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To Supplement?

posted Mar 14, 2012, 10:48 AM by Amanda Bontempo
In the face of overconsumption, overweight and obesity, most Americans do not meet the required amounts of these essential nutrients because we eat less than 60% of the recommended intake of veggies and 50% of fruit. 

It’s easy to believe that as long as you take vitamins you can eat whatever you want. Vegetarians who eat French fries, potato chips and other junky foods do not have healthy diets just because they take a supplement. Do not get sucked into online Vitamin Advisors which try to sell you a cluster of pills and powders you "should" have been taking for the past 5 years.  Nutrition and health cannot fully be evaluated by vitamins and minerals alone without considering other physiologically active components of your diet.

Essential nutrients are required for normal body functioning and must be obtained through food. These bio-active molecules include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, water, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

While there may be benefits to using certain dietary supplements, it’s important to note that supplements are not rigorously vetted the way pharmaceuticals are. It might seem crazy but manufacturers are not required to show effectiveness, safety or quality prior to marketing. In fact, an overwhelming number of supplements have not even been studied scientifically.

This is a little scary considering that most Americans view supplements as innocuous or even benevolent but beware, "natural" is not synonymous with safe.  Common problems include substantial variation in the quality and the quantity of the active ingredient (even within the same brand); contamination; improperly labeled products; and lack of quality ingredients. Crazy, right?

The basic premise of a healthy diet is that nutrient needs are met with high fiber, whole, unprocessed foods, primarily vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds with limited added fats and limited added sugars.  Supplements should not replace whole foods because in addition to calories, protein and fat, food provides antioxidants and phytochemicals, some of which haven't even been identified yet.

With over 200 phytochemicals found in fruits and veggies, studies are continually published indicating their role in health promotion and disease prevention.  Most are biologically active when they remain a component of a whole food because they work synergistically with other molecules. When they're isolated as a as a pill or powder, they are removed from the natural framework by which they prove powerfulWhole foods are always the best choice. Supplements from reputable manufacturers may be chosen to complement rather than replace whole foods. I most commonly recommend a multivitamin, omega-3 fish oil containing EPA & DHA, vitamin D3 and calcium citrate*.

*Discuss changes in your supplement  regimen with a Registered Dietitian or your primary care physician.