To Supplement or Not: 5 Facts To Factor

supplements from a bottleNews coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, Obamacare, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of this current list of media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements!  If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring  statements from the so-called experts being interviewed.  Some “experts” note most of our nutrients should come from food, come from “natural” whole foods put into pill form, or just be avoided altogether.  The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the primarily black and white general statements made by these so-called experts. Sadly, despite this topic of supplements airing over many news stations for the last few days, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis in order to really assess the need and benefits from supplements. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

  • Supplements are meant to fill in for dietary shortfallsIf you eat a healthy diet (include dairy or source of calcium, fish, plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains), there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills!  If you are lactose intolerant, hate dairy products, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or you are vegan, then you may benefit from a supplement.  Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may or may not need to be doing regarding supplements.
  • Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency of a nutrient!  Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements?  You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement.  Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient.  Once a deficiency of any nutrient is determined, it is easy enough to replete the diet through both food and supplements (or sunshine in the case of vitamin D).
  • Be aware of upper limits of safety!  More is definitely not better for you in most cases.  In fact, many people who take multiple supplements forget that they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a given nutrient because it is in several of their supplement formulas.  Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to take the nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess.  Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!
  • Food is your best source of nutrients.  Nature has an uncanny way of packaging foods and one food is loaded with many nutrients that actually work together to maximize your nutritional status.  With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements.  An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.
  • Did you know there is no regulation of supplements?  If a supplement has been implicated in causing harm, it will be pulled from the shelves, but until then it is buyer beware!  With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-know brands that have a reputation to protect.  Using lesser known brands may result in less quality control.  Over the decades, some supplements have been known to be tainted with arsenic and lead.  Choosing a name brand product can potentially protect you!

Not all supplements are good or bad for that matter.  Not all people need supplements, and many people do!  Consulting with a professional who is educated on this topic and takes the time to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations will be time well spent in improving both your health and nutritional status!