Dietary Supplements: Are they necessary?

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A healthy, well-balanced diet is vital for healthy, well-balanced living.  Admittedly, it is often difficult to give our body all of the nutrients it needs on a daily basis.  Life often gets in the way with unhealthy, convenience foods replacing the healthy, whole foods that are the cornerstone of health.  

So, what role do nutrition supplements play in meeting our body’s needs?   Here are a few to consider:

  • Multi-Vitamin & Mineral Supplement – A great place for all women to start is with a standard multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, which is packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, energy-producing B-vitamins, bone-saving Calcium and Vitamin D, and much more.
  • Iron – Low iron levels can be caused by a woman’s menstrual cycle or absorption problems. Iron is typically sold as Ferrous Sulfate and our needs increase in pregnancy and decrease after age 50. Have your iron levels checked to see if you need an iron supplement.
  • Folic Acid – Women of childbearing age need to consume enough folic acid to decrease the risk of birth defects. Recommendations include 400 micrograms prior to pregnancy and 600 micrograms during.
  • Calcium – For healthy bones, women need to consume adequate Calcium. If you are age 19-50, the recommendation is 1,000 milligrams per day. Once we reach age 51, this level increases to 1,200 milligrams.
  • Vitamin D – In order for your body to absorb calcium from food and supplements, Vitamin D is a must, so be sure your Calcium supplement includes this fat-soluble vitamin.  In addition to bone health, Vitamin D has been linked to a reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease. The current recommendation is 600 IUs. There are researchers who believe we would benefit from much higher levels, however, it is important to note that the Tolerable Upper Limit for Vitamin D is currently set at 4,000 IUs.
  • Vitamin B12 – This vitamin is an important consideration for women following strict Vegan diets. Consuming Vitamin B12-fortified foods daily is essential for Vegans to meet their B12 needs. If this is not possible, then a supplement is recommended.
  • Omega-3 – These healthy fats have been linked to lower rates of depression, cardiovascular disease and inflammation, a condition associated with a whole host of diseases. The best food source is fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Thus, Omega-3s also become an important supplement for Vegans to consider. Women who simply don’t enjoy eating fish may also benefit from the addition of Omega-3 supplements (aim for 1,100 milligrams. per day).  

If you decide to add nutrition supplementation to your daily health regimen, it is important to talk with your doctor first. Some supplements may interact with prescribed medications. Remember, taking nutrition supplements does not cancel out the importance of eating a healthy, whole foods diet, free of highly processed foods. An overall healthy lifestyle really is the best way to achieve and maintain good health.  

Source: Julie Husmann, RD, CDE Holland Hospital’s Center for Good Health

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