Every year, the market and popularity of diet supplements and vitamins is increasing – in fact, people are now spending billions of dollars in the effort to preserve or restore their health. However, the question here is – are these things absolutely necessary or is it just a way of wasting hard earned money?
Even though your diet can provide you with the necessary nutrients, as long as it is a balanced one. However, if the diet you consume is not good, you will lack certain nutrients. Multivitamins and other supplements might help you fill that gap – but even then, they cannot fix unhealthy diets. For instance, you hate vegetables and fruits, causing you to lack sufficient levels of Vitamin C, and if you do not consume dairy products, you will lack sufficient calcium levels.
The average American diet is not the best, when you think about it, even without considering drug addiction problems such as heroin abuse. Most cases involve your plate lacking some important nutrients such as Vitamins A, potassium and calcium. It is therefore not surprising to find there is an increase of people taking supplements to fill the extra gap, as well as providing an extra health boosting. In other words, a prevention buffer against diseases.
Before you go ahead and spend your money on getting these supplements, it is important to know the exact truth of what they can and cannot do for your case.
Whole foods vs. supplements
You need to keep this in mind even as you take various dietary supplements – they are not a substitute of your food. This means that they cannot provide you with all the nutrients that whole foods give you, such as vegetables and fruits. In fact, consumption of whole foods will give you three major advantages compared to supplements.
The first is you getting a greater nutrition value, as whole foods are complex in nature. This means they do not just give you a specifi9c nutrient on their own; they contain a variety of micronutrients that ensure your body gets what it requires. Secondly is the fiber that is found in various foods, especially in fruits, whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Because they can offer you greater amounts of whole fiber, they can protect you from getting certain illnesses like heart disease and type II diabetes, and they can also guard against constipation cases.
The third benefit is the foods containing protective substances, such as antioxidants. These guard the cells from aging quickly and becoming damaged, in addition to preventing damage to body tissues. The problem with supplements containing antioxidants is that they have not been extensively tested on whether they match up to the antioxidants that your diet gives you. In fact, some of them have an association with certain health risks, especially when they are consumed in large quantities.
Well, who needs supplements then?
In case you are a healthy individual and you consume a wide choice of foods in your diet – that includes legumes, whole grains, fruits, low fat dairy products, vegetables, fish, and lean meats – then you do not really require supplements, as these are giving your body all it needs.
However, supplements may be helpful in certain circumstances. One of them is when you are a pregnant woman, as women in this case require about 400 micrograms of folic acid. This mostly comes from supplements and fortified foods, as well as consuming foods that contain folate, such as broccoli, beans, and lentil. They should additionally take prenatal vitamins, which also have iron within them, or go for separate iron supplements.
Another case is adults that are above the age of 50, and they require fortified foods (the foods must have some extra Vitamin B12), including fortified cereal, multivitamins that have Vitamin B-12, or take a separate supplement that has the nutrient. If the adult is either 65 years of age or more, they need about 800 international units of Vitamin D to reduce the risks of weakening bones and injuries due to falling.
In addition, consuming a diet supplement can be good if you do not eat very well, you are a vegetarian (since certain foods you are not consuming have the nutrients you need), or you consume a diet that restricts an entire category of foods. You also need Omega-3 supplements if you do not consume seafood two or three times a week, for the preservation of your heart health.
If you are lactose intolerant, you also require calcium supplements, as you cannot consume sufficient dairy foods. Women who undergo heavy levels of menstrual bleeding during their period also require iron supplements, and if you also have specific medical conditions that affect how your body absorbs certain nutrients like liver diseases, you will need supplements to make up for the deficiency.
For people who have had surgery in their digestive tract, their body’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients properly is negatively affected, so they will also need the nutrients in a simpler form to make up for it.
Factors to consider before selecting a supplement
You cannot just choose a supplement without medical advice, so it is essential to consider some factors. The first and most important step is consulting with your doctor, since certain supplements can lead to negative effects in your health, especially when you take them in certain combinations or with other medication.
It is also essential to check the foods you are eating – because different minerals and vitamins are being added to a variety of foods, including beverages and cereals, chances are they may be giving you sufficient nutrients without you turning to a supplement. Keep in mind that taking too much of a certain nutrient is bad for your health, is expensive, and can lead to certain negative effects.
In addition, you can check the guidelines of supplements from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), as they update the list of approved substances as well as those under review.
Before you go for a dietary supplement, it is important to remember that your diet may be giving you what you need. However, if it must come to taking them, make sure to do your research and consult with your doctor, as you do not want side effects from too high levels of a nutrient in your body.