Dietary Supplements: The Facts

Most adults today take at least one dietary supplement either every day or at the minimum occasionally. Today’s dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other products. Dietary supplements are available in a range of forms: standard tablets, capsules, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements contain vitamins D and E; minerals like calcium and iron; herbs like Echinacea and garlic; and specialty products such as glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils. The purpose of this post is to supply information on dietary supplements. Hence, the title— Dietary Supplements: the facts. So we begin with a definition of a dietary supplement.

What is a dietary supplement

The words “dietary supplement” describes an extensive and varied category of products that you consume to support good health and supplement the diet. A dietary supplement is not a medicine, nor should it be considered a substitute for food. It is a supplement; it enhances the diet.

In an ideal world, we’d easily be able to get all the nutrients we need from diet alone.  But because of our demanding schedules, there has been ever-increasing reliance on processed convenience and fast foods. These processed foods are often high in calories yet offer little or no nutritional value. Therefore, dietary supplements are needed to fill the gap to provide us with the nutrients we need.

Dietary ingredients can be one or a combination of vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, concentrates, metabolites, constituents, or extract.

What do dietary supplements accomplish

What do dietary supplements do? If you don’t eat a nutritiously nourishing variety of foods, some supplements might help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. However, supplements can’t completely take the place of the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet.

Types of dietary supplements

As mentioned earlier, dietary supplements include: vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes. Below is an explanation of these essentials. These are all available under one roof.

Vitamins What is a vitamin? Complex organic compounds that are required in small amounts by the body for normal growth and metabolism. A crucial part of a balanced diet, vitamins occur naturally in foods and may be added to processed foods to increase their nutritional value. Vitamin supplements play a crucial role in this need.

What is a vitamin supplement? A vitamin supplement is a preparation, in various forms (Pills, capsules, etc.) to serve as a dietary supplement with vitamins. The objective is to fill the gap left by a lack of vitamins supplied in one’s diet.

Mineralsidentical to vitamins, minerals help your body develop, grow, and maintain a healthy state. The body uses minerals to perform many functions. From building strong bones to transmitting nerve impulses, minerals run the gamut. Some minerals are used to make hormones or maintain a normal heartbeat.

Like vitamins, mineral supplements are available in various forms.

Herbals— an herb is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor, or therapeutic properties. Herbals are one type of dietary supplement that contain the plant substance that’s beneficial to the body. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts, and fresh or dried plants.

Many consider herbs to be natural and therefore healthier and gentler than conventional drugs. Many use herbs for a variety of medical conditions, as well as for overall health and well-being. For others, herbal use is grounded in traditions passed down from generations prior.

Some commonly used herbs include: Garlic (which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower high blood pressure), Ginger (used as a digestive aid), ginseng (which may help improve cognitive function and augment athletic performance).

BotanicalsA botanical like an herb is a plant or plant parts valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties and are contained in the same forms as herbs. In fact, Herbs are a subset of botanicals.

Amino AcidsAmino acids play a role in the development of protein within the body and are crucial in promoting wound repair and encouraging healthy tissue in muscles, bones, skin and hair. Amino acids are also central in eliminating waste deposits related to metabolism.

EnzymesEnzymes ar biological molecules (typically proteins) that considerably speed up the pace of nearly all the chemical reactions that surface inside cells. They are very important to sustain life and serve a broad scope of important functions within the body, such as aiding in digestion and metabolism. Almost all organic chemistry reactions in living things require enzymes.

Why are enzymes important? With enzymes, chemical reactions go much faster than they would without the enzyme. Enzymes control the speed of chemical reactions in your body. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep you alive. Some enzymes, like the ones in your gut, break down large molecules into smaller ones.

Why take dietary supplements

What are the benefits of taking supplements? Scientific evidence shows that some dietary supplements are beneficial for overall health as well as managing various health conditions. For example, calcium and vitamin D are important for keeping bones strong and reducing bone loss; folic acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects; and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils may facilitate some individuals with cardiovascular disease. Other supplements require additional study to conclude their merit. One thing to note, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine whether dietary supplements are effective before they are placed in the market.

It is also important to note that overuse and interactions can undermine health benefits. Dietary supplements are products designed to bump up your daily intake of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Many are safe and provide vital health advantages; however there are some that create health risks, particularly if overused.

The best way to approach dietary supplements

The best way to approach dietary supplements is to take a multivitamin. Why? Simply because it’s the most balanced way to ensure that we’re getting the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals required for optimal conditioning of our bodies. It’s the best of all worlds, nutritionally.

Why take a multivitamin you ask? Well, yes, we can get a lot of nutrients from food, especially fruits and vegetables, but the simple fact is we don’t.

When we don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, we miss essential nutrients, which can leave us vulnerable to serious negative health conditions. Adults should consume 1 1/2-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. Yet, studies found that 76% of adults don’t eat enough fruit and 87% of adults don’t eat enough vegetables.

So how do we get our nutrients? A multivitamin of course. A multivitamin supplement is like insurance, a daily guarantee to ensure your body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs. It can make up for the shortfalls that happen when we don’t get what we need through food.

Here are a few more key reasons to take a multivitamin: slower aging, can reduce cardiovascular disease, reduces cancer risk, boosts immunity, supports eye health, contains water-soluble vitamins that’s needed on a daily basis, healthy hair and skin, and feeling better overall. Thanks mostly to the B-complex vitamin family, taking a multivitamin is associated with a boost in energy levels, feelings of well-being, as well as a decrease in stress and anxiety. This alone, makes it worth maintaining a multivitamin regime.

Where to buy dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are widely accessible in health food stores, drug stores, grocery stores, fitness centers and on-line sites and they are available in several forms including: two piece capsules, soft gels, tablets, bottles of liquid, powders and gummies.

Please feel free to leave any comment, question or concern below

Good health!

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4 thoughts on “Dietary Supplements: The Facts”

  1. It is really not a wonder that people take dietary supplements. This is because most of us find it difficult to take natural foods rich in vitamins and other necessary components. I am one culprit myself. I find it difficult to take important foods as they do not feel that ‘tasty’.

    I have also been advised on a few dietary supplements. The herbal remedy has also caught my attention as researchers believe that other than its dietary features, it also offers curing features.

    Thank you for the advice of how to take the dietary supplements. I will be sure to take a Multivitamin.

    Thank you for this informative article.

    1. I understand Carol.  It seems that what’s good for us sometimes tastes the worst and vice versa.  The better some things taste the more harm they do.  Especially if we ingest them in excess. 

      A multivitamin is a good choice as it basically covers all bases.

      Have a good day!

  2. Thanks for shedding light on this topic. I did some research on this few years ago, while I was in university. One thing people to understand well is that they are called supplements for a reason — they are to be used in addition to food, not in place of food. The synthetic nutrients in supplements may behave differently than the way nutrients in foods do, and often times, the combinations of food-based nutrients can lend a synergistic effect that is irreplaceable in supplements. It does have an awesome advantage in getting enough nutrient when it is lacking.

    Awesome write up.

    Regards!

    1. Absolutely Jordan – they are supplements, not replacements.  Nothing beats the God-given nutrients found in our foods.  Unfortunately with processing and age they become lost.  Not to mention with today lifestyles we’re simply neglecting to eat properly. 

      Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

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