In today’s fast-paced world, many of us struggle to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. Factors like busy schedules or dietary restrictions can make it challenging to meet our daily nutritional requirements. This is where dietary supplements, also known as “supplements,” can come into play. On top of this, it seems like a new supplement is always trending. What are supplements, and should you consider them?
Common supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, and more. They come in various forms, such as pills, capsules, powders, gummies, liquids, and more. Supplements can help you meet your nutrient needs, improve your health, or maintain your overall health.
The Benefits of Supplements
Filling Gaps: Supplements can help you meet your needs by ensuring you receive all essential nutrients. Although supplements can be helpful as a part of a balanced diet to fill in small nutrition gaps, they should not completely replace the variety of foods that are needed to promote health. Most people who eat a healthy, balanced diet and can get all the vitamins and minerals they need do not need a supplement. For example, B12 is found in animal products, so most people who regularly eat animal products do not need a B12 supplement.
Health Support: Depending on your specific needs, supplements can contribute to improved health. For example, vitamin D supplements can support bone health, fish oil may support heart health, and iron supplements can combat certain types of anemia.
Convenience: Supplements can be convenient to incorporate into your daily routine. They can be a quick and easy way to supplement your diet to meet your nutrition needs.
Targeted Solutions: Many supplements are formulated to address specific health or fitness goals. For instance, probiotics can aid in digestive health, while collagen supplements may aid in joint health. This targeted approach can be beneficial in supporting you to reach certain goals.
Choosing the Right Supplements
As you consider taking supplements, it’s important to be aware of these key factors:
Diet and Lifestyle First: Supplements are not a replacement for changing unhealthy behaviors, such as a poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. They are meant to supplement or add to your diet and lifestyle. Aim to address areas of opportunity through changes in your diet or adjustments to your lifestyle before considering supplements. If you are consistent with a well-balanced diet and staying active, you may not need a supplement.
Quality Matters: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve supplements for safety or effectiveness. The supplement company is responsible for meeting safety standards. This means not all supplements are created equal and could have varying levels of purity or potency. Because of this, it’s important that you choose high-quality supplements that go through third-party testing. Look for reputable third-party testing certifications on your supplement label.
Stay Informed: Be wary of trendy, new supplements. If the health claims for a particular supplement sound too good to be true, it most likely is! You can also look into evidence-based summaries of vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other dietary supplements and their ingredients using the Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets from the National Institute of Health.
Be Patient: Most supplements take time and consistency to show any type of results.
While supplements offer numerous benefits, there are potential risks associated with both their use and misuse. Take supplements as directed and only after you discuss them with your healthcare provider, such as a doctor or registered dietitian. Introduce supplements one at a time to monitor your body’s response for any adverse reactions. People with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications may need to avoid certain supplements or their ingredients. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you identify what supplements, if any, should be used based on your individual situation.
Supplements can be a valuable and convenient way to supplement your diet and lifestyle to support you in reaching your health or fitness goals. However, supplements are not always required in order to meet your health or fitness goals, as long as you are getting all the necessary nutrients through your diet. Be sure to approach supplementation responsibly and under the guidance of a healthcare provider, as this article is not meant to substitute for direct medical advice.