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Supplements
vs. whole foods
Supplements aren’t intended to be
a food substitute because they can’t
replicate all of the nutrients and
benefits of whole foods, such as fruits
and vegetables. So depending on
your situation and your eating habits,
dietary supplements may not be worth
the expense.
Whole foods offer three
main benefits over dietary
supplements:
• Greater nutrition.
Whole foods
are complex, containing a variety
of the micronutrients your body
needs - not just one. An orange,
for example, provides vitamin C
plus some beta carotene, calcium
and other nutrients. A vitamin
C supplement lacks these other
micronutrients.
• Essential fiber.
Whole foods, such
as whole grains, fruits, vegetables
and legumes, provide dietary
fiber. Most high-fiber foods are
also packed with other essential
nutrients. Fiber, as part of a healthy
diet, can help prevent certain
diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and
heart disease, and it can also help
manage constipation.
• Protective substances.
Whole
foods contain other substances
important for good health. Fruits
and vegetables, for example, contain
naturally occurring substances called
phytochemicals, which may help
protect you against cancer, heart
disease, diabetes and high blood
pressure. Many are also good sources
of antioxidants — substances that
slow down oxidation, a natural
process that leads to cell and tissue
damage.
Who needs supplements?
If you’re generally healthy and eat a
wide variety of foods, including fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-
fat dairy products, lean meats and fish,
you likely don’t need supplements.
However, the dietary guidelines
recommend supplements - or fortified
foods - in the following situations:
Women who may become pregnant
should get 400 micrograms a day
of folic acid from fortified foods or
supplements, in addition to eating
foods that naturally contain folate.
Women who are pregnant should take
a prenatal vitamin that includes iron or
a separate iron supplement.
Adults age 50 or older should eat foods
fortified with vitamin B-12, such as
fortified cereals, or take a multivitamin
that contains B-12 or a separate B-12
supplement.
Dietary supplements also may
be appropriate if you:
Don’t eat well or consume less than
1,600 calories a day
Are a vegan or a vegetarian who eats a
limited variety of foods
Are a woman who experiences heavy
bleeding during your menstrual period
Have a medical condition that affects
how your body absorbs or uses
nutrients, such as chronic diarrhea,
food allergies, food intolerance or
a disease of the liver, gallbladder,
intestines or pancreas
Have had surgery on your digestive
tract and are not able to digest and
absorb nutrients properly
Talk to your doctor or a dietitian
about which supplements and what
doses might be appropriate for you. Be
sure to ask about possible side effects
and interactions with any medications
you take.
Choosing and using
supplements
If you decide to take a vitamin or
mineral supplement, consider these
factors:
• Check the label. Read labels
carefully.
Product labels can tell
you what the active ingredient or
ingredients are, which nutrients
are included, the serving size -
for example, capsule, packet or
teaspoonful - and the amount of
nutrients in each serving.
• Avoid megadoses.
In general,
choose a multivitamin-mineral
supplement that provides about 100
percent of the Daily Value (DV)
of all the vitamins and minerals,
rather than one which has, for
example, 500 percent of the DV for
one vitamin and only 20 percent of
the DV for another.
• Check expiration dates.
Dietary
supplements can lose potency over
time, especially in hot and humid
climates. If a supplement doesn’t
have an expiration date, don’t buy it.
If your supplements have expired,
discard them.
• Watch what you eat.
Vitamins
and minerals are being added to a
growing number of foods, including
breakfast cereals and beverages.
If you’re also taking supplements,
you may be getting more than you
realize of certain nutrients. Taking
more than you need is expensive
and can raise your risk of side
effects. For example, too much iron
can cause nausea and vomiting and
may damage the liver and other
organs.
Keep up with supplement
safety alerts
The Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) keeps a list of dietary
supplements that are under regulatory
review or that have been reported to
cause adverse effects. If you’re taking
a supplement, it’s a good idea to check
the FDA website periodically for
updates.
H
45
Apr/May 2014