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The advantages of food supplements

Author Shona Wilkinson

Supplements simplified

Supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients or herbs that can be taken in addition to a healthy diet for increased nutrient intake. Sometimes they are in their natural food state, or they can be already converted into a more usable form. Supplements come in many forms including vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids, herbs, enzymes and live bacteria. These can be used to ensure intake of important nutrients and other substances where the diet may be lacking.

WHY DO WE NEED SUPPLEMENTATION AND A HEALTHY DIET?

In an ideal world, we’d be able to obtain all the nutrition we need from food. Even if we do eat relatively healthily, it’s hard to consume the optimal level of nutrients our body requires. Supplements provide a concentrated source of nutrients which we can consume in addition to a healthy diet to provide our body with vital substances that may otherwise be lacking.

CAN THE BODY MAKE VITAMINS?

This is another common myth. Although your body makes many of the nutrients it needs to carry out its functions (known as non-essential nutrients), some nutrients can’t be made rapidly enough, or at all, to meet daily needs (these are called essential nutrients). They must be obtained from outside sources such as food or supplements.

Whereas the body can create vitamin D (from sunlight) and vitamin A (from consuming enough orange coloured vegetables) it can’t produce the nutrients; Omega 3 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, Vitamin C and E, as well minerals.

Two forms exist, ‘fat soluble vitamins’ including A, D, E and K and ‘water’ soluble vitamins, including C and B complex vitamins. In addition, your body needs minerals to regulate itself which it can’t produce. There are 16 essential minerals that optimum nutrition requires. Firstly, ‘macro minerals’; sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and sulphur, are needed in larger amounts by the body. Secondly ‘trace minerals’; Iron, Zinc, selenium, copper, fluoride, chromium, molybdenum and manganese are needed in smaller amounts.

Nutrition is the foundation for the creation of new cells and hormones in the body and your body can only use what you give it. Not only are you a result of what you eat but also what you absorb.

It is not always easy to get freshly made organic foods bursting with nutrition. Sometimes we are left with no choice but to consume food with questionable nutrition content such as packaged, ready-made or processed plane food.

5 GREAT ADVANTAGE OF TAKING SUPPLEMENTS:

  1. We're easily able to manipulate our nutrient intake, knowing exactly how much we are taking; however, supplements should obviously not be offered in place of food,
  2. We can use nutrients in isolation for a specific reason which is impossible to do when relying solely on food,
  3. We can take a larger dose of a nutrient without having to eat a meal - some supplements are suitable for taking on an empty stomach,
  4. They are compact, allowing us the flexibility to carry them in our bag rather than the original food source e.g. one dose of Vitamin C, 125mg provides the same amount of Vitamin C as in 5 oranges. Few would want to carry 5 oranges let alone eat them at once,
  5. You can carry supplements through airports and abroad when you may not be able to transport therapeutic foods. Not many countries let you take food across the border. How do we know the quality of the food we may find on the other side? 

FINDING QUALITY

Not all supplements are equal. There is a massive difference in the way they are produced, and the nutrient forms used. Some lower quality supplements may provide nutrients in less absorbable forms which have lower efficacy. Whereas, premium-quality supplements provide nutrients that are most useful to the body and easily absorbed, as well as guaranteeing the nutrient quality at the end of the shelf life.

Maintaining a healthy diet is considered one of the most challenging aspects of travelling. Your body needs to absorb all the nutrients it needs from a combination of nutrition and supplementation.

Sometimes our immune system requires more support than at other times such as when we face severe stress. Supplements containing nutrients such as Vitamin C, D and Zinc contribute to the normal function of the immune system. Certain nutrients can contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue such as B Vitamins, Magnesium and Vitamin C.