Vitamins and Supplements: Worth the hype?

Vitamins and Supplements: Worth the hype?

With so many dietary supplements on the market today, it’s easy to be confused about whether you need them and which ones you might need. A variety of factors can lead to your decision to give supplements a try, including recommendations from your doctor. Keep reading to learn more about why you may or may not need supplements in your diet and how to try them safely. 

Dietary Supplements: Do you need them?

While it is possible that a healthy, varied diet will provide all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals a person needs, there are several reasons that even health-minded people struggle to get their recommended daily allowance:

  • Due to busy lifestyles, it can be difficult for most people to find the time to fit the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet
  • The cost of healthy fruits and vegetables can deter many people from getting adequate nutrients
  • Availability of fresh foods can also be a challenge for many people living in “food deserts” where grocery stores and supermarkets are few and far between
  • The soil in which many commercial fruits and vegetables are grown no longer offer the same mineral richness as they used to, which can translate to less nutritious crops1

Life stages and special circumstances 

The need for extra support in the form of dietary supplements may change based on lifestyle choices and life stages. For example: 

  • Pregnant or nursing women have an increased need for DHA and folic acid
  • Vegans may struggle to get enough vitamin B12
  • During cold and flu season, it’s common to take zinc, vitamin C, and/or vitamin D for added immune system support
  • As people age, they may need more vitamin D and calcium for bone health, or vitamin B12 to compensate for lower vitamin absorption 
  • People with digestive problems or food allergies or intolerances may need supplements to make up for lost nutrition 
  • Throughout all stages of life, people may struggle with sleep for a variety of reasons, and as a result may look to natural sleep remedies, such as melatonin supplements or lavender oils

Are vitamins and supplements worthy substitutes for fruits and vegetables?

Before you throw out all your broccoli, understand vitamins and supplements should be taken as supplements to a healthy and varied diet. For example, fruits and vegetables contain important nutrients and fiber that dietary supplements do not. For best results, pair a healthy diet with a balanced lifestyle that includes adequate sleep, regular exercise and supplementation as needed.

Are vitamins and supplements safe? 

When you do turn to supplements, be sure to follow the suggested use. Sometimes dietary supplements are most effective when taken with food and many (such as some probiotics) must be stored in cooler temperatures. In some cases, exceeding the recommended dosage can cause side effects. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor about potential interactions with any medications you may be taking.  

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1 Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious? - Scientific American

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