One of the main concerns of those who are health-conscious is diet, which can influence a person’s health in significant ways. But not everyone can maintain a balanced diet 7 days a week. As a result, many people opt for adding dietary supplements as a complement to what they eat. Do these actually work? What are the benefits of dietary supplements? Here’s how they can contribute to your overall health.
What are dietary supplements?
Dietary supplements are products that are taken orally, usually as powders, liquids, tablets, and pills. These products contain “dietary ingredients,” which can be any of the following:
Vitamins. These are substances that the body needs to function properly. It usually absorbs nutrients from the food that you eat. Some examples are vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E.
Minerals. These refer to substances called “elemental nutrients.” The body also needs minerals to help maintain the normal functions of the bones and organs. Calcium, potassium, and iron are just some examples of minerals.
Antioxidants. These ward off cell damage that may occur in our daily lives. Some common antioxidants in dietary supplements are lutein and lycopene.
Enzymes. The body makes use of enzymes in important bodily processes like digestion. Some enzymes that you can find in dietary supplements are cellulases and lipases.
Amino Acids. In order to form protein, the body needs amino acids. These can also help digest food and be a source of energy. Some examples of amino acids are lysine and valine.
Herbs and Plant Extracts. These substances usually come from plants or herbs used in cooking. Common herbs or plant extracts that may come in the form of dietary supplements are garlic, gingko, and echinacea.
What are the benefits of dietary supplements?
Dietary supplements were made to help the body get enough of the substances it needs to function efficiently. They can also help boost the immune system. However, dietary supplements cannot replace medication and prescriptions from a doctor. Similarly, they cannot treat diseases.
Additionally, dietary supplements do not replace whole foods. Those who take supplements are strongly encouraged to maintain a balanced diet.
Here are some examples of dietary supplements and their benefits:
- Vitamin C boosts a person’s immunity, which can be helpful to those prone to sickness.
- Vitamin B6 helps the immune system function more efficiently.
- Dietary supplement with vitamin B12 may help with fatigue or chronic tiredness, as this vitamin helps convert food into energy.
- Iron helps blood cells efficiently deliver oxygen around the body. An iron deficiency can cause anemia, which can make a person feel tired throughout the day.
- Calcium is one of the most important minerals needed for bone strength. Taking a calcium supplement can be beneficial for those suffering from a calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, and lactose intolerance.
- Vitamin D is known to help the body absorb calcium more efficiently, which makes it an essential in building and maintaining healthy bones.
Do I need to take dietary supplements?
The best way to get all vital substances is to eat a healthy and balanced diet. However, dietary supplements may be necessary in some cases:
Pregnancy. Pregnant women may need to take dietary supplements with folic acid and iron. Folate can help prevent birth defects while iron ensures that the baby is getting the oxygen that they need.
You’re over 50 years old. People over the age of 50 may need dietary supplements with vitamin B-12, as they might have difficulty absorbing it from their diet. Adults over the age of 65 may also take a vitamin D supplement to ensure bone health.
Heavy bleeding during menstruation. Those who experience especially heavy menstrual bleeding are at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia.
Food-related allergies and intolerances. Those with food allergies and intolerances may have to take supplements. Calcium supplements, for example, are often recommended to those who are lactose intolerant.
People who suffer from a medical condition that hinders their bodies from absorbing nutrients may also have to take dietary supplements.
What are the risks of dietary supplements?
Some vitamins and minerals have adverse effects when taken in large quantities. As a rule of thumb, always check the label of the dietary supplement you’re about to take and never exceed the recommended dosage.
Some brands might also have hidden ingredients which were not indicated on the label of the product. However, most dietary supplements are safe to use. Consult your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Not everyone needs to take dietary supplements, and chances are you’re already getting ample amounts of essential substances from the food you eat. But those with food intolerances, limited access to nutritious food, and certain medical conditions will find the benefits of dietary supplements to be quite useful. However, it’s important to always follow the dosage directions on the label or from your doctor and to remember that supplements cannot replace medical treatments and a balanced diet. Always consult a medical professional before starting dietary supplements.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.