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If you eat a healthy diet then why do you need supplements?

4 min read

If you consume a healthy and balanced diet, plentiful in fresh fruit and vegetables which are full of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants then you may think you don't need supplements.  Shouldn't your healthy diet be sufficient for all your body's needs?

Here are just three of many reasons why our bodies can benefit from supplements to support our healthy eating.

As you age your body needs more nutritional support. 

When we get older our nutritional requirements change as our body changes the way it processes food and needs more nutritional support.  People over 50 may need more of some vitamins and minerals than younger adults do. You may choose to take a supplement to lower your risk of health problems, like osteoporosis or arthritis.

Four of the most common basic vitamin and mineral supplements to take when you are over 50 are:

  • Vitamin B12 -  helps keep your red blood cells and nerves healthy. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products. As people grow older, some have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 naturally found in food. They can choose foods, like fortified cereals, that have this vitamin added or use a B12 supplement.
  • Calcium - works with Vitamin D to keep bones strong at all ages. Bone loss can lead to fractures in both older women and men. Calcium is found in milk and milk products, dark-green leafy vegetables like kale, and foods with calcium added like breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin D - some people’s bodies make enough vitamin D if they are in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes at least twice a week. But, if you are older, you may not be able to get enough vitamin D that way. Try adding oily fish to your diet, and/or use a vitamin D supplement.
  • Vitamin B6 - is needed to form red blood cells. It is found in potatoes and other starchy vegetables, poultry, fish, and organ meats and non-citrus fruits.  Our intake needs of Vitamin B6 increases as we get older.

Fruits and vegetables are not as nutritious as they were

With modern farming techniques and years of knowledge you would be forgiven for thinking that the food we eat would be more nutritious than that which our ancestors ate, but sadly increasing evidence is proving that this is far from the case. The two main reasons for the fruits and vegetables we eat not being as nutritious as they once were are:

  1. Reduced levels in foods due to processing.
  2. Reduced levels due to soil conditions. 

One example from studies carried out in the US  and also the UK Food Standards Agency found that the magnesium content in the foods that we consume is decreasing at an alarming rate.

Between the years 1940 and 1991 the amount of magnesium found in our food decreased by the following: 

  • Vegetables declined by 24%
  • Fruit declined by 17%
  • Meat declined by 15%
  • Cheeses declined by 26%

That is just one mineral example from the many vitamins and minerals which our body needs each day to perform at an optimum level.

Supplements help us ease or counteract specific health conditions

We are all built differently and have unique weaknesses, conditions or stages in life that put additional stresses and strains on our bodies. Certain supplements can help us get through these times until we heal and recover. 

Probiotics for example have been proven to be invaluable during and after taking antibiotics to help balance gut bacteria. Women experiencing peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms can use supplements to help alleviate hot flashes, migraines, insomnia, night sweats and irregular periods.

Other dietary supplements include antioxidants. These are substances capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidisation in our body tissue. Oxidisation is a normal physiological process, it causes the production of free radicals (harmful molecules), the effects of which are combated by our bodies antioxidant defence systems.  Oxidant sources from environmental factors include alcohol, smoking, pollution, sunlight and strenuous exercise. 

Herbal supplements are dietary supplements that come from plants. A few that you may have heard of are gingko biloba, ginseng, echinacea, rosehip and black cohosh. Some of these herbal supplements are very powerful and classified as Traditional Herbal Remedies - they can only be sold with a licence and are heavily regulated.  

Newer herbal supplements include rosehip which has promising evidence showing its application as an anti-inflammatory and natural relief for painful joints and rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric (curcumin) is another which is hugely popular and a powerful antioxidant, again it has a wealth of evidence backing its use as an anti-inflammatory for back pain, for skin health and maintaining normal cholesterol levels.

Research supplements to discover first hand benefits and experiences

A great way to learn about whether a supplement may benefit you and what other people use it for is to read customer reviews.  It is important to make sure that the reviews are independently written and not fabricated but genuine reviews can provide a great insight into some of the wonderful things supplements have done to benefit peoples health.

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A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.
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