To Supplement or Not: 5 Facts To Factor

News coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of the current 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.

Expert comments

Some “experts” note our nutrients should come only from food. Others suggest  “natural” whole foods be put into pill form. The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the black and white statements made by these so-called experts. Unfortunately, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

Supplements fill in dietary gaps

If you eat a healthy diet, there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills! If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or are vegan, then you may need a supplement. Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may need to be doing with supplements.

Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency 

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. Correction of a deficiency is usually easy to do with diet or supplements. For a vitamin D deficiency, sunshine may be the prescription!

Be aware of upper limits of safety 

Many people taking multiple supplements forget they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a nutrient because they are taking multiple pills. Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to ingest too much of a single 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 

Mother nature packages foods perfectly with the best combination of nutrients. The mixture of nutrients designed by mother nature work effectively together. 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.

Regulation of supplements

If a supplement is reported as unsafe, the stores are required to pull the product. Until then, it’s buyer beware as the supplement industry is strictly self-regulating. With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-known brands. Well known brands want to protect their reputation. They  will have high quality control standards. Using lesser known brands may result in lower quality control. Even arsenic and lead have tainted some supplements in the past few decades.

Not all supplements are good or bad. Not all people need supplements. Consulting a professional to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations both improves your health and saves you money.