Supplements are everywhere…but what exactly are they and why do we need them in our diet? Nutritionist Gabriela Peacock spills the beans
In an ideal world, a healthy and balanced diet would be all we needed for optimum health, but the sad truth is that these days diet alone is not enough. Unless you grow all of your veg in your own garden, and rear a few free-range chickens and cows, the chances are that despite your best intentions, your diet probably is lacking. Fruit and vegetables are no longer as nutritionally dense as they were in the past – due to modern day commercial agriculture techniques, particularly the use of pesticides, soil is up to 80% less nutrient-rich than it used to be. Produce is then often imported, and long travel and storage times contribute to depletion in vitamins and minerals.
Aside from the effects that farming has on the food we eat, our modern busy lifestyles are affecting our nutrition negatively. Rushing around and eating on the go, stress and insufficient chewing of food all contribute to poor digestion, and ultimately nutrient absorption. Exercise is clearly an asset to a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that exercise actually increases your body’s nutrient needs? And with life expectancy increasing as we become more and more health conscious, it is also worth noting that your ability to absorb all the goodness from your food reduces as you age.
So even with the best will in the world, there are plenty of factors that prevent your diet giving you everything you need to keep you at your healthiest - this is where supplements come in. People are finally realising that vitamin supplements are not just for young children or the elderly. One of the main reasons supplements are vital is that prevention is always better than cure! By keeping yourself at optimum health you are doing what you can to protect yourself against illness, deficiencies and unnecessary health care costs. As life expectancy continues to rise, there has never been a better time to really invest in your health and look after your body to the best of your ability, which (due to reasons mentioned above) now means supplementing your best efforts with vitamins, proteins and superfoods.
When it comes to what to take, different supplements will be more relevant to certain people at various stages throughout their lives. For instance, vegans need a good B12 supplement as they can’t get this essential vitamin from their plantbased diet. Those on medication may require a boost as some statins, anti-inflammatories and hormone replacement pills can significantly reduce the body’s ability to store certain nutrients. And whilst diet mat not change over the years, the needs of our body certainly do – the most obvious example being women pre, during and post pregnancy, but men’s bodily needs will vary too throughout their lives.
Of course, supplements are by no means a replacement for a wholesome diet and cannot be expected to counter unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as drinking alcohol or smoking, but they are exactly what they claim to be – a great way of supplementing, to boost and compliment an already healthy lifestyle so that you can feel at your absolute best.
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