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What Are The Basic Supplements I Should Take To Be Healthy?

Ms. Sarah Farooqi

3 min read

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‘Health’ is a concept that should be taken out of the realm of ‘supplements’ and paired with lifestyle modification instead. Many people opt for supplements in lieu of a healthy diet and this is not an approach that professionals recommend. Read on to find what you need to know about basic supplements:

Why supplements can’t replace diet:

Supplements are only there to supplement your diet, and not be a substitute for healthy food instead. According to practising dietitians from The Biting Truth, Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham, the best form of nutrition is a healthy diet.

They state that the focus should be on ‘wholefoods’ for a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing, and that ‘micronutrient supplementation’ is not the initial recommendation. It must also be remembered that in the form of food, one is consuming the right quantities of micro- and macro-nutrients and they are combined with complementary nutrients for maximum benefit.

These days there are so many gimmicky supplements in the market that the real deal is hard to find. Moreover, social media is full of countless supplements that are endorsed by influencers and bloggers who don’t even use the products in question and push them on an unsuspecting public for paid promotions. Many supplements are marketed as ‘magic bullets’, yet they fail to provide even basic nutrients that are found in food.

A simple example is a piece of fruit that is rich in fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals and many other essential nutrients. The nutrients contained in the latter can never make it into a jar.

Who needs supplements?

An important concept regarding supplements is that they easily are skipped by healthy people who eat nutritionally sound food. However, there are others who can require supplementation at certain stages of their lives. Examples of such people include:

Pregnant women: pregnant women require supplementation with nutrients such as folic acid in the first trimester—not only for their own well-being but also for preventing the risk of neural tube defects in babies. The necessary period is one month prior to conception and three months after conception.

Mothers whose diet is defective in folic acid can have serious consequences for their babies down the lane. Thus, pregnant women and women in reproductive age groups should eat folate-rich food and take supplements if needed.

Elderly people: elderly people could be eating poorly or have less absorption of nutrients from their diet. They could benefit from certain nutritional supplements for better health. A good example of supplements for the elderly includes iron, vitamin B12 and calcium.

Vegans: people on a strict vegan diet can have certain deficiencies like vitamin B12. Since vegans don’t eat meat and animal derivatives, they could also benefit from supplementation with iron and calcium.

People with food intolerance: certain food allergies and intolerances, such as lactose intolerance could necessitate supplementation. Calcium must be added to the diet of people suffering from lactose intolerance, as should vitamin D.

Autoimmune diseases: diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or irritable bowel syndrome, could produce nutritional deficiencies down the road. In such people, supplements should be started early after consultation with the healthcare provider to prevent malnutrition.

What should your supplements contain?

Here is a list of micro- and macro-nutrients that your supplements should contain:

Vitamin D: according to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D requirements per day are 600 IU for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and children aged 1-13 years. Older individuals have even higher requirements of 800 IU.

Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption in the body. Bone health and your general wellbeing can be greatly affected by a lack of vitamin D. Bone pain, back pain, hair loss and bone loss, all can be signs that your body is craving for this vitamin. Being in the outdoors also allows for natural absorption of Vitamin D, but most people have a lifestyle that does not fulfil their requirements.

Zinc: people in the extremes of age, as well as those battling lots of stress,  can have zinc deficiency in their body. Important for the support of immunity, and wound healing, zinc helps the body make energy by utilizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

It can be found in seafood such as oysters, and sardines as well as spinach, organ meats and beef. The westernization of diet means that we are not getting enough zinc through our food. A multivitamin that contains about 8-11 mg of zinc daily (NIH) can improve this deficiency.

Iron: the requirement for iron is greater in women of reproductive age group. Typically red meat and green leafy vegetables are enough to provide with daily iron needs, but if needed, supplementation can be done. A supplement with 18 mg iron, in forms like ferrous sulphate, ferric citrate, ferrous gluconate can be taken.

Calcium: just about everyone in Pakistan is suffering from calcium and vitamin D deficiency. Women, in particular, are at higher risk of poor calcium levels in the body that eventually lead to low bone density, and bone pains. The recommended daily intake of calcium should be 1000 mg for adults.

Supplements should be taken after a consult with your healthcare provider, who can guide you in the right direction with regards to your age group and nutritional requirement.

Get professional help to design a healthy menu for yourself and your family; book an appointment with top nutritionists in Multan, Lahore and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Ms. Sarah Farooqi - Author Ms. Sarah Farooqi is a leading Nutritionist/Dietician based in Lahore. She has deep expertise in a number of areas including weight management, obesity, diabetes, gastritis, and hypertension. If you need a consultancy or a diet plan, book an appointment with her through oladoc.com.

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