Last week we debunked some common misconceptions about healthy living. This week, I’d like to delve into some common misconceptions about supplements. Almost everyone I know, including myself, takes some type of supplement. On this journey, I admit falling prey to some advertisements that claimed to have discovered the secret bullet of health. Funny how these ads always include a free sample (shipping cost only), money back guarantee and subscription for endless shipments of future bottles. Can I also admit to never renewing these subscriptions because the claims were false and I rarely saw any difference in my health.
Supplements are not regulated in this country, so it’s very easy for these marketers to make these lofty claims about health benefits. Many people know they don’t live a healthy lifestyle and fall victim to the claims that they can fix that simply by taking a few pills. Think of all the commercials you’ve heard, or ads you seen about this. I’m not a good vegetable and fruit eater, though I’ve made tremendous improvements in this area. Anytime I used to see those “vegetables in a pill or powder”, I thought I found my solution. What I didn’t think about at that time was what happens to all the nutrients when the pill or powder goes through processing.
We have to be educated consumers on this journey because everywhere we turn we encounter somebody selling us something. The number of life coaches out there is quite honestly scary. There are so many companies who are using pyramid marketing schemes and empowering average people, not college educated in nutrition or doctors, to sell products to their friends, family and us. Most of these companies have extensive supplement lines to sell and before you know it you’ve spent hundreds of dollars. Please spend time researching anything you decide to buy and put into your body. Read sites other than those of the coaches selling the stuff, or the manufacturer. Dig deep to uncover the truths of any product and learn more about its true benefit, or risks to your health.
Here are 5 common myths about nutritional supplements*:
1. Myth: Supplements can help prevent or manage conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
Fact: Supplements aren’t intended to treat any specific health issue.
Nutritional supplements are NOT medication. They can fill in nutritional gaps in a well-rounded diet nothing more. There are some daily nutritional needs that are hard to meet through eating food alone. Vitamin D is one example. My doctor told me that it is virtually impossible for most humans to get enough Vitamin D through diet and exposure to sun alone. Therefore, I do take a daily Vitamin D supplement, coupled with Vitamin K to aid its absorption. Proper levels of vitamins in your body can help you feel better, but they are not a replacement for medical monitoring and treatments. Proper monitoring of levels through lab work and blood tests could identify your nutritional gaps and needs for supplementation.
Takeaway: Supplements can be one piece of the puzzle in helping us prevent illness, although exercising and eating right are both more crucial.
2. Myth: Supplements can make up for your diet’s flaws.
Fact: You still need a well-rounded diet.
Supplements can’t replace a healthy diet. People like me try to do this all the time. I am not a great vegetable eater, so getting my daily allotment is a struggle. Taking pills and powder to ease my worry seemed like a good decision. However, when you rely on supplements instead of food you could actually be putting yourself at risk for other harmful effects. For example, improper dosage of vitamins can increase their levels in your body. This increase could cause side effects such as stroke or heart disease. Many of these excess nutrients are stored within your body and not excreted. They can build to and become toxic.
Additionally, most people also don’t take their supplements properly. Most supplements are to be taken with food. When you take a supplement, your stomach acids have to do all the work to dissolve the pill and send nutrients back out to the various body parts. When you take supplements with food, the nutrients in the pill bond with the food and you get the best delivery and absorption. Skip the food and there’s a good chance your body will simply excrete most, if not all of the nutrients.
Take away: Supplements can’t supply all the benefits of healthy eating. Researchers have found about a million phytonutrients that you simply can’t get in a supplement, they are however available in antioxidant rich foods.
3. Myth: The best supplements are those labeled all natural.
Fact: The only part of the label that matters is the nutrition facts.
Like other food sellers, supplement manufacturers are eager to capitalize on heightened consumer interest in natural foods. In most instances, benefits to the consumer does not warrant the extra cost. I shop on Amazon for most of the supplements I do take. I find organic versions of smaller brands for far less. When I started paying attention to the nutrition content I found it to be the same, if not superior. Take the time to read the labels!
Takeaway: What you should pay attention to is the nutrition information panel on the label.
4. Myth: When you hear a nutrient has new proven health benefits, it’s time to stock up.
Fact: The supplement may not be right — or safe — for you.
I wish all these proven health benefits came with the warning – be careful. Some supplements don’t interact well with others and may actually cause more harm than good. It’s important to speak with a certified nutritionist and/or your doctor about the combinations of supplements you are taking, or plan to take. Again, many could have unintended consequences on your body.
Takeaway: Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to find out if it’s worth it, especially if you have a medical condition that could be compromised by large doses of certain nutrients.
5. Myth: Multiple single-source supplements are better than multivitamins.
Fact: For healthy adults, a multivitamin is sufficient (with some exceptions).
Takeaway: Multivitamins are sufficient with the following exceptions – calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and omega-3.
*Based on the article, 5 Myths About Nutritional Supplements by Debra Witt
Quick & Healthy Lunch Recipe:
Apple Fennel Chicken Waldorf Salad
- 1 organic granny smith apple chopped
- 1/2 c chopped organic fennel bulb
- 1 head romaine lettuce chopped (or butter lettuce)
- 4-6 oz chopped grilled chicken breast
- 1/4 c feta cheese (if dairy tolerant)
- 1/4 c chopped walnuts
- 2 tbs full fat organic greek yogurt
- 1 tbs organic dijon mustard
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs red wine vinegar (I used fig condiment vinegar this week)
Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Top with salad dressing. Great lunch that I ate every day this week! The dressing reminded me of a creamy Russian dressing. Bold so go easy on it. I put it on the salad and tossed.
For the chicken, I grilled on my Optigrill three breasts for the week. I chopped the fennel ahead and stored as well. I guess you could make the dressing in a larger batch as well, but I like my dressing fresh. My salad was easy to assemble all week. One day this week I subbed the lettuce for spinach and the apple for red grapes. The dressing on that day was organic lemon juice and olive oil. Equally as good.
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