With the rising concerns over health, our changing lifestyles, and generally poor dietary habits, no wonder the demand for food supplements is growing.
Reports show that as much as 77% of Americans are consuming dietary supplements, with the usage peaking at 81% in adults between 35 to 54 years.
The industry is only expected to grow in forthcoming years. With the growing availability of food supplements, their vague but bold marketing, and a widespread belief that these substances can indeed help our overall health or support in meeting our specific goals, no wonder we’ve grown a bit confused over which one to choose. Or whether to select one at all.
Let’s figure out some basic concepts and clear this confusion.
Natural vs Synthetic Nutrients
One of our biggest concerns, when we’re considering amplifying our diet with a pill, is whether synthetic supplements provide the same kind of support as the natural ones.
We know that dietary supplements can come in many different forms – pills, capsules, powders, extracts, gel tablets, and tinctures. While some of them are entirely synthetic and human-made, others come from natural sources, such as herbs and plants.
Most of the supplements on the market, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, are made artificially. You can recognize them easily as they will have listed nutrients individually, or use chemical names of the substances.
To figure out whether the supplement of your choice is synthetic or natural, you should check out the labels. The natural supplements will make it clear that they are 100% animal or plant-based, or that the list of ingredients comes from food sources.
However, the simple fact that something is entirely natural doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to use it. Even the purest food supplement can have adverse effects on your body, cause allergies, or interact with other medications you’re taking.
Even though many believe that synthetic dietary supplements are almost identical to those we find in food, they are created in a very different way, and it’s not clear how they are used in the body. Changes to these natural structures destroy the nutritious effect that these nutrients have on our bodies.
When you’re eating food, you’re consuming a whole range of compounds – minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and phytonutrients. It’s the synergy of these substances that allow their optimal use. Some studies show that vitamin E is twice as effective when it is consumed in its natural, not synthetic form.
It’s considered that the synergistic impact of the effects of phytonutrients in food is what is responsible for their powerful antioxidant activities. This might be the reason why no single synthetic antioxidant supplement can replace the mix of natural phytonutrients in vegetables and fruits to achieve their health benefits.
If your supplements are giving you isolated forms of nutrients, and not the whole foods, you need to reconsider your vitamins.
Natural Food Supplements
Some natural foods are so naturally dense that they can be considered natural food supplements. Fortunately, you can easily find them in most well-stocked health stores. For the ones that are not as common at your local market, visit Health Matters’ website at https://healthmatters.ie/, and check out the high-quality whole foods offer.
Here are some of the essential foods you should include in your diet for numerous health benefits:
- Whole eggs are a potent source of B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorus, as well as two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Seaweed is a potent source of iodine and tyrosine, fiber, and fucoxanthin.
- Turmeric is a rich source of curcumin.
- Spirulina is a source of high-quality proteins, omega-3/6 fatty acids, vitamins B1, B2, B3, iron, and copper.
- Fermented foods such as kefir, pickles, sauerkraut are an excellent source of probiotics.
- Cacao is rich in polyphenols, especially flavanols.
- Coconut oil offers a unique combination of fatty acids, especially MCT (medium-chain triglycerides).
- Chia seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
- Apple cider vinegar is rich with magnesium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, amino acids, and antioxidants.
When Should You Use Supplements?
Consuming a diet consisting of whole organic food, such as seeds, nuts, fruits, legumes, grains, and vegetables will offer you the most health benefits.
However, there are some situations when taking supplements, either natural or synthetic ones, might be necessary:
- Elderly persons are prone to vitamin D deficiencies and need more calcium and vitamin B for their normal functioning.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women need to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals, and vitamin D in particular.
- Vegetarians and vegans are often at higher risk of iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, and zinc deficiency, so they have to make sure to have the right balance of these vitamins and minerals by taking supplements.
- People with nutritional deficiencies can treat them using supplements.
If you belong to any of these groups, consider taking supplements to improve your health or energy or resolve some health issues. However, it’s always the best to consult with a healthcare professional before including any of these into your diet.