These days everything from cereal to vodka is fortified with vitamins and minerals. But getting 500% of a day's worth of vitamin C might not be necessary -- or have any health benefits at all. In fact, several experts say getting mega-doses of some vitamins might even be risky, not to mention costly.

Here are four so-called "healthy" foods that actually may be harmful to your health ... and your wallet:

There's no Emergen-C Jackie Keller, the founding director of Los Angeles' premier healthy food company, NutriFit, and author of the Amazon top-100 bestseller Body After Baby: The Simple 30-Day Plan to Lose Your Baby Weight, says juice drinks like Emergen-C which are fortified with mega-levels of vitamin C (1,600% of a day's worth), and Odwalla Blueberry B Monster smoothie, which boasts 360% of the daily value of four types of B vitamins, aren't necessary. "Your body simply excretes what it cannot absorb or use, thus creating 'expensive urine,'" says Keller.

In most cases, Keller says too much C isn't life-threatening. But it can cause diarrhea, nausea and stomach pain. "Exceeding the daily requirement isn't helpful, either," she says. Some experts say too much vitamin B can cause nerve toxicity and lead to numbness in extremities.

Instead of downing your vitamins in fortified juice drinks, Keller suggests eating them. "Eat foods that contain vitamins, minerals and fiber, and you won't risk eating excess amounts."

Pooh poohing probiotics

Stella Metsovas B.S., CCN in Laguna Beach, CA, says yogurt pusher Jamie Lee Curtis has it all wrong. "The excessive sugar added to probiotic-infused yogurts negate any health claims," she explains. Metsovas says before digging into a cup of Activia, read the label. "Many popular brands list sugar as their second ingredient while leading consumers to believe they're keeping their gut healthy. But first and foremost, people looking to help their gut are making a huge mistake by thinking these sugar-laden yogurts are good for the 'good' bacteria in their GI tract. In fact, sugar consumption has been linked to a host of chronic GI tract issues."

Forgo flax
Doctors say one of the biggest ways consumers think they are getting a big health "bang for their buck" is with omega-3 supplements. "The cheapest and easiest form of omega-3s is in the form of flax, but this contains ALA. That is not the kind that delivers the brain, eye, and heart benefits people associate with omega-3s but instead has to be converted by the body into the more bioavailable omega-3 forms, DHA and EPA," says Norman Salem, MD, director of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids.

"Research shows that as little as 1% of the ALA we consume gets converted to the most usable form of omega-3, DHA," says Dr. Salem. So a lot of people put flax in their smoothies, sprinkle it on their cereal and yogurt, and buy products touting "omega-3s" that really just have ALA in them.

"You have to get preformed long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish, fish oil, algal oil, or supplements and foods fortified with DHA and/or EPA to really get the full benefit. Flax just doesn't do it," says Dr. Salem.

Cereals

General Mills Total cereal claims to have a day's worth of many essential nutrients, including iron. But several studies have shown calcium interferes with your body's ability to absorb iron. And since you're likely to eat Total with milk, all you're really doing is adding to your total grocery bill by buying any cereals fortified with iron.

If you really want to pump dietary iron, eat half a cup of fresh strawberries or half a pink grapefruit with a slice of whole-grain toast. Keller says the vitamin C in the fruit will help your body absorb the iron in the toast.

The bottom line: Stick to fresh fruits and veggies. It'll be a lot cheaper and healthier.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance journalist specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.

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