Today we’ll talk about a subject that tends to lead to very strong and much divided opinion: supplements. When it comes to supplementation, people tend to fall into one of two categories: a) they’re the answer to all of life’s health issues or, b) they’re a complete waste of money and a total scam. As is the case in many debates, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Hopefully this article can shed some light on the subject.

The word supplement has been defined as something that “adds to or makes complete”. Therefore nutritional and sports supplementation should be in addition to your regular food or should complete your nutrition if there is something lacking.

And that’s a very important point that’s lost on many people, because they treat their supplements as their main source of nutrition and their regular meals as top-ups to their supplements! A situation like this is likely to lead to all types of health and digestion issues that will reduce any benefits that the supplements may have been offering in the first place.

In order to survive and thrive, your body needs macronutrients in the form of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat. If these nutrients are of a sufficient quantity, quality and proportion you should get all of the vitamins and minerals that your body requires.

But, here lies the problem: while those in the anti-supplement corner will argue that a healthy diet removes all need for supplements, what exactly is a healthy diet?

Most people will guess that it includes lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats, healthy grains and plenty of water. And most people would be right. But unfortunately that’s a little bit too simplistic, because it assumes that all of the above are top quality to begin with, and cooked and prepared under ideal conditions.

A vegetable that’s been pesticide-sprayed, and then transported half-way around the world to sit in a supermarket warehouse for days, before finally hitting your kitchen table, will only have a fraction of the nutrients of an organically grown veg that’s eaten within a couple of hours of being picked!

Therefore, all vegetables are not created equally. Just as important is the method of cooking. In most cases eating raw veg will usually guarantee the highest amount of vitamin and mineral absorption. The best cooking methods would be steaming and boiling. As far as using the microwave goes, you’d probably get more nutrients from eating the shopping bag. So although you might think you’re getting all that you need from your diet, the truth might be very different.

And of course, all of the above assumes that you’re one of the very few people who regularly eat veg, fruit and healthy sources of lean fish and meat.

These days, too many diets are made up of processed foods containing excessive amounts of sugar, salt, hydrogenated fats and ingredients with unpronounceable names.

For this reason I always recommend that my clients make gradual changes in their diet and supplement with a good multi-vitamin to act like an insurance policy. This makes sure they’re getting at least their minimum vitamin and mineral requirements.

Another supplement which I strongly recommend is Omega 3 fish oils. Numerous studies have shown that it has a whole range of health benefits. Some of these include:

  • Reduction of blood triglyceride levels, which are a greater risk factor for heart disease than elevated cholesterol levels.
  • Reduction of inflammation which can be helpful in cases of arthritis.
  • Improved mood and reduction of episodes of depression
  • Reduction of blood pressure.
  • Promotion of body fat burning.

Quality control, or lack of it, has been a problem with some supplements over the years. However it does bring us back to that well used quote “Let the Buyer Beware.” As I have said before, I believe that it is up to each individual to take responsibility for their own health through regular exercise and a healthy diet. And so, if you decide that you want, or need to take supplements, please get as much information as possible about the product beforehand. And remember that supplements are supposed to be an addition to your regular diet and not a replacement.

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