Supplements Vs Food : Which is more important?
We often hear a lot of rave about how supplements help provide nutrients and how they are most effective because they are taken in pill form and how it is easier to pop a pill than to eat an apple.
So does that officially make supplements good?. We will find out in our blog today.
Dietary supplements are said to be an affordable and effective way to ensure you get the daily recommended intake of essential vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients necessary for optimal health. But supplements are not intended to replace food because generally speaking, all of mother nature’s powers cannot be stuffed into a pill. Supplements can’t replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars and even though some dietary supplements can help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients, if you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods, they can’t take the place of the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet.
Whole foods offer three main benefits over dietary supplements and they are:
- Greater nutrition.
Whole foods are complex, containing a variety of the micronutrients your body needs. In fact, most whole foods are good sources of many vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients which cannot be found collectively in a supplement form. For example an apple is rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, Potassium, vitamin K, manganese, copper, and the vitamins A, E, B1, B2, and B6. All these can be provided with a medium apple of 182g. Not one supplement can provide all these nutrients in just a pill.
2. Essential Fibre
Whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, provide dietary fiber. Dietary fiber can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, stroke and heart disease. Fiber also provides health benefits such as boosting digestive function, metabolic health, and giving a feeling of fullness.
Foods like avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and blackberries are particularly high in healthy fiber, alongside beans and legumes.
Consuming fiber through whole foods is better than taking a supplement as it keeps you feeling fuller longer, and you also get the added nutrients from the fruit or vegetable.
3. Protective substances.
Many whole foods contain chemicals that promote health, such as antioxidants (substances that slow down a natural process leading to cell and tissue damage). They are found in real foods and not supplements, especially plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Fresh, unprocessed animal foods also contain antioxidants — though in much lower levels.
For instance, egg yolks offer lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help to protect against eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration
So if food is better and a complete diet in terms of nutrients, why take supplements then?
The idea behind food supplements is to deliver nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient quantities.
Supplements or fortified foods may be appropriate if you fall under any of these categories and would require more of some particular nutrients in that phase of life. These categories are;
- Women of child bearing age/Pregnant women: who require folic acid and vitamin D, possibly iron
- Age 50 or older who require Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and folate
- Breastfeeding individuals who require Vitamin D
- People who have poor appetite or have trouble getting nutritious foods
- People who follow a diet that excludes entire food groups or example Vegetarians who don’t eat meat or a any animal based product would require Vitamin B12, vitamin D2 and Iron
- People who have a medical condition that affects how their body digests nutrients, such as chronic diarrhea, food allergies, food intolerance, or a disease of the liver, gallbladder, intestines or pancreas
- People who have had surgery on their digestive tract that affects how their body digests nutrients
It is important to note that many supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects in the body. So always be alert to the possibility of a reaction, especially when taking a new product.
It is also important to note that taking more than you need for a nutrient might also raise your risk of side effects. For example, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects. Excess iron causes nausea and vomiting and may damage the liver and other organs. So, tell your healthcare providers (including doctors, pharmacists, and dietitians) about any dietary supplements you’re taking or even ask for recommendations of the right supplement to use, when to use them and how long they should be used for.
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