In today’s world, people have become too comfortable and more spoilt by the benefits of civilisation. The producers not only of fast food but also supplements have also joined in. You do not have to cook anything, it’s easy and simple. Take a pill and forget. Everyone from friends to nutritionists is talking about magic supplements. But are they so beneficial and necessary for the human body?
Our body system is perfect and well thought out. We can take all vital nutrients from what nature has given us. Nature offers us all the great healthy foods we need, but they do not come in convenient bottles with unknown contents.
One biggest mistake – choosing supplements over food
Why is a balanced diet so much better than synthetic supplements? Whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, cereals, meat, fish and dairy products contain everything you are looking for in pills and more.
Nine big advantages of prioritising foods over supplements
1Real food is more nutritious
Whole foods contain a variety of nutrients that your body needs. Supplements can’t replace the many benefits of a healthy, diverse diet.
2Foods have fibre essential for digestion
Fibre is necessary for digestion. It also prevents the development of a number of diseases. Soluble fibre (found in pulses, some cereals, some fruit and vegetables) and insoluble fibre reduce the risk of different conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and constipation.
3Contain phytochemicals and bioactive compounds
Many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts contain special substances called phytochemicals (phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods). They prevent the development of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and diabetes.
But just think how much you lose by sticking to supplements. A balanced diet is a source of health and well-being. With a balanced diet, your body will have enough macro and micronutrients, you will be full of energy and will not have any deficiencies.
4You can’t substitute food’s taste
Food is a perfect and quick source of energy and a good mood. It gives us a variety of tastes and colours. We always have a choice of what to enjoy today for breakfast or lunch. You have to agree that you can’t do that with supplements. Something sealed in a capsule or a pill can often have a pungent smell and far from the most addictive taste, similar to medicine. So food is a much better and healthier choice than a pill you don’t know how it might affect you.
5Food is better absorbed by the body
The body tends to absorb nutrients from food more effectively than from supplements. This is because whole foods provide a complex mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that work together to promote optimal absorption and utilization.
Body mechanisms process and absorb the nutrients found in food, whereas the body may have a harder time breaking down and utilizing some of the nutrients in supplements, especially those that are synthetic or isolated forms of certain nutrients.
6Much better for your gut and microbiome
Whole foods contribute better to gut and microbiome health than supplements. The gut microbiome is a complex and diverse ecosystem of microorganisms that play an important role in maintaining overall health. Whole foods are high in nutrients, dietary fibre and other organic ingredients that can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and support a healthy gut environment. In contrast, supplements often contain limited amounts of individual nutrients and do not have the same range of beneficial compounds found in whole foods.
7More difficult to overdose
Overdosing nutrients from food is usually much more difficult than from supplements. This is because the nutrients in whole foods are often accompanied by other components such as fibre and bioactive compounds that help regulate their absorption and use in the body. In addition, the number of nutrients in whole foods is often balanced and regulated by nature, this helps prevent overconsumption.
8Easier to control the quality
When you consume food, you have more control over its quality than a capsule-packed supplement. Food products must follow strict standards for safety, labelling and composition, and are subject to periodic checks and monitoring. Supplements, in contrast, are poorly regulated and the quality of these products can vary widely. They may contain contaminants, impurities or even harmful ingredients, and some may not contain the amount of active ingredient stated on the label.
Food is often more cost-effective compared to supplements. While the cost of food can vary widely depending on where you live and the type of food you buy, it is typically more affordable to meet your nutritional needs through a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods, rather than relying on supplements only. It is also worth stating that some supplements can be quite expensive, especially those advertised as high-quality, premium products. Also, many people may need several different types of supplements to meet their nutritional needs, this can eventually lead to significant spending.
According to Sanjay Gupta, an American neurosurgeon, medical journalist and author of the book ‘Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age’ eating right means eating real food, not popping pills and supplements. Supplements are not a substitute for real food and some of them can be harmful. The supplement industry is not regulated, and manufacturers have no obligation to test their products for efficacy or safety.
The evidence shows that micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals offer the greatest benefit when consumed as part of a balanced diet because all those other components in healthy food allow the micronutrients to be well absorbed and do their job better. For example, getting your B vitamins from eggs and your omega-3 fatty acids from fish trumps taking vitamins and supplements alone.
Supplements are not a magic wand. Taking supplements will not clear up the effect of all the junk food consumed. It doesn’t work like that, as much as you would like to.
Tim Spector who is a leading British epidemiologist, medical doctor, and science writer, in his book ‘The Diet Myth’, says that our obsession with the reductionist approach that isolates the one magic ingredient that can cure our ills is beautifully illustrated by our ill-fated love affair with vitamins. He advises focusing on yourself and your children and eating real food instead, which, if reasonably varied, contains most of the vitamins you need. Together with your healthy microbes, you will manufacture the rest naturally.
Your plate should be versatile and colourful, with lots of nutritious ingredients, each of which will bring benefits to you. It is much easier than you think and it is always nice to make something tasty and healthy for yourself and your family.
But if, after all this, we still cannot persuade you not to take supplements, then read on about the five, not-so-big mistakes of taking them below.
Even after all this, if you’re still not convinced, read on for five not-so-big mistakes of supplement intake.
What to consider when using supplements – you can’t talk everyone out of it anyway
Because supplements are part of our lives and many of you may be taking them, our Healthypedia team decided to identify a short list of mistakes to look out for when taking them.
It is a big mistake for many people to think that if a supplement is not a medicine, they do not need to consult a doctor or take a test to check their blood levels of a particular vitamin or mineral.
Prescribing supplements without justification can lead to unpleasant consequences. For example, if you have sufficient levels of a vitamin or mineral, supplements, especially in high doses, can lead to severe allergy cases.
This is because some ingredients used in supplements, such as certain plants, enzymes or amino acids, can cause allergic reactions in some people. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a dietary supplement may include itching, urticaria, difficulty in breathing, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, the allergic reaction can progress to anaphylaxis which can be life-threatening.
Of course, if the supplement you buy turns out to be of poor quality, you will need more than just adjusting your intake. In accordance with dietitian Ansley Hill, you should always choose supplements that have been third-party tested for purity and potency. This will help keep you away from consuming harmful impurities. It will also keep you from wasting money. Always check the packaging for a third-party certificate or quality seal before buying a product.
3Taking supplements at the wrong time of day
Did you know that different supplements should be taken at different times of the day?
For example, some vitamins or minerals can give you an energy boost if taken before bedtime, this will prevent you from getting good sleep. But when should you take supplements to get the most benefit? For example, vitamins A, D, E, and K: The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are best taken with meals. To benefit from these vitamins in the morning, you can take them during breakfast which should ideally include a sufficient amount of healthy fats. Otherwise, they can be taken during lunch or dinner.
Vitamin C supports the normal functioning of the immune system, increases energy, and is a strong antioxidant. Vitamin C persists in the body for only a few hours, so it is best to divide up your dose throughout the day.
Start taking it in the morning and set reminders so you don’t forget to take it throughout the day. Reminders for supplements, as well as medication, can easily be added to the health app.
4Taking supplements irregularly
If you take supplements irregularly, your body may constantly oscillate between optimal and insufficient intake. This will not have a positive effect on your health in the long run. If you decide to take supplements, you should take care to take them regularly and according to a daily dose.
5When you don’t read the back of the package
One of the common mistakes people make when taking supplements is not fully understanding the contents and recommended usage. Reading the label, including the ingredients list and recommended dosage, is crucial for ensuring safe and effective supplementation. In addition to the dosage of the vitamin or mineral, the words ‘other ingredients’ are written on the supplement packaging. Often, these carry hidden dangers.
The other ingredients listed on the packaging of supplements may include various additives, fillers, and binders. These are added to the product to improve its texture, stability, and shelf life.
Some common examples of other ingredients include:
1. Fillers: cellulose, corn starch, and silica are used to bulk up the product and fill the capsule.
2. Binders: gelatin, magnesium stearate, and carrageenan help hold the ingredients together.
3. Flavourings and sweeteners: artificial flavours and sweeteners are added to improve the taste of the product.
4. Preservatives: sodium benzoate is used to extend the shelf life of the product.
5. Dyes: artificial colourings which are added to improve the appearance of the product.
Let’s sum up
Taking supplements is not the same as eating a balanced diet. No chemical supplement can replace real food and its benefits for your body. Not only that, the supplement industry is barely unregulated and supplement manufacturers have no requirement to test their products for effectiveness or safety, which is frightening.
Always opt for wholesome natural food and a multi-component diet on your plate. But if you do decide to stay on the side of supplements, make sure you don’t make mistakes when taking them and always talk to your doctor as any supplement can carry health risks and a range of side effects.
Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues
The popular doctor and science expert who has a great YouTube Channel, Dr. Eric Berg, share some interesting info about whether we need supplements or not if we are healthy. Dr. Berg is a chiropractor who specializes in healthy ketosis & intermittent fasting. He is the author of the best-selling book ‘The Healthy Keto Plan’ and is the director of Dr. Berg Nutritionals. Let’s watch!
Sanjay Gupta is an American neurosurgeon, medical reporter, and writer. His book ‘Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age’ debunks common myths about ageing and mental decline, explores whether there is the ‘best’ diet or exercise regimen for the brain or not, and explains whether it’s healthier to play video games that test memory and processing speed or to engage in more social interaction.
Dr. Gupta also addresses brain disease, particularly Alzheimer’s, answers all your questions about the signs and symptoms, and shows how to ward it off and stay healthy while caring for a partner in cognitive decline. The book provides a personalized twelve-week program featuring practical strategies to strengthen your brain day by day.
Timothy David Spector is a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and director of the TwinsUK Registry, a data register of 11,000 twins. Since 1992 he has been proving that many diseases are linked not only to diet and environment but also to genetics. He has published over 700 articles in scientific journals, including Science and Nature.
‘The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat’ is relevant and interesting for anyone interested in eating right, anyone who has realized that diets are ineffective, or anyone who wants to learn more about their bodies.
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