When it comes to buildng better health, it is critical to pay much attention at what we throw into our mouth, and how it can affect deeply out health and our life in general. Today let’s have a look at the diference between medecinal pills and supplements, and how to know what supplements are good and appropriate for us.
The Smart and Safe Use of Vitamins and Supplements
It seems that almost every day we hear another claim that a certain vitamin or herbal supplement will cure what ails us or drastically improve the quality of our lives. Unfortunately, the information about dietary supplements is often confusing or unclear. The sheer number of supplements available can seem overwhelming, and it’s hard to know which offer genuine health benefits and which are merely giving false promises.
In the U.S. and other parts of the world, a dietary supplement must be proven unsafe before it is removed from store shelves. Therefore, it is up to you as the consumer to become a savvy shopper in order to make informed choices about the dietary supplements that will enhance your health.
What are dietary supplements?
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) defines a dietary supplement as a product that:
- supplements the food you eat;
- contains one or more dietary ingredient (including vitamins; minerals; herbs or other botanicals; amino acids, and other substances);
- comes in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form; and
- is labeled as a dietary supplement.
There are different types of dietary, or nutritional, supplements. Vitamin and mineral supplements are types of dietary supplements containing micronutrients meant to help a healthy body function smoothly. Herbal (or botanical) supplements are dietary supplements that have a medicinal purpose. Herbal supplements generally support a specific area of the body’s health, such as the liver, bones or skin.
Health benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that serve a specific purpose and benefit the body in a unique way. For example, vitamin A supports vision and bone growth, whereas vitamin E strengthens the immune system and helps repair DNA. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can impair the body’s ability to heal and protect itself.
Taking vitamins does not make up for an unhealthy diet, and vitamins are an insufficient substitute for nutrients from fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, a general multivitamin and mineral supplement can be a good safeguard against periodic vitamin shortfalls in your diet.
Herbal supplements are different from vitamin and mineral supplements in that they are considered to have medicinal value. Herbs, also known as botanicals, are one of humanity’s oldest health care tools, and the basis of many modern medicines. Primitive and ancient civilizations relied on herbs for healing, as do many contemporary cultures throughout the world. In fact, the World Health Organization has estimated that 80% of the world’s population continues to use traditional therapies, a major part of which are derived from plants.
If you are taking other medications, refrain from taking herbal supplements without first checking with your doctor. Herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs can combine to cause adverse side effects. Just because an herbal supplement is extracted from a “natural” source does not render it any less potent than any other chemicals you may ingest.
Who can benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements?
In general, children and adults might benefit from taking one multivitamin per day. A multivitamin helps provide a consistent source of the necessary vitamins and micronutrients. According to the Harvard School of Public Health,”a daily multivitamin, and maybe an extra vitamin D supplement, is a great way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy.”
However, the very first consideration is to eat a healthy diet. Even the best supplement is no substitute for good nutrition. In many Western countries, people tend to consume foods that are high in calories, but lack nutrients that are vital for good health.
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Children and teenagers with irregular eating habits
- Vegetarians or vegans (may be deficient in key nutrients)
- Dieters or people avoiding certain food groups (may be deficient in key nutrients)
- People with eating disorders or medical conditions (deficiency diseases, absorption problems, lactose intolerance, etc.)
- People who often eat processed and fast food
Good Nutrition: The First Step
Whole foods rich in micronutrients such as fruits and vegetables grown using sustainable farming practices are the best choice for vitamin-rich foods. However, vitamins are only one part of a healthy diet. Eating the right combination of fats, carbohydrates, and protein, as well aslearning smarter eating habits, can help you achieve a balanced, nutritious diet.
See Healthy Eating for tips on making the best food choices to support overall health.
Share your thoughts about how supplements help you to building better health