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Produce Over Pills

For optimal health and nutrition, a healthy diet and active lifestyle is always the answer. However, with so many vitamin and mineral supplements on the market today, could there be benefits to adding some of them to our daily routine? Or is it all part of marketing and all you really need is a well-rounded diet for all of your nutrient needs? Let’s find out.

What Do Supplements Do?

Millions of Americans take a vitamin or supplement every day, but many could not tell you why. Maybe it is to combat a vitamin deficiency, lower the risk of certain diseases, or just help them feel as though something positive is being done to improve health.

While there is nothing wrong with taking a supplement, there is, however, a much easier, more cost-efficient way to attain loads of beneficial vitamins and minerals naturally — the diet. The produce on grocery store shelves hold a significant amount of powerful antioxidants, fiber, and healthful nutrients. These nutrients come with a multitude of health benefits including the ability to build strong bones, strengthen the immune system, protect against certain diseases and cancers, and even maintain a healthy gut.

Yes, supplements can provide the body with some specific vitamins and minerals, but there are limitations. By taking pills over eating produce, one misses several benefits from obtaining nutrients from food, not to mention it being costly. Therefore, adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet can be beneficial for your health and bank account.

Dietary Supplements

There are so many recommendations regarding dietary supplements that it can almost seem like you are doing something wrong by not taking one. While in some cases, supplementation may be necessary, this is not true for all. It is important to recognize that food can be utilized as medicine and we should not be so quick to grab a supplement for a “quick fix”.

Though supplements can certainly be helpful, it is important to know what will benefit your health and what may be harmful. Eating a balanced and colorful diet is the best way to start.

5 Things You Need to Know About Supplements

1. Supplements come in many forms.

Whether in pill, powder or liquid form, the goal of dietary supplements is often the same, to supplement your diet to ensure you get enough nutrients and enhance health.

They contain at least one dietary ingredient, such as a vitamin, mineral, herb, botanical, amino acid or enzyme. Some of the most popular supplements come in the form of a multivitamin (which can help one avoid taking a dozen pills each day), but can also be purchased as a standalone supplement.

Some common dietary supplements include:

  • Calcium

  • Fish Oil (Omega-3’s)

  • Vitamin C

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin D

  • Magnesium

  • Probiotics

2. May be necessary for optimal health.

In many cases, supplements may be necessary. For example, when the diet is lacking in a certain nutrient or a deficiency is present, one may need a concentrated amount of a vitamin or mineral for optimal health and function. This can be done with little to no risk as long as supplements are taken as directed, and toxicity levels are not reached.

Common supplements that may benefit your health if you are deficient include:

  • Vitamin B12 – help keep nerve and blood cells healthy, help prevent anemia

  • Folic acid – reduce birth defects when taken by pregnant women

  • Vitamin D – help strengthen bones

  • Calcium – promote bone health

  • Vitamins C and E –- promote strong immune system

  • Fish oil – support heart health

  • Vitamin A – slow down vision loss from age-related macular degeneration

  • Zinc – promote skin health and slow down vision loss from age-related macular degeneration

3. How safe are they?

It is important to point out that supplements are not FDA regulated or regulated in any way.. Therefore, some vitamin or mineral supplements may contain unsafe ingredients that are not listed on the label. Certain products that are marketed as dietary supplements may even have prescription drugs in them.

In regards to multivitamins (MVs), it is unlikely for them to pose any health risks. However, it is always important to be careful when putting anything in your body. While MVs provide several important nutrients for the body, they do not help you live longer, slow cognitive decline or lower your chances of disease. Additionally, it is illegal for companies to claim that their supplements will treat, diagnose, prevent or cure diseases.

It is also very important to recognize that taking certain supplements may interact with certain prescription drugs or medications. Some supplements that potentially pose risks include:

  • Vitamin K – can reduce effectiveness of blood thinners

  • Vitamin A – can cause fetal abnormalities

  • Calcium – can increase the risk of atherosclerosis

  • Kava herb – can harm your liver

4. Be smart when choosing a supplement

The most important step when considering taking a new supplement is first discussing it with your doctor or medical professional.

Typically, a blood test can be used to evaluate a person's nutritional status, measuring the amounts of essential nutrients in the body to detect any nutritional or vitamin deficiencies. By doing so, you can determine what nutrient(s) would be most beneficial for your body, while avoiding any potential drug interactions or side effects.

Here are 5 tips to remember when dealing with supplements:

  • Follow both the label and your healthcare provider’s instructions

  • Fully read and understand everything on the label

  • Be wary of extreme claims like “completely safe” or “works better than ___”

  • Remember that natural ≠ safe

  • Properly store supplements and keep out of children’s reach

5. Supplements do not replace a healthy and balanced diet

Vitamins and minerals are essential for helping the body develop and function the way it is supposed to. Most people get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating healthy, but other people may need a little extra help and this is where supplements come in.

Most nutrients are better absorbed by the body in food form compared to pill form, so always try your best to eat a well-rounded, colorful diet consisting of a wide variety of foods to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. If a supplement is needed, be sure to talk with your doctor to see what dosage will work best for you. MVs are a great addition to one’s routine, but do not rely on them for all of your nutrient needs.

From your friends at AFE, just remember “produce over pills” for optimal nutrition and well-being!


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