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SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?

By Janette Daher
Posted On Jan 20, 2021
SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?

Do you take nutritional supplements?  According to the CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements that answer is probably yes, with 77% of the US population using supplements on a regular basis.  You cannot go anywhere…in a store, on tv, or online without seeing mention of how some type of supplement will help you achieve better health.  And we all want to be healthy. But is the expense worth the payoff?  New You takes a deep dive into the world of supplements.

What is a nutritional supplement?

Basically, a nutritional supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a dietary ingredient.  This category includes vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and many others.  Nutritional supplements come in many forms. These include tablets, capsules, powders, liquids, energy bars, gummies, among others.  According to the FDA, nutritional supplements cannot be used to treat, diagnose, cure or alleviate the effects of disease (that is their definition of a drug).  But nutritional supplements can reduce the risk on some health conditions.

Why do I need a supplement?

There are conflicting views in the medical community regarding the need for supplementation.  Some health professionals believe that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide you with the proper nutrients your body needs.  But many are starting to rethink this strategy.  Here are some reasons why you made need to take a supplement.

Your Diet

Let’s face it, most of us do not follow the “perfect diet plan” of balanced meals and snacks every day.  Would you be surprised to know that 90% of Americans fail to get the recommended daily amount of vital nutrients from food sources alone?  This past year may have introduced you to some “new” food groups (salt, sugar, alcohol) that may not have worked in your best interest.  While supplements should not be a substitute for healthy food, they can help fill in the gaps due to our busy lifestyles and less than perfect eating habits.  Additionally, it may not be possible to eat the amount of food necessary to receive the benefit of a key vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient.  This is especially true for many antioxidants and fatty acids.  Eating the amounts required to meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) of most nutrients results in an amount of food that most people cannot consume in a day.  More importantly, this amount of food is in excess of 2000 calories per day.

Promoting Better Health

A growing number of people prefer lifestyle changes or more natural therapies instead of conventional medical care.  According to NHIS data, 75% of those interviewed regarding alternative medicine used a supplement as an alternative to medication.  And there is growing evidence that many supplements are effective in maintaining and promoting good health.

Food Cost & Availability

Another issue is the cost of food.  Nutrient dense food- fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy, nuts, etc. is expensive. Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to have access to fresh, whole food on a regular basis.  This leads to the purchase of processed foods- frozen, canned, etc.  While these foods last longer, the processing of these foods depletes them of many of their nutrients.

Farming Practices

It is important to realize that our food supply is not as nutrient dense as the food available just twenty years ago.  What has changed?  Farming practices have resulted in soil depletion.  This means that the soil where the food is grown has lost nutrients.  The food gains nutrients from the soil, so if the soil is not nutrient-rich, then the fruits and vegetables will be less nutrient rich as well.  Also, the use of genetic engineering (GMO) in our farming practices decreases the nutrient value of the food we eat.

Age

Your age is another reason to consider taking supplements.  Did you know that as you get older your body loses its ability to digest and absorb food? As we age, we also tend to take certain medications.  Medication can also interfere with nutrient digestion and absorption. 

Toxins

Environmental toxins found in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the products we buy attack our bodies in the form of free radicals.  Extra nutrients- vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are needed to combat these harmful toxins.

Based on these facts, it is easy to see how supplements may enhance your current routine.  No matter which supplement(s) you are considering, make sure to do your homework, read labels, and most importantly, check with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your health care routine.  In most instances, supplements can improve your nutrient intake and enhance your diet.  In closing, supplements can work in our favor, like an insurance policy, to fill those gaps left by our hectic lifestyles and less than stellar food choices.