The truth is you don’t need supplements – that is, if you’ve always eaten a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods. If your diet meets all your nutrient needs and you’re perfectly healthy, you don’t need supplements. But the odds are that despite your best efforts, your diet still falls short or maybe years of insufficient nutrition have left you with health concerns that require added support from beyond your diet. Supplements can help to maintain nutrition, cover nutritional gaps, prevent costly health issues down the road, and help optimize well-being. Keep reading to learn more about the role of supplements in the modern diet.
Supplements Help When Nutrition Absorption Is Decreased
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, many adults become less active as they age which reduces their caloric needs, but not their nutrient needs (1). This means that inactivity in older adults typically causes them to eat less and therefore they consume fewer nutrients. Unfortunately, this effect can snowball as poor nutrition increases inactivity which in turn decreases nutrition and can lead to physical deterioration. Additionally, health conditions and decreased nutrient absorption can further contribute to a decline in health. For these reasons, supplements can be beneficial for ensuring sufficient nutrition.
Supplements Cover Nutritional Gaps
With busy schedules, convenience-driven food choices, and specific dietary preferences, nutritional imbalances are very prevalent in our society. Whether you follow a particular diet plan or have limited access to diverse, nutrient-rich foods, supplements can be a convenient way to fill the nutritional voids created by lifestyle choices. For example, a multi-vitamin supplement can be beneficial for many individuals whose diets fall short. Similarly, some diets do not contain sufficient Omega-3 to protect heart and brain health as well reduce inflammation so a supplement can come in handy.
Supplements Help Prevent Costly Health Problems
While it’s true that a well-balanced diet is the foundation of good health, the proactive use of supplements can contribute significantly to preventing potential health issues and avoiding the associated financial burdens. For example, taking a supplement for joint health in some cases may help to improve joint function or delay the progression of joint damage and thereby help to reduce the need for surgery. Alternatively, taking a supplement for H. pylori infection or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may help to prevent the development of ulcers. The bottom line is that actively addressing nutritional needs through supplements can contribute to a healthier, more resilient body, potentially mitigating the need for extensive healthcare spending in the future.
Supplements Optimize Well-Being
Well-being is a state of physical, mental, and emotional health that is influenced by many factors, such as diet, lifestyle, environment, and genetics. A standard diet may not provide enough of certain nutrients that are essential for well-being. By providing adequate amounts of nutrients that may be lacking or insufficient in a diet, supplements can optimize well-being in ways that a standard diet wouldn’t. For example, even if you eat a healthy diet, stress can still decrease your well-being by interfering with your body’s normal functioning and causing various symptoms such as digestive upset, difficulty sleeping, concentration issues, anxiety, and even increased blood pressure. Supplements can be effective for relieving anxiety or specifically targeting specific health concerns that arise despite a healthy diet.
Alternatively, some supplements provide larger dosages of some compounds that are either found in diets in small dosages or even not all. For example, Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that can be found in seafoods such as salmon, shrimp, and lobster as well as in a specific type of microalgae. Astaxanthin functions as a powerful antioxidant and has been observed to benefit post-workout recovery and the health of the eyes, skin, heart, brain, and gut. Without sufficient amounts of Astaxanthin in one’s diet, individuals could miss out on the protection that this antioxidant provides against UV damage from sunlight or any of Astaxanthin’s other benefits (2).
Supplements are products that contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other substances that may have some health benefits or effects on the body. By providing nutrients that are lacking in the diet or by reducing inflammation and pain, supplements can help prevent or treat certain conditions, such as anemia, osteoporosis, or arthritis. Supplements may also help improve the immune system, mood, or cognitive function, which can enhance quality of life and may reduce the need for medical care. At the end of the day, supplements should not be a replacement for healthy living, but can be beneficial when combined with a healthy lifestyle and used under the guidance of a qualified health professional.
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