A dietary supplement, also known as food supplement or nutritional supplement, is intended to supplement the diet and provide nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, or amino acids, that may be missing or may not be consumed in sufficient quantities in a person's diet. Some countries define dietary supplements as foods, while in others they are defined as drugs or natural health products.
Many people choose to take supplements, but taking too much or taking them for too long could be harmful. Therefore, it is advisable to speak to your Doctor to find out if you need supplements and for how long. The Department of Health recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency.
You need six essential nutrients in your body: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. These nutrients are needed for your body to function properly, and your diet is the source of them.
Vitamins and minerals are considered micronutrients because they are needed in smaller quantities than the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat).
Micronutrients do not provide calories. When your body does not absorb an adequate amount of any of the micronutrients, diseases can occur.
Whole/Proper Foods versus Supplements
Most supplement package instructs you to take supplements only after eating whole/proper foods (balanced diet).
Whole/Proper food contains a variety of the micronutrients your body needs.
While strawberries for example include vitamin C and other vitamins like vitamins A and B6, potassium, folate and various flavonoids, Vitamin C supplement lacks these other micronutrients.
Whole/Proper foods contain natural dietary fibre which is not present in supplements. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, provide dietary fibre and other essential nutrients which help fight diseases and illnesses like constipation.
Many whole/proper foods are natural sources of antioxidant — which are substances that slow down oxidation, a natural process that leads to cell and tissue damage.
Whole/Proper foods contain other protective substances important for good health. Fruits and vegetables, for example, contain naturally occurring substances called phytochemicals, which may help protect you against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Therefore, supplements are just meant to compliment nutrients from whole foods which are not consumed in sufficient quantities.
Researched and Written by Elizabeth SamCoffie (former Animashaun)
Articlebase, ‘Nutrients found in Strawberries’
Is taken from http://www.articlesbase.com/home-and-family-articles/nutrients-found-in-strawberries-256625.html
NHS Choices, ‘Do I need vitamin supplements?
Is taken from http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1122.aspx
Accessed 30/ 05/2012
NHS Choices, ‘Vitamin and minerals’
Is taken from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/vitamins-minerals.aspx
MedicineNet.com, ‘Vitamins and Supplements’
Is taken from http://www.medicinenet.com/vitamins_and_calcium_supplements/article.htm