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A recent survey shows that Americans spend approximately $30 billion per year on dietary supplements, and 45 percent of supplement users do so “to improve overall health.”1 While improving your health is always an excellent goal, it turns out you may not need to spend your hard-earned money to get the benefits of many common supplements. Making smart food choices every day and including all five food groups in your diet is just as effective as taking supplements, in many cases even better for you!
What is a dietary supplement?
Dietary supplements include any product taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. These ingredients may include macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, and hormones.2
Do I need dietary supplements?
Maybe not! Some dietary supplements have been shown to be beneficial to overall health, such as various multi-vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids3, but almost all of the substances sought in supplement form are found in nature, i.e., the food and beverages you consume on a regular basis. Not only are food and beverages typically less expensive than supplements, they also come packaged in a form that tastes good! Below are some examples of components people commonly seek out in dietary supplements to improve their health. Included in the list are foods and beverages that also contain the components:
Things to consider
If you are taking a dietary supplement or are thinking about starting, here are a few things to consider:
Supplementation may be necessary if you have a specific nutritional deficiency. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if a vitamin or mineral supplement is right for you. When it comes down to it, a diet consisting of five to six small meals per day with a variety of foods, preferably fresh and unprocessed (in their natural state), contains the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The quality sources of protein (which are made up of amino acids), complex carbohydrates (the body’s primary fuel source), and fat (focus on the healthy fats) will give your body what it needs for energy, tissue repair, healthy skin and hair, anti-oxidants for disease prevention, and weight control.
Check out the following resources to determine the safety and/or efficacy of the supplement you are taking or considering taking:
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