With the popularity of fast and inexpensive processed food, many of us struggle to get all the nutrients we need out of our diets. As a result, dietary supplements are growing in popularity and are now a multi-billion dollar industry. Still, many of us remain either confused by what to take or skeptical of what the actual benefits of these supplements might be.
There are six essential nutrients that we need to get each day: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
The best source of these nutrients is a healthy, balanced diet, comprised of fresh, whole foods and an abundance of fruits and vegetables.
Getting all the nutrients we need on a daily basis can be a difficult task. Most people find it daunting to incorporate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, high-fiber whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein. So, what is one to do?
Even people who strive to eat a healthy diet can sometimes miss essential nutrients. Therefore, nutritional supplements, when taken appropriately, can be beneficial to almost anyone’s diet.
The first supplement to consider adding to your diet is the multivitamin.
There are many essential vitamins and minerals found in multivitamins that can be difficult to attain solely through one’s diet. The health benefits of these nutrients are hard to ignore. Calcium makes your bones stronger. Vitamin B12 gives you more energy. Vitamin D boosts your immune system.
Multivitamins are not intended to take the place of a healthy diet, but they can provide a healthy foundation.
Overall, the multivitamin is the single most diverse supplement you can add to your diet.
There are a few things to consider when taking a multivitamin. Not all multivitamins are made equal. Many multivitamins contain synthetic nutrients instead of natural ones, which are harder for the body to absorb. It is recommended to take an all-natural multivitamin derived from actual food sources so the body can absorb a much larger percentage of its nutrients.
Additional Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to a multivitamin, sometimes other vitamin and mineral supplements are needed:
• If you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarians often lack nutrients found in meat, like B12 and iron. A multivitamin should stabilize your B12 intake, but many find the need for an additional iron supplement. For vegans, who might miss out on their daily dose of calcium and Vitamin D, drinking soy milk or any other fortified milk alternative will help keep levels up.
• If you’re feeling down. People with low levels of vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3s are more likely to show signs of depression. When this happens, He recommends adding all three. Omega-3s have been shown to support brain health and magnesium has been shown to help the body feel calm, relaxed and satisfied.
• If you want to boost your body’s resilience. The spice Turmeric and Flax seed oil help to reduce inflammation in the body and fight off sickness. This oil helps support the joints and improves heart and brain health.
Another important nutrient we should be supplementing our diets with is fat. It is a common misconception that fat is bad for us when, actually, quite the opposite is true. The body uses fat to do everything from building cell membranes to performing key functions in the brain, eyes, and lungs. Fats also play a vital role in our cardiovascular health as well as in the maintenance of our skin and hair.
The problem with fat is that people eat too many trans fats, often found in processed food, that not only raise cholesterol, but also increase the risk of heart disease.
Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and the super-healthy fats omega 3 fatty acids, can actually improve the overall health of the heart.
When combined with exercise, taking an omega 3 supplement can also combat the problem of high triglycerides and low, good (HDL) cholesterol – another common medical problem caused by diets high in trans fat. Therefore, it is important to make sure our diets include a good amount of these healthy fats.
Fish oil, which contains concentrated omega 3 fatty acids, is perhaps the best nutritional supplement for healthy fats.
Another good dietary supplement to consider is protein. Protein is one of the body’s main building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, and other tissues. Often found in the form of powders or shakes, protein supplements repair muscles and help the body recover from exercise. If your diet is low in protein-rich foods, such as fish, poultry, beans, nuts and whole grains, then you may want to consider adding a protein supplement.
Protein supplementation can be harmful to certain populations, especially those with diminished kidney function. Before adding protein, or any other nutritional supplement to your diet, you should check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you.
American Family Medicine
1750 SE 28th Loop
Ocala, FL 34471
David L. Oliver, D.O.
. Board-Certified: American Board of Osteopathic Family Physicians
. Residency: Columbia Medical Center-Peninsula, Ormond Beach, FL
. Chief Resident
. Doctor of Osteopathy: West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
. Bachelor of Science: Biology, Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson, TN
Rafael Rosa-Algarin, M.D.
. Internship: San Juan Municipality Hospital- Centro Médico, Rio Piedras, PR
. Graduated of: Doctor of Medicine- San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, Caguas PR
. Graduate School: Public Health/Environmental Health, UPR, Centro Médico, Rio
. Piedras, PR
. Bachelor of Science: Biology. UPR, Rio Piedras PR
. Language Spoken: English, Spanish