Food or dietary Supplements are compounds that are intended to be taken orally to supplement your diet.
The leading dietary supplements are vitamins, dietary minerals, vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential fatty acids, probiotics, bodybuilding supplements, and natural products.
- Vitamins are micronutrients that are essential for many processes in the body, including metabolism and immunity. There are two types of vitamins: oil based vitamins and water based vitamins.
- Minerals – Some of the minerals that the body needs for performing many of your body’s functions. Sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, chromium, molybdenum, selenium, and cobalt.
- Proteins are chains of amino acids which perform structural, metabolic, and regulatory functions in the body. People can recover from illnesses and injuries with proteins, and some use them for weight loss.
- Essential fatty acids are a type of fatty acids which the body cannot synthesize. Omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) are essential to humans. Fish oils such as cod liver oil provide these essential fatty acids when taken as supplements.
- Probiotics include the intestine microbiota, which aids in the digestion and the health of the gastrointestinal tract. They lower the risk of constipation or diarrhea while improving immune health.
- Bodybuilding supplements are another type of dietary supplement that aid in bodybuilding, weightlifting, and athletics since they help increase lean muscle mass.
- Natural products including herbs, glucosamine, collagen, and resveratrol are natural products used as dietary supplements in intact sources or extracts.
In the United States, the dietary supplement industry’s overall economic impact in 2016 is $122 billion, and it continues to grow. Much of this growth has been driven by an increase in consumer demand for health and wellness products.
What should I take and how much?
The idea that food is good for you because of the substances it contains and that taking those substances in the form of a supplement can replace deficiencies in the diet is very reductionist.
A reductionist idea is when you describe a complex system as a sum of its part. As an herbalist, understanding the body, food, and herbs as holistic entities is the foundation of my work.
What it means is that I believe that micronutrients, when ingested through the food, have a much better chance of being absorbed and utilized by the body than if they are consumed as separate compounds.
Why is that?
In any living organism, be it your body or the food you eat, the sum is more than its parts. That happens because the different organs and compounds work together in synergy and balance each other.
One of the reasons why pharmaceutical drugs or even natural drugs have so many side effects in comparison to whole plant preparations that herbalists use is because they use only what they discern to be the “active ingredient” in its natural or synthetic form without the other thousands of compounds that are part of the plant. These compounds are essential for the absorption, utilization, and balance of these compounds within the body.
Many of the foods that are now sold in supermarkets are fortified with vitamins and minerals. The reason for that is that many of the foods are processed so they lose their nutritional value. For example, most white flours are fortified with B vitamins to replace those that are lost in the wheat germs processing.
The idea that if you only add more vitamins, minerals, and so on to your daily intake, you will improve your health does not have any solid foundation to it—most people, when they adopt a healthier lifestyle, start by adding supplements to their daily intake. Yet, there is no evidence that it has a dramatic effect on their health and well-being.
One of the reasons we, as a society, are so enamored with supplements is because we hope that we can enjoy good health without making the challenging decisions that accompany a lifestyle change. Yet when you use supplements out of their context, you deprive your body of the roadmap of how to use them.
Another thing to consider is that when you take a supplement as a capsule, pill, or liquid, you do not experience the taste of the substance you ingest. Tastes are a language. They provide the body with the vital information that is necessary for the body to use them.
When are supplements necessary?
Supplements are not a replacement for a whole food nutrient-dense diet, but they have their place for a limited amount of time if you are healing from a dis-ease and your body is depleted.
Food is medicine. There is no way to go around this fact. Only in the modern analytical mind can we perceive our body or nature as the sum of molecules or atoms. Life is much more than the sum of its parts. It’s an energy that comes from weaving all the parts to a greater whole. It is magical and mysterious but also grounded and simple. Eat real food.
In my program Aging With Grace – The Wise Women Way to Holistic Wellness at any Age, I share what and supplements are absolutely essential for most women (including good sources) and how to best use them to optimize their effect.
To get access to the program please click the link below.