Are You Taking the Right Supplements?
70% of Americans take some form of dietary supplement each day, but many people have no idea whether they are taking the right supplements, or the right doses of those supplements.
Dietary supplements are intended to supplement your diet and provide nutrients that may be missing or insufficient in your daily diet. Their benefits are dependent on the specific supplement and its ingredients tied to your unique needs, symptoms and health goals.
First, it’s important to understand the benefits of supplements in combination with a healthy diet.
- Meeting nutrient needs: Supplements help fill in nutritional gaps and achieve daily recommended intakes of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
- Nutritional support: They can support specific health conditions or stages of life, such as prenatal vitamins for pregnant women or calcium and vitamin D for bone health as you age.
- Overall well-being: Certain supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids or herbal extracts, are believed to support general health, although scientific evidence for some is limited.
- Convenience: Dietary supplements offer a convenient way to obtain certain nutrients, especially if you have dietary restrictions, aversions or limited access to nutrient-rich foods.
The ultimate goal is to determine which ingredients you should focus on when considering supplements for your body’s nutrient gaps. If your diet is limited in food sources that provide key nutrients, such as B12 in animal products, then supplementing is a good idea. But, there are also nutrients important for everyone, therefore it's important to understand which short list of ingredients you need to include in an effective supplement plan.
This list of common nutrients can be difficult to obtain solely from food sources and are therefore often found in dietary supplements.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fats, specifically EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are primarily found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. If you don’t eat enough fatty fish Omega 3 is an important supplement as it supports brain function, heart health, and inflammation reduction.
2. Vitamin D: While our bodies can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, many people have low levels due to limited sun exposure or living in areas with minimal sunlight. Vitamin D supplements are important for maintaining bone health, immune function, and reducing the risk of certain diseases. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include muscle weakness, bone pain, joint pain and even mood changes.
3. Vitamin B12: This essential vitamin is mostly found in animal foods like meat, eggs, and dairy products. People who follow a plant-based diet or those with limited absorption capacity may require B12 supplements to prevent deficiency, which can lead to anemia and neurological issues.
4. Iron: Although iron can be obtained from various foods such as red meat, poultry and legumes, some people struggle to meet their iron needs. Iron supplements are important for preventing iron deficiency anemia and maintaining healthy blood cell production.
5. Calcium: Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium. However, if you are lactose intolerant, vegan, or have dietary restrictions you may need calcium supplements to support bone health, muscle function, and nerve transmission.
The key to figuring out what supplements are right for you is to know with some certainty what you actually need and how much.
For example, chronic vitamin D deficiency leads to a decline in calcium and phosphorus absorption by your intestines and leads to low calcium levels in your blood. Calcium’s critical role not just in bone health, but also in functions like muscle contraction may explain symptoms you experience but can’t figure out why.
Ahara’s simple blood spot test tells you exactly what dose of vitamin D you should be taking and coupled with your personalized nutrition report, you will know your body’s dose to maintain healthy levels of both vitamin D and omega-3s.
Understanding what ingredients you can get from food and which ones you can’t is the first step to educating yourself on key nutrients for your health, and building a food and supplement plan that not only fits your lifestyle but focuses on health priorities.