Are Supplements Worth the Cost?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 6 comments

Marketing of over-the counter health and nutrition supplements seems to have exploded in recent years. From diet pills to herbal supplements to whey protein, each brand insists theirs is the most beneficial to your health. At the same time, nutrition experts present a conflicting barrage of information about which supplements are the most important.

If you were to take every supplement recommended by an ‘expert’, not only would your countertops be overflowing, your pockets would be empty too. With so many choices and voices out there, the average consumer is left overwhelmed and conflicted. Which supplements do you really need to take, and are they worth the cost?

List #1: Definitely NOT Worth the Cost

Before delving into which supplements you may need and why, these few are clearly a waste of money.

  • Diet Pills

Not only do diet pills make unverifiable claims of drastic weight loss and other benefits, they are ridiculously expensive. Some diet supplements can costs anywhere from $20-$60 a bottle.

Perhaps even scarier than the price of diet pills is their health risk. Many diet products are pushed to consumers before they’re sufficiently tested for side effects. You don’t have to look far for news stories about diet pill recalls and cases of fatality.

  • Discount Supplements

You may think you’re saving money and protecting your health by purchasing discounted supplements from a retail chain, but in most cases, you’re buying mostly fillers. There’s a reason they’re cheap — they lack quality ingredients, third party testing, and standardized potencies.

Do You Need Any Supplementation?

Many of us have had the ‘need’ to take a multi-vitamin drilled into us from an early age, and it’s become a part of our daily routine we don’t question. In reality, the average healthy individual who consumes a balanced diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats shouldn’t need take a daily multi-vitamin. Whenever possible, nutrients should come directly from whole foods.

In spite of this ideal, many people don’t eat balanced diets and may need to supplement with a high-quality, easily-absorbed multi-vitamin.

Alternately, if you fall into one of the following categories, you may have special dietary needs:

  • Pregnant women — Vitamin B12 (folic acid) is essential for fetal development. A high-quality pre-natal vitamin may be in order.
  • Women, in general — Iron levels may be low.
  • Vegans, vegetarians — may be low in calcium, Vitamin D, iodine, and B12.
  • Seniors over 50 — may need Vitamin D, B12, and calcium. supplementation due to declining digestive absorption.

List #2: These Supplements May Be Worth It

In addition to specific dietary needs, the following may be beneficial, and worth working into your food or health budget:

  • Whey or plant proteins. These are good sources of protein for vegetarians or vegans, or anyone trying to gain muscle weight. Look for brands higher in protein grams and low in sugar, but there’s no need to break the bank for higher quality. Buying in bulk will save you more money per ounce.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. If anything, most health professionals recommend this supplement, either in the form of fish oil or flaxseed, since most people don’t consume enough foods with these important fatty acids. Do your research on this one and find a high-quality brand.

What supplements do you take, and why? How have you found ways to save money on this aspect of your health? 

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Reggy says:

    What is the best brand for muscle gain?

  • Jon @ Penny Thots says:

    I used to take a handful of vitamins and supplements but then I started to read about them and health in general and realized I didn’t need them. In fact, most foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals so even if you aren’t eating the healthiest, you are still getting some nutrients.

    As for supplements, seeing that I could package one and start selling it this afternoon since the industry isn’t regulated makes me question if the supplement really is what it says it is.

  • Jessica Sommerfield says:

    Yes, precisely! If you’re eating a balanced diet, and have no particular health concerns, you’re probably fine without a multi: your vitamins and minerals are coming from your food, as they should. It’s the nutritionally-bankrupt American diet that is making tons of money for the supplement industry, if you ask me. However, you can’t just tell people not to take supplements, because some people feel very strongly that they’re important for good health. I’m very active, and take one superfood supplement in lieu of any others because of the noticeable benefits: weight maintenance/sufficient protein, overall health (rarely sick), strong nails/hair, energy, and regularity. I enjoy it and will keep taking it, but I don’t think everyone needs to.

  • Money Beagle says:

    My wife and I used to take a few different supplements. We asked our pediatrician if we should start giving any to our kids and he said that for the most part (kids and adults alike) if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you should be just fine. We generally eat healthy, limiting red meat, having fruit at every meal, and veggies at least twice a day. We went off the supplements and things seem to be just fine!

  • Jessica Sommerfield says:

    Thank you for sharing that resource, Gary! I’ve definitely heard that many vitamins and supplements aren’t what they claim (and are therefore a waste of money, or as you mentioned, a potential health risk). And yes, BOGO sales are a great way to save on quality-brand supplements to make them more affordable. I generally trust GNC products (and have the Gold membership to save money), but I need to check into them further. I also dislike how pushy their salesmanship tends to be. If they’re products are really what they say, they’ll sell themselves!
    Thanks again for your input.

  • Gary @ Super Saving Tips says:

    My wife and I take supplements both to augment our diet and because of our health concerns. What I’ve learned is that many supplements either don’t contain what they claim (such as the dosage of a particular vitamin or ingredient) or contain things they shouldn’t (which could be harmful to your health). is a good source to check up on different brands, although their more detailed reports are only available via paid subscription. Once you find a brand you trust, I look out for BOGO sales to stock up.

Leave a Comment