When shopping for food supplements, you have to check the facts and know exactly what these can and cannot do for you. Supplements are not intended for use as food substitutes. They cannot replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods like vegetables and fruits.
Whole foods contain three basic benefits compared to food supplements:
- Protective Substances – Whole foods are great sources of antioxidants, which help slow down natural processes that lead to cellular and tissue damage.
- Good Source of Fiber – Whole grains, fruits, legumes and other vegetables offer fiber and are nutrient dense. Fiber helps fight certain illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It also treats constipation.
- Better Nutrition – Whole foods compared to supplements are complex and consist of a variety of micronutrients that are essential for good health and nutrition.
Food supplements, meanwhile, are best for those who:
- Are vegetarian and eat only a limited variety of foods
- Do not eat well or take fewer calories than what they actually need
- Have diminished milk intake as they have milk allergy or are lactose intolerant
- Experience heavy bleeding during menstrual periods
- Suffer from a medical condition that affects how their body absorbs certain nutrients, like food allergies, intolerance, liver disease, gallbladder problems, chronic diarrhea or problems in the pancreas
- Have undergone surgery on their digestive tract and are not capable of digesting nutrients properly
- Are unable to have two to three servings of seafood each week and will need omega-3 fatty acids for their heart
- Adhere to a diet type that restricts their access to certain kinds of food
Ask your physician or dietitian regarding the best supplements and what specific doses are right for you. You should also consult about possible side effects and other medical interactions with other drugs.
Do You Need Health Supplements?
If you are the kind of person who is generally healthy and consumes a wide array of foods such as fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, legumes and vegetables, you will not need any form of food supplements.
If you live a stressful lifestyle, have specific nutrient needs, or an athlete in strenuous sports, then you might need specific doses of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Food supplement manufacturers offering low minimum orders can help supply these specific needs.
The following types of persons will need them:
- Pregnant women because they must take prenatal vitamins that are infused with iron or a distinct iron supplement
- Pregnant women who need at least 400mg of folic acid from supplements aside from consuming foods that are high in folate
- Adult patients aged 50 years and above should consume foods high in B-12 vitamins like cereals or take B12 supplements
- Adults aged 56 years and above must take up to 800 units of vitamin D to avoid falls and related accidents
Watch Out for Supplement Safety Indicators
Not all food supplements sold in the market are guaranteed safe and effective, however. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps a list of all the dietary supplements that are safe for use and have been reported to cause no harmful side effects. If you are taking one or planning on taking one, check the FDA website for approved supplements and updates.