Supplements: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Supplements can help fill in nutrient gaps in your diet, as long as you choose the right ones. Here’s what you need to know about supplements.

People always ask me about supplements. Should they or shouldn’t they use them? The truth is quality is key. While it’s ideal to get nutrients exclusively from food, this becomes difficult when most of what we eat is processed, our diet isn’t varied enough, or over-farming depletes soil of its nutrients and results in produce that’s less nutritious than it should be. Proper supplementation can help fill in those gaps, and provide you with the essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) you need for ideal health. There are several caveats, however, so keep the following in mind:

Talk to your doctor. Be sure to always consult your doctor before taking any meds or supplements that haven’t been prescribed by him or her. Also know there’s a difference between pharmaceuticals and supplements. The former are medicinal drugs that are patented and consist of synthetic chemicals, including diet pills. Supplements, on the other hand, include vitamins, minerals and other naturally occurring substances found in our food sources.

Check the ingredients. Sadly, many supplements are of poor quality, containing fillers that make them either useless or even dangerous. When reading the ingredients list, look out for garbage like artificial colors and sweeteners, and harmful preservatives. For example, in some multivitamin chewables, you’ll find aspartame (an artificial sweetener that stimulates the release of insulin, a hormone that encourages fat storage), BHT (a preservative that has cancer-causing potential), and artificial colors (which have been linked to ADHD, chromosomal damage and thyroid cancer). Other wellness supplements sneak in polydextrose (a synthetic version of fiber), Xylitol (a sugar alcohol that’s been known to cause digestive problems and even in small doses has killed rats in lab tests), and sucralose (an artificial sweetener that also falls into the toxic category). A great way to dodge all that crap is to choose products that are natural and organic.

Don’t overdo it. Unless instructed otherwise by your doctor or a nutritionist, I recommend not taking more on a daily basis than the following: high-quality probiotics (live bacteria and yeasts that aid your digestive system), a multivitamin, and a fish-oil supplement to ensure you get the heart- and brain-boosting and fat-burning benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

Source: MSN Health & Fitness

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