Eating a balanced diet may seem simple enough, but with the hustle and bustle of commuting to work, staying on top of your social life, and keeping up with your to-do list, getting in your three square home-cooked meals a day (plus healthy snacks) can seem like a far-off dream.
In theory, we should be able to obtain all of the nutrients we need including macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fat), vitamins, minerals, energy (calories) from the food we eat if we follow food guidelines.1 However, even if everyone were aware of what they need to be eating every day, for most people, achieving balanced meals for every meal (or at least most meals) is unrealistic given limitations of time and finances. But, with the sacrifice of balanced meals comes the consequence of gaps between your nutritional needs. That is where supplements can come into play to help you meet your health goals and needs.
What Are Supplements?
According to the Dietitians of Canada, “supplements are tablets, pills capsules or beverages that one may add to the diet to get more vitamins, minerals or other nutrients.”2 Other nutrients can include botanical extracts and phytonutrients that aren’t necessarily found on nutritional labels, but that have been found to provide some benefit.
Supplements can be a support for people who know that they are missing out on some key elements in their diet, or if they want an extra boost to take advantage of the benefits of higher doses of some nutrients and plant components.
Who Can Benefit from Taking Supplements?
There are some people who, due to their lifestyle, physiological conditions, and personal goals, can benefit from taking supplements of different kinds.
People who can benefit from taking supplements include:
- People who have heightened nutritional needs, like teenagers, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding
- People whose work or hobbies require them to have a higher intake of certain nutritional components (like weightlifters and athletes may need more protein3 or B vitamins4)
- As a preventative measure for people who want to take steps to lower their risk of certain diseases potentially
- People who have specific food likes and dislikes
- People with allergies or food intolerances
- Anyone worried about not meeting their nutritional needs due to eating habits or dietary restrictions
- People who want to improve their mental, emotional, or physiological health naturally with vitamins, minerals, botanicals and herbs, and other components
Many people who take supplements fall into the last category. They may be fine in their overall health, but think that there are certain aspects of the way they feel or their future health outlook can be improved potentially.
One of the ways to boost feelings of wellness is by taking supplements that contain research-backed herbal extracts or botanicals that have been shown to potentially boost your energy (like rhodiola5), enhance your body’s ability to cope with stress (like Ashwagandha6), and improve the appearance of your hair or skin (like rose extract7).
A Note About Supplements
For most people, it is generally safe to take supplements in the recommended doses.
However, please keep in mind that before beginning any supplement regimen, you should consult with your physician. Even though supplements are mostly available over the counter, they can have a powerful effect on your health. In some cases, the effects can negatively interact with medicines you are taking or conditions you might have.
For this reason, it is important to talk with your doctor about any supplements you are thinking of taking.
It can be challenging to get all of the nutrients we should be eating in the recommended amounts every day. It required careful planning and time investment that most people are not able to invest. While learning to improve eating habits is essential, supplements can help you to fill gaps in your nutrition, or boost your intake of certain components that can help to improve your overall well-being and help you achieve personal wellness goals.
Food guide snapshot. (2019, July 16). Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/food-guide-snapshot/
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Supplements.aspx
Tarnopolsky, M. (2004). Protein requirements for endurance athletes. Nutrition,20(7-8), 662-668. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.008
Woolf, K., & Manore, M. M. (2006). B-Vitamins and Exercise: Does Exercise Alter Requirements? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,16(5), 453-484. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.16.5.453
Abidov, M., Crendal, F., Grachev, S., Seifulla, R., & Ziegenfuss, T. (2003). Effect of Extracts from Rhodiola Rosea and Rhodiola Crenulata (Crassulaceae) Roots on ATP Content in Mitochondria of Skeletal Muscles. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine,136(6), 585-587. doi:10.1023/b:bebm.0000020211.24779.15
Singh, N., Bhalla, M., Jager, P. D., & Gilca, M. (2011). An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines,8(5S). doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5ss.9
Imokawa, G. (2009). Mechanism of UVB-Induced Wrinkling of the Skin: Paracrine Cytokine Linkage between Keratinocytes and Fibroblasts Leading to the Stimulation of Elastase. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings,14(1), 36-43. doi:10.1038/jidsymp.2009.11