Supplements vs. Whole Foods

The advent of supplements have made it possible for many people to get the nutrients they may be lacking. This has been good on a whole, but the tide of thinking when it comes to nutrition seems to be switched towards the thought that supplements are all you need or that they are a good replacement for quality food instead of having a balanced diet.

Low iron? Take a supplement.

Need calcium? Take a supplement.

There are even multivitamins which deliver many nutrients we may be missing at once. Sounds perfect right?

In a way yes. In another, not so much.

See these supplements that are so readily available to us as quickly as we can visit a drugstore seem to have given a false sense of security to mainly the healthy individuals who take them thinking they are doing a world of good for their bodies. 

Our bodies were made to absorb all we need from what we eat and the form that is provided in a supplement is not actually very easily absorbed and properly used in our bodies (especially in pill form). Not knowing this, many people don’t eat the quality or quantity of quality food they should and rely on the supplement to get the nutrients they need. In reality, if you eat a wide variety of food from all food groups and are generally healthy, you probably would not need to spend any money on a supplement. Even if you were to visit the doctor and find that you have low…anything, generally you are more likely to be told to eat more of something rather than go find a supplement. Unless of course your levels are significantly low.

So who benefits from supplements then?

  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant (folic acid and prenatal vitamins)
  • Those with medical conditions which affect their absorption of nutrients
  • Vegans or vegetarians who may have limited variety
  • Anyone with a reduced caloric intake (>1600 calories a day) or those who “don’t eat well” for whatever reason.

These are just some of the people who would actually benefit from taking a supplement. If you’re thinking you need to take a supplement, it’s probably best to visit your doctor or a dietitian if you can and get advice directly from someone who is familiar with your health history to learn what supplement if any can be of benefit to you.

If you do choose to take a supplement regardless, be sure to look out for the following:

check the expiration date

try to steer clear of megadoses (>100% of daily recommended value for said vitamin)

check up on supplement safety alerts

Of course most of the time it doesn’t hurt to take a supplement or two, but it should be noted that we should always try and rely on good eating habits and healthy lifestyle as a way to make sure we are healthy instead of depending too much on other methods which might be less natural.

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