What you need to know about dietary supplements

Proper nutrition is an essential step to optimal overall health, but what if you’re not getting all the nutrients you need in your diet? You’re not alone — most people don’t. That’s why dietary supplements are so important.

Why Use Supplements?

While you can’t replace a healthy diet or lifestyle with dietary supplements, they can help provide essential nutrients that your diet might be lacking. Very few people eat as many fruits and vegetables as they should or get the adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, fiber, protein and other nutrients that their bodies need. Supplements can help fill in these voids. They can also boost your immune system and protect you from colds, flu and even cancer.

Which Supplements Should I Be Taking?

But which supplements should you be taking? I generally make supplement recommendations based on your individual age, sex, diet, lifestyle, medical conditions and personal health goals. However, there are several supplements that I frequently recommend for many people.

Calcium. Calcium is important for bone protection, especially for women, but many women don’t get enough calcium in their diets. Non-dairy milk alternatives, such as soy, almond or rice milk, may not always contain calcium, and even cow’s milk may not have as much of the nutrients as you may expect. The pasteurization process that removes bacteria and other contaminates from milk also destroys about 30% of its calcium content.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D protects you from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and even some forms of cancer, and it can boost your immune system, reducing your risk of colds and flu. This vitamin is also very important for the absorption of calcium in your bones; it helps keep your bones strong and helps to prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis.

Your skin makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but most people don’t get enough sun exposure to produce adequate amounts of this essential vitamin. Too much sun exposure also carries risks of its own, such as increasing your risk of skin cancer. But you can get the vitamin D you need through dietary supplements. Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids). Omega-3s are important for everyone, including children. They can help with brain and heart function, relieve pain, improve depression symptoms and reduce inflammation. Fish oil is also useful for asthma and skin conditions like psoriasis, as well as weight loss. It can also lower your blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol to protect you from stroke and heart disease.

Magnesium. Magnesium has about 300 functions in the human body. It can lower your blood pressure, improve heart function and bone strength, help you sleep, and reduce muscle spasms, leg cramps and headaches. If your magnesium levels aren’t as high as they should be, supplementation can help.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is involved in all the energetic pathways in your cells and is extremely important for your brain and heart. Your levels of CoQ10 decrease as you age and certain medications, such as statins used to lower cholesterol, deplete it, resulting in muscle pain and brain fog. CoQ10 supplementation can replace this depleted coenzyme.

Multivitamins containing B vitamins and antioxidants. B vitamins, such as B6, folic acid and B12, decrease your risk of heart disease, colon and breast cancer, and reduce the risk of birth defects when taken by pregnant women. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E and A, selenium and beta carotene help your body get rid of toxins that accumulate due to stress, aging, pollution and even inadequate sleep, and can reduce your risk of cancer. These essential nutrients are frequently found in quality multivitamins.

Read the full article: Filling in the Gaps in Your Nutrition

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