Nutrients keep you in top shape and good health. Not having enough of them can cause an array of diseases. What’s more, you may feel weak, tired and lethargic if you lack them. The best advice to have enough of everything that your body requires is to eat a healthy, balanced diet with the right quantities of vitamins and minerals. But even when you follow this advice and eat right, you may still be deficient.

The only alternative in such a situation is to cover up these dietary gaps with a nutritional supplement. But even while you are considering a supplement, you may not be sure about it. Despite the apprehensions, you must understand that taking the right supplements in the right doses can make all the difference to your health. Let us know more about supplements and some good reasons to switch to them.

Understanding supplements: The secret to good health! 

Essentially, a supplement refers to something which enhances or completes another thing when added to it. When it comes to defining nutritional supplements, these are the extra vitamins and minerals (not from natural food sources) that you can take to enhance your health. Simply speaking, these are meant to cover up the lack of nutrients caused by not eating enough or not eating right.

The popularity of supplements can be judged from the fact that you can see them everywhere, from supermarket shelves to drug stores and online websites. You will probably have neighbors, friends, and colleagues vouching for the myriad benefits they received from one or more of them. And your doctor may recommend them to you as well. Still, you should have justified reasons to start taking them when you think that you are eating well enough.

How important are supplements?

Your body requires a whole range of vitamins and minerals to function properly. While there are some it can synthesize at its own, others come only from dietary sources. For example, you need to eat carrots if you want vitamin A or citrus fruits if you want to increase the vitamin C intake. Similarly, dairy products offer a hefty supply of calcium while fish oil yields high doses of omega-3 fatty acids. Beyond the nutrients that come from food sources, you can get vitamin D from sunlight.

While you may get plenty of the requisite nutrients by eating the right kinds of foods or sitting in the sunlight, they may not always be enough. Some people may have unique nutritional requirements that cannot be fulfilled by what comes from food. When it comes to compensating for the resultant gaps, supplements emerge as the key. Hence, you cannot ignore their significance at all if you want to remain in the best health.

What are the various types and forms of supplements in the market?

The supplement market is a huge one and you can find a wide range from diverse brands out there. Basically, supplements include minerals, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, herbals and botanicals which are meant to make up for the dietary deficiencies. Further, they come in diverse forms as well. You can find traditional tablets and capsules while powders and drinks are equally popular. You may even try energy bars because these are delicious and easy to consume.

If you want a form that delivers the best results while not entering your digestive system, consider switching to supplement patches instead of edible forms. The best thing about this form of administration is that the supplement enters your body through the skin, which maximizes bioavailability. There are no fillers and calories, so you need not worry about unprecedented weight gain. The choice of the supplemental form depends on individual needs and preferences, while your doctor can also suggest the one that works for you.

Who needs nutritional supplements?

Now is the key question that helps you decide whether you require a dose of nutritional supplements every day. Primarily, anyone suffering from nutrient deficiencies should start taking supplements to make up for them. Even if you are taking a balanced diet, you may still not be able to reach the recommended value. In such a case, taking a supplement does not remain a choice. Besides deficiencies, here are some other reasons why you should start taking a supplement sooner rather than later:

• Age is one reason why you may require a supplement to meet your unique requirements. For example, children of growing age require an extra dose of nutrients to match their physical needs. Similarly, older adults are at high risk of nutritional deficiencies and related health issues (such as weakness and bone loss). So taking the right supplement is the best way to fulfill their special requirements.

• Young infants who are breastfed also need supplements of vitamin D because they cannot get enough of it from breastmilk. Supplementation is also recommended for adolescent girls and menopausal women because their nutritional requirements increase during these phases.

• Pregnant women and those planning pregnancy are also candidates for nutritional supplementation. This is the time when you have to feed for two and prepare your body for the rigors of childbearing as well. Folate is a key nutrient that is needed during pregnancy because it prevents certain birth defects. Your doctor may also recommend iron supplements if you are deficient in iron during pregnancy or while planning conception.

• Some individuals have limited dietary choices because of food allergies. This may lead to deficiencies that you cannot cover with proper diet and supplementation remains the only option in such a case.

• Similarly, vegans and vegetarians tend to be deprived of nutrients such as vitamin B12. Since they cannot switch to non-vegetarian food sources, taking a supplement is the best bet.

• If you are consuming less than 1600 calories in a day, you should start taking supplements. Low-calorie intake could be due to loss of appetite-related with drugs and alcohol abuse.

• Another group that requires supplementation is the people suffering from certain health conditions. Those taking certain medications may also need it because these can change the way the body uses up the nutrients.

What are the precautions you should take with supplementation?

Without any doubt, supplements can bring extensive benefits by addressing dietary deficiencies and nutritional gaps. Still, you should take some precautions while consuming them. First things first, it is always wise to consult your doctor before starting a supplement. This is all the more important for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and people suffering from specific health conditions. They can best assess whether you need them in the first place, the kind of nutrient that you require and the type of supplement that you should start taking.

Secondly, you should take only the products that are certified by a recognized authority to verify their safety. Taking the right dosage is equally important from the safety perspective. Be sure to read the product labels and check the active ingredients as well as expiry dates before taking any supplement product. Remember that the product will benefit you only if you take the right one in the right dosage.

Take supplements only as directed on the labels or suggested by the doctor. The right mode of administration makes all the difference to the absorption and efficacy of the supplement. Also, it may interfere with some of the regular medications and you should be careful if you take them. After all, the purpose of a supplement is to enhance your health and doing everything right ensures that it does what it is meant to do.