Why supplements are important
As common as the word vitamin is, the first thing that comes to the mind of most people when the word vitamin is mentioned is a “pill”. Thinking of what a pill is also suggests images of medicine, drugs, and doctors. However, a vitamin is neither a pill nor a drug.
In simple terms, vitamins are organic substances necessary for life. They are required to support the normal functioning of the body and, for a few exceptions, cannot be manufactured or synthesized internally. They are required for our growth and general well-being even though they occur in very small quantities. Vitamins can only be obtained from natural food or dietary supplements.
It is important to understand that supplements, which are sold as tablets, capsules, liquids, powder, and spray are still simply just food substances, and unless synthetic, are also obtained from living organisms (plants and animals).
Vitamins in the body work by regulating the metabolism through enzyme systems and any deficiency in any vitamin can affect the whole body. Unlike macronutrients- proteins, carbohydrates, and fats – vitamins that are micronutrients do not themselves provide energy to the body. They work with other components of the body to ensure that energy is released for the body to function properly.
One misconception out there is that supplements are some form of magic pills that can prevent or cure diseases. The other misconception is that supplements can be used are replacements for taking healthy balanced diets. All these are false as supplements are not meant to replace balanced diets. Food or dietary supplements do not carry any caloric or energy value of their own and are not substitutes for protein or any other nutrients such as minerals, fats, or carbohydrates.
The average person can obtain the recommended daily average for vitamins and minerals from eating healthy balanced diets with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The question that arises is that how many of us consume healthy balanced meals which include fruits and vegetables regularly? Not a lot, I guess. Generally, on any given day, most of us tend to eat at least one meal away from home due to our lifestyles or work and as a result, it is mostly challenging to have very healthy meals even when we try.
Groups of people that may need vitamins or supplements includes;
- Those that rarely consume fresh fruits and vegetables. These are the best natural sources of vitamins and minerals for the body.
- If you work in a high-pressured environment or have been going through long periods of high stress. Food supplements may be good to help the body function properly.
- Those that drink a lot of alcohol. Heavy drinkers stand a higher risk of being deficient in a lot of vitamins and minerals.
- Heavy smokers. Smoking sharply increases your need for vitamins especially Vitamin C.
- Pregnant or nursing. The body requires extra vitamins and minerals to support healthy a pregnancy. You’re more likely to be deficient in folic acid and iron when pregnant as such supplementation may be useful
- Groups of people that are over 50 years. You are more likely to be deficient in one of the vitamins and minerals if you are over the age of 50. Supplements can then be an expensive way of ensuring that the body has all the vitamins and minerals it needs.
- If you struggle with mood disorder, like depression
- If you follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition which is a US-based trade organization representing dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers carried out a consumer survey in 2019 on dietary supplements.
The survey revealed that 77% of Americans consume dietary supplements with adults between the ages of 35-54 having the highest usage at 81%. For the types of supplements that are commonly used, vitamins and minerals are among the most commonly consumed supplements followed by specialty supplements, then herbal and botanicals, sports nutrition supplements, and finally, weight management supplements.
The top 5 supplements among US adults are Multvitamins, then Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Protein, and calcium in that order.
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Just as natural food occurs in various forms, supplements also occur in different forms. They can be taken as capsules, tablets, powders, liquids, soft gels, or sprays.
Tablets – These are the most common and convenient forms of supplements on the market. They are generally easier to store and have a longer shelf life than the other forms of supplements
Capsules – Similar to tablets, capsules can also be stored for long and are easy to take. Capsules contain fewer excipients than do tablets and are usually used for oil-soluble vitamins.
Soft gels – These are similar to capsules and are generally easier to swallow than normal capsules. Like capsules and tablets, these are also processed through the digestive system, so they are slower acting than their liquid and powder counterparts.
Powders – Powdered supplements are generally easier to consume as they can be applied in many ways such as smoothies, juices, salads, soups, etc. They also have the advantage of being offered with higher potency and the added benefit of no fillers, binders, or additives for anyone who may have allergies.
Liquids – As the name suggests, liquid supplements are in liquid form and can be used with beverages for people who may have difficulty with swallowing capsules or tablets.
What are vitamins good for
Having healthy balanced meals is the ultimate means of obtaining vitamins and minerals for the body. Unfortunately, the reality is that we do not always consume healthy balanced meals and the foods we generally consume do not necessarily have the right amounts of vitamins we need. Other things like food processing, storing and cooking can easily destroy the nutrients that are contained in the foods we consume. The following tips can help ensure that we get the most from the foods we eat;
- Do not store foods for too long. Make your meals when you are ready to eat
- Wash and clean fruit and vegetables thoroughly but do not soak them for too long
- Do not thaw frozen vegetables before cooking
- Frozen foods should be preferred if possible over canned ones. Where canned vegetables are used, rinse them thoroughly to remove excess salt.
- Store frozen meat at 0 degrees F. or lower immediately after purchase to prevent loss of quality and bacterial growth
- Where possible, use stainless steel, glass, and enamel as utensils for cooking as they retain nutrients
- The shortest cooking time and the smallest amount of water are the least destructive to nutrients
- Store vegetables and fruits in the refrigerator as soon as you bring them home from grocery shopping.
In conclusion, we all need vitamins and supplements to help make up for any vitamin gaps we may have. Try as we might, but most of us just can’t eat healthy meals with fruits and vegetables every day. We need vitamins and supplements to help support the body function properly. Supplements are generally an easy, safe, and inexpensive means of making sure that we have all the vitamins and minerals required by the body.