Vitamins and Supplements 101
The vitamins and supplements industry spends billions convincing people their products lead to life-enhancing benefits. Of course, this isn’t always the case—but some vitamins and supplements can be a positive boost for those who need it.
Above all marketing claims and hype, supplements do not replace food. Here are the three main reasons why whole foods reign supreme.
1) Nutrition: Whole foods are complex and contain a number of micronutrients your body needs.
2) Dietary fiber: Fruits, nuts and vegetables provide dietary fiber that is crucial in preventing diabetes and lowering your cholesterol.
3) Protective substances: Antioxidants are essential in slowing down cell and tissue damage. Plus, antioxidants fight viruses and free radicals, which can cause cell damage and contribute to aging.
Generally speaking, healthy adults don’t need to take supplemental vitamins and minerals. But there are some exceptions.
- You are 50 years old or over.
- You are pregnant (or trying to become pregnant).
- You have trouble with your appetite or getting enough nutrients.
- Your diet restricts you from entire food groups.
- You have a medical condition that affects how your body digests food, such as chronic diarrhea, food allergies, food intolerance or a disease of the liver, intestines, pancreas or gallbladder are some examples.
Tread carefully. The FDA is not authorized to review supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. Be cautious of marketing claims that promise big results. Here are some more tips:
- Natural does not mean safe.
- Learn to spot sensationalist claims like “works better than ____” and “no side effects.”
- Talk to your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements. You want to make sure there are no risks of complications when taken alongside prescriptions or if you have other health-related issues.