According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) 1994, a dietary supplement is “any product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that contains one or more of the following ingredients: a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical, an amino acid; a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract or combination of any of these ingredients.”
This wide definition has resulted in the production of an extensive range of dietary supplements, which flood the shelves of pharmacies, supermarkets, and even retail food outlets.
Studies have shown that an aging population worldwide and a health conscious generation have contributed to the popularity of dietary supplements. The dietary supplement industry is estimated to be growing by at least 10 percent each year.
If you’re not already taking dietary supplements and are wondering whether you’re missing out on their nutritional benefits, there’s some good news for you.
Do You Need Dietary Supplements?
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, dietary supplements are not meant to be a substitute for whole foods. This is because no matter how good the nutritional content of dietary supplements is, it can’t replicate the nutritional goodness of whole foods, especially the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables.
So, if you’re consuming a balanced diet of whole foods, there’s no real need for dietary supplements. If for some reason you can’t consume whole foods, or a certain condition is preventing you from doing so, you may want to consider dietary supplements upon the advice of a qualified health practitioner.
To give you a clearer picture, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of whole foods so that you could make an informed decision on whether to consume dietary supplements.
Benefits of Whole Foods
If you have not been taking whole foods seriously because you think dietary supplements could provide the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs, you may want to relook the benefits of whole foods.
First, whole foods contain micronutrients that can’t easily be replicated in dietary supplements. Second, whole foods contain fiber, which helps prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart ailments, not to mention constipation. Third, whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain phytochemicals, which reduce the risk of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart ailments. Some are also powerful antioxidants, which prevent cell and tissue damage.
Dietary Supplements Benefits
Despite the benefits of whole foods over dietary supplements, these nutritional supplements are not without their benefits. Let’s look at the situations where dietary supplements would be helpful.
If you’re a person who doesn’t eat well, due to a lack of appetite or because of a stomach ailment, dietary supplements would be ideal to make up for the lack of nutrients, which are supposed to be consumed in whole foods. Generally, if you’re consuming less than 1600 calories a day, you could also do with dietary supplements.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may not be observing a balanced diet, especially when you don’t have alternatives to nutrients provided by non-vegetarian foods. In this instance, a dietary supplement would be useful.
Other instances in which you would need dietary supplements are if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. This also applies for women who experience excessive bleeding during the menstruation period or women in the postmenopausal stage.
Finally, if you have a medical condition that prevents you from consuming whole foods, dietary supplements would be useful. This includes those who have undergone digestive tract surgery and are unable to digest whole foods properly.
If you fall into any of the above categories, consider consulting a registered health practitioner to learn of the benefits of dietary supplements that could contribute to your well-being.
Background information on dietary supplements gleaned from A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements by Shawn Talbott.
Dietary supplements compared with whole foods -https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/supplements/NU00198