Dietary Supplements: Your Guide to Health in a Bottle

Should you take dietary supplements?It’s 2020, and health in a bottle is still big business. People still down either a single or multiple supplements daily to make sure their bodies get enough nutrients.

When it comes to dietary supplements, it’s important to make sure you’re not just swallowing the promise of a healthier life. This is going to be a guide on how you can get the most out of your dietary supplements.

A guide to dietary supplements

What is a Supplement?

Vitamins and minerals are organic compounds that are needed to sustain the healthy functioning of a person’s body. The problem with vitamins and minerals is that our bodies either do not produce enough of them or, in some cases, any at all. And while we get a minute amount of various vitamins and minerals from the food that we eat, sometimes, our diet simply does not contain the right balance of foods that provide us with these essential nutrients. This is where dietary supplements come in.

In the US, dietary supplements are regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 and are defined as a product that’s intended to supplement a diet.

According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, in 2017, around 76% of Americans took dietary supplements, and an even higher number showed complete confidence in the safety and regulation of the dietary supplements they use.

The growing popularity of supplementation is echoed by the fact that the global market for dietary supplements is estimated to be worth around $115.06 billion. So, it’s safe to say that the trend of using dietary supplements isn’t going away any time soon.

Know Your Supplements

Once you chose to take a supplement, you need to know which one to take so that you can get the most bang for your buck. There are 13 known vitamins and 66 essential minerals found in dietary supplements, and while taking some supplements will fill the nutritional gap by providing you with the vitamins and minerals that are difficult to get from food sources, others might be unnecessary. The trick is to know the foods you eat and select your supplements accordingly.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for our health. We need vitamins in our daily diet since our bodies aren’t able to synthesize them quickly enough to meet our daily requirements. Vitamins can be classified based on their solubility and can be divided into two types:

  • Water-soluble
  • Fat-soluble

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins include the following:

Vitamin C

Sliced and full oranges. Sliced and full oranges on a wooden surface

Oranges as a source of vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues. It is also involved in many other functions. The main sources for Vitamin C are oranges, lemon juice, Brussels sprouts, grapefruits, and strawberries.

Daily Recommended Dosage:

The daily requirement of Vitamin C is no more than 10 grams per day. This can be divided into two to three doses and should be taken with meals. This is because vitamin C only lasts in the bloodstream for a few hours and needs to be replaced throughout the day. Users are advised to not take Vitamin C supplements before bedtime.

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B boosts energy levels. A bowl of cereal and a spoon on a piece of cloth

Vitamin B food sources

Some of the ‘B’ vitamins are vitamins B2 (Riboflavin), B7 (Biotin), B9 (Folic acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), and B1 (Thiamine). Each of these vitamins is essential for overall body function.

Vitamin B Complex helps boost healthy cell growth, cardiovascular health, digestion, eyesight, muscular tone, and energy levels. While B vitamins can increase the testosterone levels in men after a certain age and build muscle tone, it is especially important for women while they are expecting or during breastfeeding.

Daily Recommended Dosage for Women:

The daily recommended intake of B vitamins for men is – Thiamine: 1.1milligrams, Riboflavin: 1.1mg, Niacin: 14mg, Pantothenic acid: 5mg, Pyridoxine: 1.3mg, B12: 2.4 mcg, Biotin: 30mcg, and folic acid: 400 mcg.

Daily Recommended Dosage for Men:

The daily recommended intake of B vitamins for women is – Thiamine: 1.2mg, Riboflavin: 1.3mg, Niacin: 16mg, Pantothenic acid: 5mg, Pyridoxine: 1.3mg, B12: 2.4 mcg, Biotin: 30 mcg, and folic acid: 400 mcg.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

This means these vitamins are absorbed in the lymph and transported in the blood via carrier proteins, before being stored in fatty tissue and the liver. There are four fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for the human body, which are Vitamin A, D, E, and K. Apart from Vitamin D, most of these vitamins are easy to get from vegetables, eggs, nuts, and fish.

Vitamin A

Carrots are a source of vitamin A. A bunch of carrots on a board

Carrots for vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for our growth and development, along with maintaining the immune system, and for good vision. This is why one of the first symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency is often blurry vision and night blindness. There are two types of vitamin A found in food sources:

  • Preformed Vitamin A – retinol and retinyl esters, found in animal products
  • Provitamin A carotenoids – found in plant foods and fruits

The main sources of vitamin A include carrots, green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, beef, eggs, and cantaloupes.

Daily Recommended Dosage:

The daily recommended dosage for men and women is 700 mcg, which is easy to get while on a whole-food diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D from the sun. A woman standing with her arms outstretched

The sun is a source of vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in only a few foods and helps with the intestinal absorption of calcium, phosphate, and magnesium. The main sources of Vitamin D are seafood, fortified foods, and sunlight (the non-food source).

Daily Recommended Dosage:

The daily recommended dosage of Vitamin D is 10 –20 micrograms if you are exposed to the sun, and higher if you’re not.

Vitamin E

Tomatoes are a source of vitamin E. Tomatoes in a white bowl

Tomatoes for vitamin E

Also known as tocopherol, Vitamin E is vital for the proper functioning of the immune system and for cell protection. Similar to Vitamin A, it is also a powerful antioxidant. The main food sources for vitamin E are green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and almonds.

Daily Recommended Dosage:

The daily recommended dosage of Vitamin E in adults is 15 milligrams.

Vitamin K

Peas are a source of vitamin K. A bunch of peas

Peas for vitamin K

Vitamin K plays a vital role in ensuring that the blood clots to prevent excessive bleeding after an injury. The main food sources for vitamin K are broccoli and other green leafy vegetables, green peas, carrots, and green beans. Trace amounts of vitamin K can also be found in seafood.

Daily Recommended Dosage:

The recommended dose of vitamin K for males and females is 120 micrograms per day.

Minerals

Mineral supplements. A bunch of pills in a row

Pills that are a source of minerals

Also known as dietary minerals, these are chemical elements that come from plants and animal sources. The main task of major minerals is to help maintain a balance of water in our bodies. 

Minerals can be divided into two main categories:

  • Macrominerals
  • Microminerals

Macrominerals

Some of the macrominerals that are essential for the body include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, and salt (sodium chloride). Macrominerals are important for healthy bones. Minerals like potassium, chloride, and sodium help maintain a balance of water in our bodies.

However, having too much of a single macromineral can result in a deficiency in another, which is why it’s best to take supplements that provide the daily recommended mineral requirements for the body.

Microminerals

While present in trace amounts in our bodies, microminerals are responsible for carrying out a diverse set of tasks. Some important microminerals include iron, zinc, copper, chromium, fluoride, iodine, selenium, and manganese.

For instance, iron ferries oxygen around the body, while zinc helps with the clotting of blood, allowing wounds to heal faster, while also helping maintain our immune system. Fluoride is essential for bone health, and copper plays an important role in the formation of several enzymes, one of which is used to metabolize iron and create hemoglobin.

Since microminerals also interact with each other and can sometimes trigger an imbalance, it’s best to use a dietary supplement that gets you the daily requirements of microminerals without causing any problems.

Probiotics

Probiotics in yogurt. Yogurt with some strawberries in a bowl

Probiotics are necessary for the body

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide a number of health benefits by restoring gut flora. The main food sources of probiotics include Greek yogurt, pickles, and kefir. While probiotics are beneficial for our overall health, those with a serious illness or compromised immune system should avoid taking them. If you’re taking a live strain probiotics supplement, it's best to take one first thing in the morning, at least 20 minutes after meals, or just before bedtime.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Seafood is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. A bunch of cod liver oil pills

Omega-3 fatty acids

These are polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA, ALA, and DHA) that are incredibly important for our bodies. While getting them from whole foods such as fatty fish can ensure that you get the recommended amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, those who do not eat seafood should take an omega-3 supplement daily (250–500 mg). 

Conclusion

While it is possible to get a fair amount of crucial vitamins and minerals from natural food sources, making sure you have a regular dietary supplement will ensure your body gets the essential nutrients it needs to function at an optimal level.

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