Even with a healthy diet, it is entirely possible that you still lack certain nutrients. Dietary supplements may be taken to fill those gaps in nutrition. But can we rely on dietary supplements alone for good health?
The human body needs to absorb a steady supply of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to maintain good health, fight diseases, and remain strong and energized every day. We get these nutrients from a well-balanced diet—however, it can be challenging to maintain.
This is where the importance of dietary supplements comes into play. Not only can dietary supplements provide us with the nutrients that we lack if consumed responsibly, they also offer an added boost to our immune system. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need to protect ourselves from all kinds of diseases has become crucial to survival and the well-being of those around us.
But can we rely on dietary supplements alone for good health? We break it down for you below.
What are dietary supplements?
Dietary supplements are manufactured products that come in different forms: Tablets, pills, capsules, powders, and liquids. Depending on the type of supplement you are taking, they may be rich in herbal extracts, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients intended to serve a variety of health purposes. For instance, a zinc supplement may primarily help boost a person’s immune system, whereas a CoQ10 supplement’s antioxidant effects may reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
It may be more common for adults to consume dietary supplements regularly, as a result of habits developed over time. It is also advisable for adults to consider taking supplements as part of their everyday routine especially because our bodies naturally experience various changes like cellular deterioration as we age. Vitamins, minerals and supplements can be helpful in replenishing the nutrients needed by the body.
Generally, dietary supplements from drugstores or retailers may be purchased without having to present a prescription from a medical professional. However, it is recommended to conduct the necessary research on dietary supplements—especially the potential adverse effects one may experience—before making any purchase. Always read the label, and, when in doubt, consult a medical professional.
Do I need to take dietary supplements?
While adults in their mid-twenties generally don’t worry about the effects of aging yet, it is possible that they are still frequently exposed to factors that accelerate the biological process—inadequate sleep, poor nutrition, and stress, to name a few. This can affect the way that their bodies process or absorb nutrients from their diet.
Even with a healthy diet, however, it is entirely possible that you still lack certain nutrients. Hence, dietary supplements may be taken to fill those gaps in nutrition. According to Mayo Clinic, taking dietary supplements may also help if you belong to any of the following groups:
- Are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant
- Are aged 50 or older
- Are following a restrictive diet (e.g. veganism)
- Have health conditions that may affect nutrient absorption (e.g. gastrointestinal issues)
- Have recently undergone surgery in the digestive tract
What are the common dietary supplements and their health claims?
Reported health benefits
Can I rely on dietary supplements for good health?
Dietary supplements are named so for a reason: They are not meant to replace a balanced diet. The Health & Food Supplements Information Service says that fresh whole foods can supply the following macronutrients crucial to our health:
- Carbohydrates, which provide your body with long-lasting energy;
- Fat and protein, which support cellular activities and protect your vital organs; and
- Fiber, which promotes good digestive health and helps reduce constipation
According to Harvard Medical School, these macronutrients work together in a “synergistic effect” in order to keep us healthy—an advantage that a dietary supplement simply does not offer.
It may also help to revisit whether you have eating habits that you can either improve or give up before consuming dietary supplements regularly. With this, it is recommended to discuss your options with a medical professional; they might prescribe a dosage that is tailor fit to your present health condition.
What risks should I bear in mind when taking dietary supplements?
Avoid consuming dietary supplements in large doses—doing so can aggravate or worsen side effects. For instance, the National Institutes of Health warns that if a person ingests excessive amounts of Vitamin A, they may experience headaches, weaker bones, and liver damage. Nausea and vomiting may also occur if excessive amounts of iron are consumed.
Furthermore, the United States Food & Drug Administration identifies other possible risks involving dietary supplements:
Ingesting certain dietary supplements together. Be wary of possible interactions.
- Taking dietary supplements alongside medications. Doing so may reduce the effectiveness of prescription medicines or lead to life-threatening effects.
- Replacing prescription medications with dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are not subject to the same safety regulations and requirements that prescription medicines undergo. They are not meant to be used as substitutes for each other.
What else can I do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Eat a balanced and healthy diet
Ensure that your diet consists of these important elements:
- Carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables
- Protein, such as seafood and eggs
- Fat, such as fatty fish and avocados
- Fiber, such as beans and broccoli
- Vitamins, such as Vitamins C and D
- Minerals, such as calcium and iron
- Water, at least 2 liters daily
Avoid processed and refined foods such as microwave-ready meals, instant noodles, sweetened beverages, and snacks with added sugars.
Get adequate sleep and rest
Sleep is essential in the human body’s efforts to ward off diseases, encourage cellular and tissue repair processes, and recover from strenuous activities. Without it, we are at higher risk of heart problems, poor mental health, and obesity, among others. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need at least seven hours of sleep in order to stay healthy and refreshed everyday.
It is important to maintain physical activity because it strengthens our vital organs, helps lower pressure, and allows us to maintain a healthy weight. Setting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day is enough to boost our overall health and well-being, as well as reduce stress.
Avoid using substances that can harm your health, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Doing so will reduce your risk of falling ill from heart and lung disease, cancer, and other serious health issues in the long run.
Practice good hygiene
Actively caring for your body is an important step towards overall health and wellness. Wash your hands frequently and make it a habit, especially if you have gone outdoors or interacted with other people, among other occasions. This is a good way to protect yourself and your family—especially those with compromised immune systems—from the spread of diseases.
Make hand washing a habit—especially if you have—in order to protect yourself and your family from the spread of communicable diseases.
Visit your doctor regularly
Health screenings and checkups are an effective way of finding health issues and risks before they start. Getting diagnosed with a disease in its early stage increases your chances of getting treatment or finding a cure. In addition, setting regular appointments with your doctor allows you to monitor your present health condition and continuously seek professional advice on how you can stay healthy.
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