If you’re one of the many Americans who takes vitamin supplements, chances are you think they will improve your health and help you live longer. But that’s not necessarily true, according to a recent study from Tufts University. It found that the best way to improve longevity is by getting nutrients in the food you eat—and that supplements might even be bad for you.
According to the study, taking supplements didn’t translate into a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, or any other cause. But getting adequate amounts of vitamin K and magnesium from food was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes. And getting enough vitamin A and K, copper, and zinc through diet was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Consumer Reports says that if you stick with a diet made up of mostly whole foods, like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, you’ll get the nutrients you need.
You can find vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, and spinach. Cauliflower, leafy greens, and brussels sprouts are all rich in vitamin K. Bananas and nuts are great for magnesium. And for copper, eat whole grains, potatoes, and shellfish.
The study also found that the overuse of supplements could have negative effects. High calcium intake—about 1,000 milligrams a day from supplements—was linked to an increased risk of death from cancer. When people got the same amount of calcium from foods like yogurt, cheese, and milk, the study found, they didn’t have the same increased risk of death from cancer.
But there are times when supplements are recommended. For example, if you’re pregnant, folic acid supplements are important! As always, check with your doctor.