STILLWATER, Okla. – Strolling the pharmacy aisle of the local grocery store exposes consumers to a wide variety of vitamin and mineral supplements. People have been told that such products are the key to good health, haven’t they? Not necessarily.
One thing consumers need to be aware of is that they are called dietary supplements for a reason, said Janice Hermann, a nutritional specialist in enhancements at Oklahoma State University.
“The path to good health begins with a healthy selection of foods. Dietary supplements are meant as they sound – they complement the food you eat, ”said Hermann. “These pills and capsules should never be the main source of vitamins and minerals. Ditch the notion that you can have chips and soda at any meal as long as you are taking supplements. Making wise food choices is the best way to get your vitamins and minerals. “
Fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, low-fat proteins and dairy products as well as healthy fats form the basis of a healthy nutrition plan.
Hermann said consumers may wonder why, if supplements contain the same vitamins and minerals as foods, why should broccoli, blueberries, and other healthy options be included in their diet.
“The foods you eat have so much more nutritional value than supplements,” she said. “Healthy foods contain more than one specific vitamin or mineral found in dietary supplements. You simply cannot reproduce the multiple benefits and nutrients. “
Other advantages of food over dietary supplements are:
Higher nutritional value.
Protective factors such as phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber.
Hermann said she understood why some people might use nutritional supplements as a shortcut to better health.
“People are busy and the schedules are full. A lot of people just don’t have the time to cook from scratch like they used to, ”she said. “As a result, people are eating more on the run and consuming more processed, convenient foods. For these people, supplements can be beneficial. However, those who choose healthy foods are unlikely to need additional vitamins and minerals. “
Pregnant women or women thinking of becoming pregnant should consider certain dietary supplements such as folic acid. Adults, especially women who do not get enough calcium in their normal diet, may also benefit from a calcium supplement. Vitamin B12 is good for older adults who are not getting enough protein.
“It’s a good idea to talk to your GP about your specific needs when it comes to supplementing your diet,” said Hermann. “Supplementing your normal diet as needed is the ultimate purpose for supplements. They cannot replace a healthy diet. “
Barbara Brown, Food Specialist at OSU Extension, offers many healthy recipes in the cooking segments of the popular Oklahoma Gardening program. OSU Extension also provides health, nutrition, and wellness information on its website.