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Understanding Supplements and Dietary Supplementation

Looking after our health and wellbeing includes a healthy diet, regular exercise and getting enough sleep, but often we can turn to supplements to help too.

Looking after our health and wellbeing includes a healthy diet, regular exercise and getting enough sleep, but often we can turn to supplements to help too.

Not only can they help us with a boost in a vitamin that we’re lacking, help us to troubleshoot problems such as joints or bone health but they can also give support through life stages like pregnancy or menopause too.

So whether you’re looking for the best supplements for health or deciding which are the best vitamins to take daily, we’ve explained what supplements are and how they can help you…

What are supplements?

A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement a person's diet by taking a pill, capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid. A supplement can provide nutrients either extracted from food sources, or that are synthetic.

Supplements are products that contain one or more dietary ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, or other substances, intended to supplement the diet. They come in various forms, including pills, capsules, powders, liquids, and softgels. The primary purpose of supplements is to provide nutrients that may be lacking or insufficient in a person's diet.

There are different categories of supplements, which each come with their own benefits for the body:

  • Vitamins and minerals
    These are essential micronutrients that play crucial roles in our body and its biology. This can include vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium and iron as well as many others.
  • Herbal supplements
    These contain extracts from plants or can be plant-based compounds, which can be ideal for those that want to embrace additional benefits associated with these more ‘natural’ choices. Examples of these can include ginseng, echinacea, and turmeric.
  • Amino acids
    These are the building blocks of proteins and vital for our bodies to support muscle growth, our body’s recovery or even to achieve specific health goals.
  • Fatty acids
    Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and usually found in the food we eat before then being absorbed into the blood after digestion. One example of this is omega-3 fatty acids, which comes with benefits for the brain and heart.
  • Protein supplements
    These are nutritional supplements that may help build muscle, repair tissue as well as making enzymes and hormones. Many of us can turn to these to help increase our protein intake for fitness and diet, or to help muscle building or recovery.

It's important to note that while supplements can be helpful, they can’t replace a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle. Before starting any supplement plan, you should speak with your doctor or a health professional first to make sure it’s the right decision for you.

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What is dietary supplementation?

Dietary supplements are substances you might use to add nutrients to your diet or to lower your risk of health problems such as osteoporosis or arthritis. Dietary supplements come in the form of pills, capsules, powders, gel capsules and tablets, extracts, or liquids.

The most common type of dietary supplements are multivitamins, which can often help to deliver a boost of nutrients or vitamins in one tablet that’s taken daily as part of a healthy lifestyle routine.

​​Other popular supplements include vitamin D, vitamin B12, minerals like calcium and iron as well as botanic and herbal products such as echinacea and garlic. There are also options like glucosamine that’s good for joints, probiotics that help digestion as well as fish oils that can have benefits for cognitive development and function.

Why should I take supplements?

The decision to take supplements depends on you as an individual. It can depend on your circumstances, your diet, your lifestyle, your health goals as well as any potential nutritional deficiencies that you might be facing.

If you’re keen to start taking a supplement, then it can be wise to speak with a health professional to determine if there’s an area that you’re lacking or need support and then to discuss what might be the right option for you.

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