A healthy lifestyle includes healthy nutrition that contains whole foods, which are unprocessed or minimally processed foods in as close to their natural, whole state as possible. Your daily food should contain lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes like beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, unrefined whole grains, and lean protein. You can add herbs like cilantro or basil and spices like ginger and turmeric. Processed foods that contain a lot of added sugar and salt should rather be avoided.
Normally, most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need from a varied, balanced diet. However, if your diet is lacking or certain health conditions trigger a nutritional deficiency, dietary supplements can provide you with extra nutrients. Another reason why people take supplements is to support specific physiological functions.
What are Nutritional Supplements?
Nutritional supplements are products that you take orally that are made to supplement your diet. They contain one or more dietary ingredients, including vitamins & minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, tissues from organs or glands, or extracts of these. Food supplements are concentrated sources (tablet, capsule, powder, or liquid) with a nutritional or physiological effect.
The word supplement means “something added, especially to make up for a deficiency”. It’s important to mention that nutritional supplements are never a substitute for a healthful diet, but sometimes they can fill the gaps.
If you are eating healthy meals each day, with a variety of different types of food, it is unlikely that you are deficient in calories or nutrients. But sometimes we are vulnerable to coming up short, due to age, hormone changes, or other factors.
- Restrictive diets. Vegetarian or vegan diets or the diets of people with allergies or food intolerances, may be lacking in certain nutrients.
- Age. People at an advanced age may have trouble chewing or swallowing, or experience a drop in desire to eat adequate meals. Young children may not have developed good eating habits yet.
- Pregnancy. Women of childbearing age may consider a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folate, also called folic acid, which (if taken early in pregnancy) can lower the risk of brain and spinal cord defects in the developing embryo.
- Hormonal changes. Sometimes hormonal imbalances can cause problems. Nutrition is an important pillar of lifestyle interventions that can impact hormonal balance.
- Stress. Prolonged or increased mental or physical stress levels may cause irregular or unhealthy eating habits that may lead to nutritional deficiency.
- Digestive challenges. Some conditions, such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and cystic fibrosis, can interfere with normal digestion. So can gastric bypass, a weight-loss surgery that removes parts of the digestive tract.
- Medications. Some medications or medical treatments could inhibit vitamin absorption or they could deplete your mineral stores.
Some signs of nutritional deficiency
- Fatigue, bone pain, mood changes, muscle aches, and weakness: Vitamin D deficiency may play a role. We need to get enough sunlight for our skin to convert to vitamin D. This may be easier in the summer months, but in winter we could use some extra Vitamine D, especially when we get older. Food that contains Vitamine D: fortified cow’s milk and cereals, soy milk, mushrooms, canned tuna, shrimp, and salmon. The daily recommended intake is 600 IU for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for those 71 and older. A daily 1,000-IU vitamin D supplement provides ample coverage.
- Feeling cold, tired, dizzy, or short of breath. Having headaches more frequently: Low levels of Iron may be the cause. Red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, rely on adequate iron stores. Your specific iron needs are influenced by many factors, including age, sex, and diet. Sometimes pregnancy or heavy menstrual periods can cause a lack of iron. Vegan or plant-based diets can also cause an iron deficit as they provide a lower amount of iron than animal products. And our bodies absorb iron more easily from animal sources. Foods that typically offer a lot of iron: meat, seafood, and plant-based sources that include beans, lentils, grains, spinach, and fortified cereals.
- Fatigue, numbness in hands, legs, and feet, trouble with balance and walking, and memory may suffer: Could be a shortage of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is crucial to healthy nerve signaling and red blood cell production. We become less efficient at absorbing it as we age. But any person can develop vitamin B12 deficiency at any age. Foods that contain Vitamin B12: fish, chicken, milk, yogurt. Vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk of deficiency since plants don’t contain the vitamin. They could take B12-fortified non-dairy almond, soy, or oat milk. Or a B12 supplement. Adults need 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 each day.
- Fatigue, poor oral health, muscle pains and spasms, brain fog, dizziness, numb or tingling fingers, and abnormal heart rhythm: may be Calcium deficiency. Most of us know that calcium keeps bones strong; it also helps control muscle and nerve function and regulate our heartbeat. Women that are menopausal will see their estrogen levels drop, which will diminish their ability to absorb calcium. And those on vegan diets can compound the risk by avoiding dairy products. Most symptoms of calcium deficiency are very subtle, sometimes even hardly noticeable. Calcium-rich foods include cow’s milk, fortified soy or almond milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified cereals, and dark green vegetables like kale and broccoli. Recommended daily amount depends on your age and sex. Most adults need 1,000 mg each day, but women over 50 need 1,200 mg.
- Fatigue: B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and zinc may play a role in energy levels.
- Skin problems: may suggest a deficiency in zinc or B vitamins.
- Brittle nails: may be due to biotin or iron deficiency, while white nail beds may be a sign of selenium deficiency.
- Frequently sick: may be due to vitamin D deficiency.
- Unexplained hair loss: may point to biotin, zinc, or essential fatty acid deficiency.
If someone thinks their consumption of specific vitamins or minerals is either too high or too low, a vitamin and nutrition test can help determine which micronutrients a person is lacking. You can purchase several “at-home micronutrient deficiency test kits” online. These tests indicate your overall nutritional profile and may give you guidance on which supplements are suitable to take.
You could have your at-home test results confirmed with your doctor, who can provide a broader assessment, including a simple blood test, of whether you are nutritionally deficient, and whether adjusting your diet, adding supplements or other adjustments is the best way to address the issue.
In some situations, it is useful for people to take one or more supplements to meet the Daily Values of certain nutrients. The over-the-counter vitamins and minerals can sometimes make you feel overwhelmed. How would you know which ones to choose?
Good News! MoreFun2Run’s owner, Angelique Pascaud, is an official distributor for NeoLife International, a global company that has been a pioneer in whole-food nutrition supplementation since 1958. NeoLife Nutritionals offer the highest quality based on whole foods, with formulas based on nature and backed by science. With over 60 years of proven solutions, you can trust in purity and safety for yourself and your family.