Nutritional supplements should not replace a balanced diet, but they may still be beneficial in some circumstances. Here are 20 important reasons you might like to consider taking supplements.
1. Your joints aren’t what they used to be
As you age, the amount of glucosamine created by your body decreases. As a result, your joint cartilage becomes thinner, the lubricating synovial fluid in your joint spaces becomes thin and watery and your joints may become damaged and arthritic. Taking a glucosamine supplement may help to maintain cartilage health, enhance joint flexibility and mobility and relieve arthritis symptoms such as pain and inflammation.
2. You’re under stress
During prolonged periods of stress your body uses vitamins and minerals at a higher rate, which may lead to deficiencies unless nutrients are supplemented.
3. You microwave your food
Cooking some foods in the microwave may deplete their nutrient levels. For example, in a study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2003, microwaving broccoli caused a loss of up to 97% of its antioxidants, while steamed broccoli only lost 11% of its antioxidants.
4. You don’t eat enough fruit and veggies
Many Australians don’t consume the recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day, and consequently may be missing out on important nutrients. If that sounds like you, consider taking a multivitamin supplement and perhaps some additional vitamin C.
5. You’re trying for a baby
Women who are planning to conceive are strongly advised to take folic acid supplements (at least 400 mcg a day) for at least three months prior to conception in order to help reduce the likelihood their baby will develop spinal abnormalities such as neural tube defects. Fathers-to-be may benefit by taking a multivitamin supplement too, as male fertility may be adversely affected by free radical damage. Key nutrients for men to consider include vitamins C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium.
6. You’re pregnant or breastfeeding
Nutritional demands during pregnancy and breastfeeding are high. Your diet alone may not be able to supply all the nutrients you need during this special time, and taking additional vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial.
7. You’re vegetarian or vegan
Vegetarians and vegans are more prone to deficiencies in vitamin B12, iron, calcium and zinc than meat eaters, as their diets can be low in these nutrients. Supplementation may be necessary to meet the recommended daily intake for these nutrients.
8. You’re getting older
Stomach acid production declines middle age onwards, so you may find your ability to absorb all the nutrients in your diet declines too. Taking a multivitamin helps to ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs. The body’s production of coenzyme Q10 also declines with age and taking supplements of this nutrient, which is required by every cell in the body for the production of energy, may help to support heart health.
9. You want to maintain your bone health as you get older
Requirements for calcium increase with age, and many people find it difficult to obtain the recommended 1000-1300 mg of calcium that adults require every day. Healthy bones need a strong nutritional base to help prevent bone loss and stabilise bone density, so when choosing a calcium supplement, look for one that also includes the supportive nutrients magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, copper, vitamins C and Vitamin D. Bear in mind, too, that because our recommended daily intake of calcium is so high, just taking a multivitamin won’t provide all the calcium that your bones need.
10. Your diet is high in sugar
Consuming too much sugar may weaken your immune system. A high sugar intake may also lower your vitamin E levels, impede your absorption of calcium and magnesium, and lead to copper and chromium deficiencies.
11. You enjoy a tipple
Consuming alcohol depletes the body of vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B-group vitamins (including folic acid), and the minerals selenium, zinc, magnesium and potassium. It also inhibits the absorption of calcium.
12. You have food allergies or intolerances
Being on a restricted diet may mean that you are missing out on essential nutrients, so take a daily multivitamin to ensure you’re obtaining all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
13. You’re a smoker
Smoking robs the body of vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, the minerals selenium, zinc, vanadium and reduces calcium absorption.
14. You’re physically active
People who exercise regularly have higher nutritional requirements than others, and may not be able to get all the nutrients they need from their diets, so should consider taking supplements. Antioxidants may be particularly important, because the increased consumption of oxygen that occurs during exercise increases generates free radicals, and consequently increases the demand for antioxidants to neutralise them.This may be exacerbated if you exercise near roads, which increases your exposure to pollutants such as exhaust fumes, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.
15. You don’t spend much time in the sun
People whose skin isn’t exposed to the sun on a regular basis are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency and may benefit from taking a supplement.
16. You’re prone to sunburn
Getting sunburnt doesn’t just increase your risk of developing skin cancer; it also promotes ageing of the skin and can lead to premature skin wrinkling. Taking the antioxidant vitamins C and E may help reduce the ageing effects on skin cells exposed to the sun.
17. You eat a lot of processed foods
The processing of refined grain products such as white flour, white rice, breads and pastas strips them of their nutrient-rich outer husks and means they require additional nutrients from the body in order to be metabolised.
18. You’re overweight
Amongst many other consequences of being overweight or obese, it may increase the rates of inflammation and free radical damage and therefore increase the body’s need for antioxidants. Obesity is also associated with vitamin D deficiency.
19. You fly frequently
People who fly regularly (especially on international flights or at altitudes higher than 10,000 metres above sea level) are exposed to cosmic radiation, which can damage the body’s cells. Supplementing with antioxidants may help to reduce the damage.
20. You experience heavy menstrual blood loss
Women may lose up to 20 mg of iron during menstruation and consequently need to ensure their diets contain adequate amounts of iron. An iron supplement may be necessary in some instances. If you suspect you may be low in iron, make sure you talk to your doctor about a blood test.