevention. Still, they aren’t a substitute for eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep. 

Best For:

  • Pregnant people

  • People trying to get pregnant

  • People 50 and older (aging affects the body’s ability to absorb adequate nutrients from food alone)

  • Those who eat vegan or vegetarian diets, as nutrients like vitamin B12 are only found in animal proteins

Shop Multivitamins 

Vitamins & Supplements - Commonly Asked Questions

1) Should I consult with my doctor before taking vitamins and supplements?

Yes. Wilkinson says that before starting any new vitamin or nutritional supplement, it’s essential to consult with your doctor. “Their personalized advice –– especially concerning your health history, current medications, and specific nutritional needs –– is invaluable. Supplements may interact with other medications you’re taking, have contraindications, or provide unnecessary given your dietary intake and overall well-being. A consultation will help identify specific deficiencies needing attention and ensure the safety of any supplement for you.”

2) Can vitamins and supplements take the place of good nutrition?

Vitamins and supplements may support your health and well-being, but they aren’t a substitute for eating a nutritious, balanced diet. “Remember: supplements are meant to complement –– not replace –– your diet,” Wilkinson says. “Maintain good health by ensuring a balanced diet. Use supplements only to bridge any nutritional gaps as necessary.” 

3) Does a supplement’s price indicate its quality and efficacy?

 

Not necessarily. Nanavati recommends comparing prices when doing your research. “Don’t assume expensive equals better quality,” she says. Wilkinson agrees, noting that “quality varies significantly among brands, often reflected in price. However, lofty prices don’t always guarantee top-quality products.” At the end of the day, “transparency reigns supreme ––reputable firms boast about their offerings by providing thorough information on the research and development that informs their formulations.” 

Need More Information?

Trying to find the right vitamins and supplements to meet your or your loved one’s nutritional needs can be daunting. That’s why we offer a full library of educational content and a dedicated team of experts to answer your toughest questions.

Read more articles about nutrition & feeding, including other buying guides and real-life stories from caregivers like you. 

Want to talk to an authentic caregiving specialist? Carewell’s here to make your life easier! If you have questions about vitamins and supplements, contact our friendly Care Team. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com. We’re available 24/7, 365 days a year.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.