Do you take a daily multivitamin or take fish oil supplements regularly in your quest for good health? If so, you are not alone. Two-thirds of us take a dietary supplement.
But do we really need it? Can’t we just eat a balanced diet to get all the vitamins and minerals we need?
When I see clients I always want to emphasize that we can’t get away from an unhealthy diet, so of course a balanced and nutritious diet is essential and should be the foundation of good health.
DO I NEED A SUPPLEMENT?
No matter how well you eat, there may be other factors that place additional demands on your health. If you’re exhausted, stressed, or have an existing health condition, a carefully chosen supplement or two could add a little extra support to your body.
For example, many of us don’t realize that when we’re stressed, our needs for B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium increase.
Medications, smoking, alcohol, and caffeine can also deplete the body of essential nutrients.
Added to this is the fact that the nutrient content of the foods we eat today contain lower levels of nutrients than equivalent foods decades ago. A 2003 study found that the fruits and vegetables analyzed contained 20% less minerals than in the 1930s and 50% less zinc and calcium.
Farming methods, food storage and transport all have an impact on the quality of the food we eat and its nutritional content.
HOW TO CHOOSE A DECENT
Not all supplements are of the same quality or will provide you with the same benefits. Saying that, it doesn’t mean you have to pay a fortune for a good one.
Take a closer look at the ingredient label of your daily multi and you’ll find a whole list of ingredients. Many of them are fillers and binders.
Fillers are added as bulking agents. The amount of active ingredient in a supplement is often very low. The dose you need may be physically so small that it needs something else in the capsule to fill the rest of the space and that’s where fillers come in. Common fillers include calcium, lactose, rice flour, salt and sugar.
Binders are the ingredients that bind the active ingredients together when compressed into tablets. Cellulose is common.
I would suggest choosing capsules, liquids or powders over tablets as they tend to be easier to absorb.
Also look at the shapes of the minerals. For example, magnesium and iron can be in the form of oxide (less well absorbed) or citrate (easier to absorb).
Cheaper brands tend to use less well-absorbed forms, so it’s definitely worth spending a little extra to get a good one.
I would also suggest taking a trip to your local independent health food store. Talk to the staff who can advise you on your needs. This won’t happen in a supermarket, where supplements tend to be cheaper and probably less effective.
Buying from trusted brands also means you’re less likely to spend your hard-eared cash on fillers and binders. Some of the brands I like include Viridian, Solgar, Biocare, Higher Nature and Solo. All available at health food stores.
ARE SUPPLEMENTS DANGEROUS?
Supplements contain active ingredients and it is often the case that less more.
Some nutritional supplements can interact with certain medications, so be very careful and discuss with your GP if you are on medication. For example, St. John’s wort can alter the effectiveness of antidepressants and make birth control pills less effective, omega 3 and gingko can have a blood thinning effect and therefore cannot be taken with blood thinners such as aspirin as they can increase blood thinning. ‘effect.
I think a few well-chosen supplements can be a safety net for times when you might need a little extra boost, but always buy good quality products and only the supplements you really need. Don’t overload with things you don’t need.