The recommendations below are meant for generally healthy individuals interested in
optimum health and preventing chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases
(heart disease and stroke), type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
More detailed information regarding deficiencies of and requirements
for specific nutrients is available in the Linus Pauling Institute's
Micronutrient Information Center.
- Eat four servings (2 cups) of fruit and five servings (2½ cups) of vegetables daily but don't include potatoes in your tally. More on fruits and vegetables
- To increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, eat fish twice weekly and consume foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed and canola oil. More
on omega-3 fatty acids
- Choose oils rich in unsaturated fats for cooking and salad dressings, such as soy, corn, safflower, and olive oil, and choose nuts (except Brazil nuts) for snacks.
- Reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fat, such as red meat and whole-fat dairy products (butter, whole milk, and full-fat yogurt or cheese).
- To reduce your exposure to food-borne carcinogens, avoid smoked or cured foods and charred or seared fish, meat, and poultry.
- Reduce your intake of white potatoes, white flour, and white rice by substituting whole-grain products, such
as whole-wheat flour and pasta, whole-grain breads and cereals, and brown rice. More on whole grains
- Avoid highly processed, nutrient-poor foods, such as cookies, candies, chips, crackers, and sugar-coated breakfast cereals, that are typically high in sugar, hydrogenated (trans) fat*, or sodium.
- Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Unsweetened coffee and tea are also good beverage choices, keeping in mind that both contain caffeine (More on Coffee and Tea). Choose nonfat or low-fat dairy or soy milk, avoid sugary soft drinks, and limit your intake of 100% fruit or vegetable juice to 1 cup (8 oz.) daily.
- Aim for a healthy weight. Becoming overweight (BMI of 25-29.9) or obese (BMI of 30 or more) increases the risk for many chronic diseases.
Calculate your BMI. Having too much abdominal fat (waist circumference greater than 40 inches for men and greater than 35 inches for women)
also increases disease risk. If you are at risk for obesity-associated diseases (see table), even a relatively small weight loss (10% of your current weight) can help lower your risk.
- Accumulate a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Most people can realize additional health benefits by
increasing the duration of moderate-intensity exercise to an average of 60 minutes daily or by engaging in more vigorous physical activity.
Examples of activities and their intensity levels. To improve muscular strength and balance and minimize bone loss, include strength-building activities, such as weight lifting, at least twice a week.
- If you smoke, make every effort to quit. Even if you have smoked for many years, quitting will result in dramatically decreased risk for chronic diseases.
- Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases but increased
risk for some cancers. If you drink alcohol, limit your consumption to one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men. Avoid alcohol if you have a personal or family history of breast or colon cancer or
alcoholism. More on alcohol
Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement with 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most vitamins and essential minerals, keeping the following suggestions in mind:
More on multivitamin/mineral supplements
- Iron: In general, men and postmenopausal women should take a multivitamin/mineral supplement without iron.
More on iron
- Vitamin A: Look for a multivitamin/mineral supplement containing no more than 2,500 IU (750 mcg) of preformed vitamin A (usually labeled vitamin A acetate or vitamin A palmitate) and no more than 2,500 IU of additional vitamin A as beta-carotene. Smokers should not take supplemental beta-carotene.
More on vitamin A
Aim for a daily intake of at least 400 mg. Multivitamins/minerals usually provide 60 mg of vitamin C, and five servings of fruits and vegetables provide about 200 mg. A 250-mg supplement taken twice daily will ensure near-maximal plasma concentrations in healthy people. More on vitamin C
Take 2,000 IU (50 mcg) of supplemental vitamin D daily. Most multivitamins/minerals contain 400 IU of vitamin D, and single-ingredient vitamin D supplements are available for additional supplementation. More on vitamin D
No multivitamin/mineral supplement contains 100% of the DV for calcium. If your total daily calcium intake doesn't add up to 1,000 mg, take an extra calcium supplement (combined with magnesium—see below) with a meal to make up the difference.
More on calcium
No multivitamin/mineral supplement contains 100% of the DV for magnesium. If you don’t eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, you likely are not getting enough magnesium from your diet. If you add a magnesium supplement, take a combined supplement with calcium containing 133-250 mg of magnesium and 333-500 mg of calcium with a meal.
More on magnesium
If you don't regularly consume fish, consider taking a two-gram fish oil supplement several times a week. If you are prone to bleeding or take anticoagulant drugs, consult your physician. More on omega-3 fatty acids
Lipoic Acid and L-Carnitine
Healthy adults over the age of 50 may consider a daily supplement of 200-400 mg of alpha-lipoic acid and 500-1,000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine.
More on lipoic acid and L-carnitine
* The "Nutrition Facts" label of processed foods containing less than 0.5 g of trans
fat per serving will list trans
fat as zero (0 g), or a footnote is added stating, “Not a significant source of trans
fat.” The list of ingredients of these foods will show trans
fat as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “shortening.”
More on the difference between Dr. Linus Pauling's recommendation and the Linus
Pauling Institute's recommendation for vitamin C intake.
Download a PDF: Get the Most from Your Supplements
The Linus Pauling Institute provides scientific information on health aspects of micronutrients and phytochemicals for the general public. The information is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing medical, psychological, or nutritional counseling services on this site. The information is not intended as medical advice for individual problems and should not be used in place of a consultation with a competent health care or nutrition professional. Liability for individual actions or omissions based upon the contents of this site is expressly disclaimed.