Dietary supplements are a billion dollar industry due to people wanting a convenient way of getting their nutrients. It is tempting to just take a daily dose of any of the vitamin or mineral supplements that line the shelves of drug stores. This way you don’t have to worry about the food you eat and can still feel “healthy”. However, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutritional needs should really be met primarily from nutrient-dense foods. All your needs should ideally be met by eating a wide variety of unprocessed foods. So choose to get your essential vitamins and minerals through food first, then supplement if needed. Supplements should be an addition to food, not in place of it! Whole foods contain real nutrients over synthetic ones that may behave differently in your body. Supplements also don’t require FDA approval, which means you really need to assess the quality of the supplement products before consuming.
Having a healthy eating pattern is important, but there are times when you should consider supplementation. You do need to supplement if you are having nutrient deficiencies, pregnant, ill, have food allergies, or can’t eat enough. Below are some of common nutrients that we are most often deficient in. You can choose to supplement these vitamins, or try to eat more foods that contain these essential nutrients.
We need this vitamin for healthy bones and teeth as well as regulation for our immune system. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s our bodies get this through exposure to UV light. Australia is a country where vitamin D deficiency soars. Even though it is a sunny country, people tend to cover up when they go outside or stay indoors. So if you can get into sunlight- do it! You can also get this vitamin through fortified foods such as salmon, tuna, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. If you choose to supplement this vitamin, choose one with at least 600 IU daily (but talk to your healthcare provider first).
This vitamin is very important for keeping the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. Since this vitamin is mostly found in meat or fish, vegans or vegetarians are often deficient. In this case it is best to get vitamin B12 through fortified foods and supplements. “Nutritional Yeast” is a food product loaded with vitamin B12 that can be sprinkled on salads, pasta, or pizza with its cheesy flavor.
Especially in females or athletes, iron is a very common deficiency. It is an essential element for blood production in your body. Iron is found in fish, red meat, turkey, quinoa, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, spinach, cereals, and broccoli. Plenty of sources are available!