Nutritional supplements are exactly that, supplements to your daily nutrition!
Usually people take supplements in the form of various vitamins and minerals, but depending on your specific requirement it could be fibre, fatty acids, carbohydrates, or proteins (or combinations of these).
For example, anaemia suffers might be required to take iron supplements as consuming enough red meat and spinach in their diet would be impractical and unhealthy.
But what about generally healthy people? Should we all take nutritional supplements?
The answer to that is largely down to personal choice. Down to you! But there is anecdotal evidence that suggests we should all supplement our diet with vitamins and minerals.
Imagine you were born a few hundred years in the past, and that you were wealthy enough to own and farm your own land, or have a source of income where malnutrition was not a concern for you. If this were the case, your daily calories would be coming from fresh foods! And just as important, unprocessed foods! That is, foods ram packed with vitamins and minerals. You wouldn’t be eating all the high calorie low nutrient foods that we eat today, like fast foods, cakes, sweets, and all the other rubbish!
Also, back then you would be far far more active, so would be consuming more to sustain that lifestyle. So you would be eating even more calories of highly nutritious foods! Basically, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
That’s quite a credible theory, don’t you think? It certainly makes you wonder how we can possibly consume the vitamins and minerals we once were able to without nutritional supplements.
Another good reason to take supplements . . . Prevention rather than cure!
Why is it that we wait for something to happen to us, some ailment or illness, before we do anything about it? It’s crazy behaviour.
We have all heard that deficiencies in vitamins and minerals will adversely affect our health. Why would we wait for that to happen? Surely it would be best to prevent this from happening than to wait for it to happen and then cure it?
Okay, I think I’ve laboured the point enough. I don’t want to sound too whiney!
The Benefits of Good Supplements
There are many benefits to vitamin and mineral supplements, far too many to discuss in this article (though I will be discussing these further).
What you need to know is that vitamins and minerals are vital for proper cellular development and function (such as the growth and maintenance of your entire body), and play a key role in the function of your immune system. That is, vitamins and minerals are vital for your health.
But what about other supplements? Antioxidants can be supplemented to counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. Basically, free radicals are unstable molecules which can damage surround cells by trying to become stable. In the presence of antioxidants, free radicals can become stable without damaging surrounding cells.
What does it matter? Cellular damage has been linked to aging, cancers, and diseases. A good incentive to keep yourself stocked with antioxidants!
Essential fatty acids are fats that you must obtain from your food, as your body cannot synthesize them. They have been linked with cellular functions, emotional state, inflammatory reduction properties, and more. Within the last few years, research suggests that the fatty acid omega-3 even helps with memory!
Athletes might also supplement their diet with carbohydrates. These are beneficial as they provide quick energy to allow the athlete to continue participating, or recover quickly afterwards. For you and I (assuming you aren’t a professional athlete) you’ll get your carbohydrates from the foods you eat.
Proteins are also supplemented by athletes, or anyone with the goal of gaining lean weight. Lean weight, that is your muscles, is made from protein.
Vegetarians and vegans might also supplement with protein, as their diet will lack in meats and/or dairy protein, which are the greatest source of protein for non-vegetarians and non-vegans.
If There Are Benefits for Nutritional Supplements, There Must Be Disadvantages, Right?
Right! Whilst vitamins like vitamin B and C are safe even if taken in doses well above the recommended daily intake, vitamins like vitamin A and E, and minerals like Iron and zinc can cause adverse health effects. Excess vitamin A and vitamin E has been linked with damage to the nervous system, liver, and cause fatigue.
Excess iron might increase the risk of heart disease and cancer, whilst too much zinc can weaken the immune system.
But it shouldn’t concern you. Just don’t overdose, and stick to the recommended daily intake.
A Point Worth Reiterating
I have to say it again . . . always remember that nutritional supplements should only be used to supplement your diet.
They are not a meal replacement. In fact, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have zero calorific content, so you gain no energy from these at all!