There’s a pill out there for just about every vitamin, mineral, and macronutrient, making up a huge market industry, and likely taking up a least a little space from your own home cupboard or countertop. But why can’t people get the nutrients that they need from the food that they eat? If you eat enough of the right foods you probably can. This article will discuss common nutrient supplements, and how to get them from food rather than bottles.
It is often recommended for people over a certain age to take a multivitamin, and people on certain diets may need to remedy some imbalance through a little help from the supplement industry. Of course other things can go wrong leaving the body in need of a little assistance, and any time that a doctor recommends a supplement, it’s probably best to take the advice, provided you also ask for a brand recommendation, as many doctors are sceptical about the supplement industry themselves.
One of the most common supplements that people see in the isles, in their magazines, and on television is fiber. This is ironic seeing that fiber is a very abundant macronutrient, provided one goes to the right places.
Fiber is an umbrella term for carbohydrates that the body cannot digest. While it may seem strange for the body to require something that it can’t digest to stay healthy, undigested fiber is vital for keeping the body regular by helping to push things through the digestive system, and eventually out of it. Insufficient fiber in the diet can lead to constipation as other waste products get caught in the intestines.
Food products that are high in fiber include whole grains – or just the bran, which can be found as a flour, or is common in cereals – and in fibrous vegetables like celery and broccoli. While the tops of broccoli are a common enough side dish or snack – when dipped in salad dressing or hummus – many people throw out the lower portion, which can be split up and served the same way as carrot sticks or celery, or diced and put in soup. Utilizing all parts of the broccoli helps to increase dietary fiber as well as to get the most use for the price. Many high fiber foods are those forbidden by extremely calorie-restrictive diets, so people devoted to these diets may want to take a fiber supplement. Don’t worry though, because fiber can’t be digested by the body it won’t add carbs.
Be careful with both dietary fiber, and with fiber from supplements, however. Not enough fiber can leave the body unable to move waste through the system, while too much fiber can leave the waste in the system as a block too solid for the body to easily pass. There are other things in the diet that can cause problems with regularity, so if the problem lasts for more than a few days and you can’t fix it yourself, it’s best to seek medical advice.
The regularity counterpart to fiber is bacteria, which is gaining a bit of attention in the supplement market, even though they don’t call it that. Our body can only process so much on its own and the gut flora, a community of healthy bacteria that lives in our intestines, helps us to process the rest.
You’ve probably heard of probiotics. These are the good bacteria themselves, and are found in yogurt and other aged dairy products. Getting enough of these can help with regularity as much as fiber, so if you have problems going, don’t jump to the assumption that it’s a fiber problem.
Not as well-known but just as importantly as probiotics are prebiotics. These bacteria don’t play as much of a role in helping us to digest food, but they help make our bodies a healthier environment for probiotics. Prebiotics can be found in naturally preserved foods like pickled foods – pickles, sour kraut, pickled eggs, pickled herring, you get it – as well as in naturally preserved beverages like beer.
Doctors may recommend a supplement, or even prescribe a probiotic and or prebiotic if you’ve recently had a surgery or a nasty infection. This is because medicine that you may have received to kill bad bacteria can often kill the good bacteria too, making it harder for you to digest food. If your doctor tells you to take something for this reason, it’s best to listen, though you can always go to getting your good bacteria from foods in a few weeks.
Other nutrients associated with regularity, as well as other things, are the fish oils. Interestingly enough, the name of these notoriously foul smelling pills gives the source that they come from, namely fish.
While oils from different fish are often sold for different reasons – Castor Oil is associated with regularity, while others are associated with joint health, hair health, cognitive health, etc. – incorporating more fish into your diet is a good thing in general, especially if it’s taking the place of red meats, which tend to have more unhealthy saturated fats.
Oils, a form of fats, often get a bad name, but they are found in every cell in the body, and are of particular abundance in the brain and nervous system, so getting a healthy dose won’t hurt. The body is also likely to pass some of that oil as waste, which helps keep waste an easy texture to pass, provided there is also enough fiber.
It is possible to over-do it on oils, however, as they are an energy yielding nutrient. While oils don’t contribute to poor heart health like saturated fats do, they can be a form of extra calories. If you do plan on incorporating more fish into your diet, don’t plan on frying it in other oils every night. While this can be tasty a tasty preparation method, and a healthy one, provided you use the right oils, it can lead to weight gain, as well as intestinal discomfort if it is done too often. Baking, grilling, smoking, and poaching are all healthy alternatives to frying.
Many elderly people also take fish oil to slow cognitive decline, and while this won’t hurt, staying physically and mentally active is probably a more promising practice.
The discussion of nutrition supplements will be continued in an upcoming article on supplements taken for structure.