Food and dietary supplements – do you really need them?


In a perfect world, everybody would eat a balanced diet that provided all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for optimal health. Unfortunately, we do not live in that perfect world, and most people’s diet does not cover all of their nutritional needs. That is the basic reasoning behind dietary supplements. On the other hand, are all the pills we take really necessary? The “food first” approach proposes that the best way to get the nutrients we need, including various minerals and vitamins, is through eating the right foods. The body processes these elements most readily in real food, and the unique combination of compounds in natural food could be better than individual isolated compounds. Unfortunately, even the healthiest eaters can find it a challenge to cover all of their nutritional needs with food alone. Dietary supplements can be a good way to cover the gap and address specific deficiencies.

Vitamin B12

Sometimes people who are 50 years or older, have difficulty in absorbing enough vitamin B12 from their food. This vitamin only occurs naturally in proteins from animal sources, so vegans and vegetarians will also need to get more of it. One way to supplement this is to eat more cereals which have been fortified with B12. You can also take B12 supplements to get the recommended daily amount. Benefits of vitamin B12:
• Improves mental function
• Increases the production of melatonin, thus helping you sleep better at night
• Helps sustain a healthy digestive system
• Essential for hair, nails, and skin


Your body needs iron, and the most readily absorbed type is heme iron, which is found in poultry and lean meat. Non-heme iron is found in spinach, lentils, enriched breads, white beans, and cereals. If you also eat food that provides vitamin C, this can help your body to absorb the iron. The amount needed varies tremendously. Adult women need 18mg of iron per day, pregnant women require 27mg, and adult men only need 8mg per day. Thus pregnant women may have the greatest need for iron supplements.

Folate (folic acid)

This is another supplement which is critical for women of childbearing age. Folic acid is the synthetic form, while folate is the natural form. Either way, this compound helps to prevent infant defects due to neural tube damage. Folate is found naturally in orange juice, peas, beans, and leafy green vegetables like kale, mustard greens, and spinach. Women who could become pregnant should be getting about 400 micrograms a day, while women who are currently pregnant should have about 600 micrograms. If you’re not getting this through your diet, supplements can cover the gap.


Many people take their daily multivitamin just to cover any shortfalls in substances that their diet is not providing. Experts say that this is not a replacement for eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, since good food provides much more for the body than a vitamin pill. However, there is no harm in taking them, and it can help to cover the gaps. The Harvard School of Public Health goes so far as to call a daily multivitamin a nutrition insurance policy.” Your diet will vary day by day, and these supplements can help smooth the variations and cover what you’re missing.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to our diets, and studies suggest that they could help prevent heart disease and cancer. Specialists advise us to include as many vegetables and fruits into our systems as possible, and stay away from carbohydrates from junk food and fizzy drinks. Nonetheless, in some cases we may also need supplements. Lactose-intolerant people can’t eat dairy, which means they have to take their calcium intake from other sources. Food is one source, but it’s not enough.

There have many debates regarding the benefits and side effects of dietary supplements. If you’re not getting enough of a particular vitamin, you can substitute the efficiency with a supplement. However, even if these pills can be bought over the counter, you must consult a doctor prior to taking them. Only a specialist can tell you if your body needs supplementation or not. Even though food supplements are considered safe, they may have adverse effects.

This is the guest post by Jason Phillips and!


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