Dietary Supplements- needed or not?

Supplements are not a replacement for a balanced diet. They cannot substitute all of the benefits and nutrition from whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. The purpose behind dietary supplements is to deliver nutrients that are not consumed in sufficient amounts through meals. It is important to know that body’s nutritional needs should be met primarily through the diet but it should also be understood that taking supplements is a very effective way for some people to get nutrients that they might otherwise lack. Before buying any supplement everyone should get the facts on whether they are going to work for them or not.

Supplements are available in multiple ranges of doses and combinations. However, we only need a certain amount of each nutrient for our bodies to function and higher dosage are not always better. Higher quantities may sometime cause adverse effects and are harmful to your body. It is very important to choose the right supplement in the right dose for your well being.

Now the question comes, who needs supplements? If you are healthy and generally include all food groups in your diet that fulfill your daily nutrient requirements, you may not be required to take any additional supplements but there are some situations in which you need to take them. These includes

  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • Adults over 50 years of age
  • Women who want to conceive.

Also, there are certain conditions when it is advisable to take supplements for achieving better health. These are when you:

  • do not eat well or consume less than needed calories
  • are deficient in certain nutrients
  • follow vegan or vegetarian diet-are on any specific type of diet
  • do not consume seafood which supplies omega-3 fatty acids
  • have lactose intolerance or milk allergy
  • have heavy bleeding during periods
  • have a medical condition
  • have insufficient exposure to the sun

If you decide to take a vitamin, mineral or any other supplement, it is necessary to talk to your dietitian to know about the appropriate supplement for you. If you are on medications be sure to ask about possible side effects and interactions. Supplements can cause harmful effects if taken in certain combinations, with certain medications, before or after surgery or with any other medical condition. You should always check the product label. It gives you information about the active ingredients, type of nutrient, serving size, amount of nutrients in each serving etc. In current times many nutrients are being added to most of the breakfast cereals and beverages due to which you may be getting more nutrients than you realize. Taking more than you need can raise the risk of side effects. Avoid taking more than the recommended daily allowance. Always ask your healthcare practitioner Before doing the following

  • Combining certain supplements
  • Taking supplements with medicines (prescription/over-the-counter)
  • Substituting supplements for prescription medications-Taking overdose

Taking the right supplement in the right amount can help you to get a healthy and better life. Always choose and buy products that are appropriate for you and do not cause any harmful effects. Remember everything marked as natural doesn’t make it safe or effective. Anything works for you only when you actually need it and take it in a prescribed quantity.

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