Supplements: Health or Harm?

Photo Credit: Kristel Irvine

Written by April Irvine

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES reports that in an effort to adopt a healthier lifestyle, about two-thirds of adults in the US are using dietary supplements. Although, acquiring our nutrients from a pill may be convenient and easy, supplements don’t necessarily deliver the promise of better health.

Supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there is no guarantee that the labeling on the package, it’s purity and strength are true. For example, dietary supplements may claim to make you faster, stronger, or slimmer but the manufacturers don’t have to prove that its safe or if it even works. Be careful, some supplements could contain illegal substances.

Although in some situations, supplements may help to improve health. A supplement may be recommended if you are on a restrictive diet, an older adult (age 50+), vegetarian or vegan, pregnant or lactating women, or a medical condition that limits your food choices. For example, a pregnant woman should take a prenatal vitamin to prevent deficiencies and improve fetal outcomes. Check with your doctor or dietitian to see if a supplement is recommended for you.

Remember, real food contains healthy things a pill can’t give us. Eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods is the best way for most people to get the nutrients they need to be healthy and reduce their risk of chronic disease. Healthy food choices include grains/legumes, dairy, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables).

USPMost people don’t need supplements however, if you choose use them its important be well informed. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a third party organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of dietary supplements and NSF sets standards for accurate ingredient labeling and testing for contaminants. NSF have different labeling and certification processes, be sure to do your research beforehand. Look for the NSF or USP mark on the supplement bottle to know that it’s been tested and approved.

NSF1

Even though some supplements have been tested by third part organizations, supplements can have powerful biological effects. When we take a nutrient out of a food and concentrate it in a pill, it’s not quite the same thing so consider your individual situation and consult a doctor or a registered dietitian before taking a supplement.

References:

  1. Dickinson A, Mackay D. Health habits and other characteristics of dietary supplement users: a review. Nutr J. 2014;13:14.
  1. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/
  1. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/
  1. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7918
  1. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7088
  1. Marra M.V., Boyar A.P. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient supplementation.J. Am. Diet Assoc.2009;109:2073–2085. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.020
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Eating Healthy Tips

myplate

By April Irvine

I am all about making small and easy changes to your everyday life that can make a huge impact on your overall health and wellness. Here are some tips that I have personally seen to be successful but also scientific evidence has shown that these lifestyle changes can improve your health.

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables – vary your veggies, eat the rainbow so you get all the phytochemicals and vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
  • Any starch or grains that you eat, make at least half of it whole wheat
  • Eat calcium rich foods such as low-fat or skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese
  • Eat lean sources of protein such as chicken with the skin removed, 90%> lean beef, or even try tofu or beans.

Empty calories are foods that contain no nutritional value i.e. no vitamins or minerals that your body needs to function. Examples of these types of foods are soda, processed foods, cakes, cookies, and pastries. Don’t get me wrong, a girl gotta have her cookies but treat yourself to your favorite food once in a while. It’s important to not strict yourself completely. Lately, I have been doing a lot of baking at home and I been sneaking in some veggies or replacing some of the sugar with applesauce with fantastic results.

The bottom line: Don’t make all these changes at once, its harder to stay on track that way. Instead make one goal and focus on that until it becomes habit. Then make another change. Next thing you know, you are living a healthy lifestyle effortlessly because it’s habit.

The above graphic is called MyPlate from USDA. It is the new visual icon that replaces the Food Pyramid and it meant to be a guideline of what our plates should look like.

References:

1. Five Minutes or Less for Health Weekly Tip: Eat Healthy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/family/minutes/tips/eathealthy/index.htm. Updated on Feburary 5, 2014. Accessed 11/19/14.

2. Choose MyPlate. United States Department of Agriculture Website. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Accessed 11/19/14.