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Whole Foods vs. Food Supplements: The Battle of Two Different Nutrient Sources

healthy-foodWe all know that we should satisfy our body’s nutritional needs primarily through our diet. A balanced whole-food diet can provide us with all the essential nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. In case you don’t know (or need to be reminded) what whole foods are – they are foods that are as close to their natural state and form as possible. Many doctors and other health experts believe that consuming more whole foods on a daily bases (like veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes) can improve our health significantly.

Experts claim that whole foods offer three main benefits over dietary supplements: greater nutrition, dietary fiber, and protective substances. A healthy orange, for example, provides vitamin C, calcium, some beta carotene, and other nutrients, which only proves that getting all the important nutrients from food is

However, there are times when even doctors and dietitians recommend small doses of certain health food supplements. For example, pregnant women are advised to take a prenatal vitamin that includes iron or a separate iron supplement. Furthermore, all adults who are 50 years old or older should eat foods fortified with vitamin B-12, such as fortified cereals, or take a multivitamin that contains B-12 or a separate B-12 supplement. Health food supplements are also appropriate for vegetarians and vegans, for the lack of conditions for each and everyone of us to grow organic food leads to having to resort to eating raw fruits and veggies that have lost some of their crucial nutrients like vitamin B-12 and zinc (yes, zinc can be found in certain vegetable sources, such as legumes, nuts, and seeds, but not in large amounts).

Dietary supplements are also useful for those who have had surgery on their digestive tract and therefore can’t digest and absorb nutrients properly. Moreover, people who suffer from chronic diarrhea have food intolerance, food allergies, or a disease of the liver are also advised to take certain food supplements, for all of these conditions affect the way their body absorbs or uses nutrients.

As you can see, sometimes using food supplements is inevitable. This, however, doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t be careful with them, for at high doses, some substances can become harmful. Yes, deciding whether to take food supplements or not is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Before you buy and start taking any dietary supplement, I advise you to do your research, learn about its potential benefits and side effects, and of course consult with a doctor or a dietitian. Hearing an expert’s opinion is always a good idea.