Demystifying Dietary Supplements: Do you need to supplement?
- May 15, 2019
Dietary supplements is a broad term that includes macronutrient supplements (protein, carbohydrates, fat), vitamins and minerals and plant extracts.
Let’s take a further look at dietary supplements and how to determine if we need them.
Do you need supplements?
As the name suggests, supplements help complement our diet with additional nutrients when required. They are not a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet which should always be a priority. Supplements are not for everyone; it depends on individual need.
A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, adequate protein, and healthy fats should normally provide all the nutrients needed for good health. However, hectic work schedules, erratic meal timings, an increased access to processed foods and specific dietary restrictions may limit the nutrients available through one’s diet.
Major factors determining the need to supplement –
Understanding how much to take –
Optimum intake is usually between AI and TUL. For example, vitamin D RDA: 400 IU, AI: 600 IU, TUL: 4,000 IU and toxicity: beyond 50,000 IU per day. So optimum intake would be between 600 and 4,000 IU per day depending on our vitamin D levels and sun exposure. Toxicity beyond 50,000 IU can lead to many illnesses including hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia.
Keep in mind that high dose nutrients are used for certain diseases under medical guidance. Additionally, when using nutritional supplements, it’s important to carefully read labels including those of enriched foods to avoid taking multiple doses of the same nutrient. Another key point to know is that RDA and AI are generally established for nutrients that are essential to good health (vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and may not be established for antioxidants and botanical extracts. However, TUL levels are generally established for all nutrients approved for use in dietary supplements and its best to supplement under this level unless under medical guidance.
The verdict: Eat a balanced healthy diet, and learn more about your nutrient needs which will be specific to your lifestyle and goals. Only supplement when required!
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