By Megan Kian
In our society, we are always searching for an easy way out. For example, we tend to focus on short-term diets instead of making long-term lifestyle changes. With the abundance of dietary supplements available in health food stores like GNC, you may think that you can take supplements in place of eating healthy food that will provide you with the nutrients you need. However, supplements were created to compensate for nutrients that you may not be getting from your diet, not to provide you with 100 percent of the nutrients you need.
Supplements are not the ideal way to get your nutrients because:
- Your body extracts nutrients best from whole foods that you consume.
- Taking various supplements can hinder the uptake and absorption of other nutrients that you get from the foods you eat (for example calcium and iron compete for absorption).
- You run the risk of taking in toxic amounts of certain nutrients. The FDA does not regulate supplements; therefore, if you take various supplements you could end up taking in too much of certain nutrients.
- Many vitamins you get from supplements are water soluble, which means that whatever excess you take in will come out. We call this expensive urine!
There are certain cases in which supplements can be helpful. For example, pregnant women have increased nutrient needs that may not be achievable through diet alone, so a prenatal vitamin is recommended. And some people have nutrient deficiencies (e.g. vitamin D) or aren’t taking in enough of a certain nutrient (e.g. calcium). If you think you need to take a supplement, speak to a doctor or a registered dietitian before you start taking any. And keep in mind the following:
- Understand your nutrient needs and ask yourself if you can get the nutrients you need from your diet.
- Make sure to read the label when picking out a supplement.
- Take the correct dosage.
What do you think of supplements?