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Nutritional Supplements: What to Take and Why

This article will explore the fundamentals of nutritional supplements and why incorporating them into your daily routine is beneficial.


What are Nutritional Supplements?


Nutritional supplements refer to products designed to enhance one’s diet and commonly consist of vitamins, herbs, minerals, and amino acids. These supplements are frequently linked to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes various medical systems, practices, and products outside the realm of conventional medicine. 


A significant majority of Americans, exceeding 50%, regularly consume dietary supplements daily or occasionally. Supplements you can obtain without a prescription come in pills, powders, and liquids. They encompass a variety of products commonly referred to as botanicals. 


Individuals turn to nutritional supplements to ensure an adequate intake of essential nutrients and promote their overall well-being.  


Anyone considering taking nutritional supplements should be aware that certain supplements may have potential side effects, particularly when taken with other medications. It is also worth noting that some nutritional supplements may pose risks for individuals with specific health conditions. 


To ensure your health and well-being, you should talk with your healthcare provider about any supplements you are currently taking. This will enable your doctor to integrate and manage your overall care effectively.


Do You Need Nutritional Supplements?


You need nutritional supplements because your body’s nutritional requirements vary throughout your lifespan. This happens because the capacity to absorb and utilize specific nutrients diminishes as you age. Consequently, older adults may necessitate increased intake of particular vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D.


Individuals who exclude specific foods from their diet may require additional nutrients. An illustration of this is the case of vitamin B12 which is exclusively present in animal-derived products. Therefore, adherents of a vegan diet might need more than sufficient amounts of B12 from their food intake.


According to Dr. Patricia Haggerty, a researcher specializing in nutrition and the immune system at NIH, individuals suffering from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and certain autoimmune diseases may require higher amounts of nutritional supplements.


In most situations, you should prioritize exercise routine over other lifestyle changes. However, in some circumstances, you might require nutritional supplements as they play a role in addressing nutritional deficiencies and complementing a balanced diet.


Typical situations in which healthcare professionals may advise the use of nutritional supplements:


  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women require additional nutrients to support the growth and development of the fetus.
  • Lactation: Nursing mothers may need extra vitamins and minerals to ensure adequate nutrients in their breast milk. 
  • Infants receiving human milk or less than 32 oz. Per day of the formula: Babies who rely primarily on breast milk or consume less than 32 ounces of formula per day may benefit from nutritional supplements.
  • Deficiencies: Individuals with diagnosed nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency, must take supplements to replenish their nutrient levels.
  • Special diets: People following restrictive diets require nutritional supplements to complement nutrients limited in their food choices.

5 Things to Know About Nutritional Supplements


Here is what you need to know about nutritional supplements.


1. Advantages of Nutritional Supplements


Nutritional supplements offer various advantages, including:


  • Antioxidant Protection: Numerous supplements contain antioxidants, which can lower the risk of specific ailments such as heart disease and certain types of cancer.
  • Athletes can utilize supplements to augment their performance and aid in achieving their fitness goals. 
  • Some supplements can enhance cognitive functions, including memory loss, focus, and overall mental performance.
  • Certain supplements are known to strengthen the immune system, enhancing the body’s ability to fight off infections and diseases.
  • Nutritional supplements promote better sleep, improving sleep quality and overall restfulness.
  • Food supplements can compensate for deficiencies from an inadequate diet by providing essential nutrients.


2. The Recommended Amount of Supplements to Take


The human body requires a specific quantity of nutrients to function optimally. When you exceed this limit, the body eliminates excess nutrients. In certain instances, surpassing these limits can lead to adverse health effects such as: 


  • Nausea
  • Hair loss 
  • Fatigue 
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild nerve damage


Therefore, it is crucial to understand the appropriate number of supplements to consume.


3. Tips for Properly Taking Nutritional Supplements




  • Consult with a doctor before starting any new nutritional supplement regimen. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific health needs.
  • Adhere to the instructions provided either by the manufacturer or your healthcare professional. Pay attention to timing, dosage, and any other specific guidelines for consumption.
  • Select nutritional supplements that are suitable for your body and align with your health goals. Consider factors such as age, medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and gender.
  • If you are taking any prescribed medications, be cautious when introducing supplements. Some interactions between medications and supplements may occur, so it is essential to consult your pharmacist.




  • Refrain from self-diagnosing or self-prescribing supplements. 
  • Avoid taking supplements solely based on popular trends or recommendations from others. Focus on understanding your body’s requirements rather than following the latest fads.
  • Before consuming hormonal supplements, such as those affecting hormone levels, always consult a doctor first. They can evaluate potential risks, monitor your health, and provide appropriate guidance.


4. Is a Balanced Diet More Beneficial than Taking Supplements?



A well-rounded diet consisting of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, fish, poultry, or select cheeses ensures an intake of essential vitamins and nutrients. Research indicates that human bodies have a greater capacity to absorb food nutrients than supplements.


Whole foods offer the optimal amounts and ratios of nutrients our bodies can efficiently utilize. Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals who maintain a balanced diet experience positive health advantages that nutritional supplements cannot replicate. 


Note that vitamins and supplements cannot compensate for an unhealthy diet.

5. Potential Risks of Excessive Nutritional Supplements


An overabundance of nutrients can have adverse effects on your health. Here are some possible side effects:


  • Taking Vitamin K before surgery can diminish the effectiveness of blood thinners, potentially leading to blood clotting.
  • Excessive supplement intake can compromise the effectiveness of certain medicines.
  • Consuming an excessive amount of antioxidants may diminish the efficacy of chemotherapy.
  • Replacing prescribed medications with supplements can be detrimental to the body’s well-being.
  • High-dose usage of vitamin B-6 can result in nerve damage.
  • Consuming an excessive quantity of Vitamin C can induce diarrhea.


Supplements to Take and Their Benefits


Vitamin D


Vitamin D is crucial in facilitating calcium absorption, which is vital for maintaining healthy bones. Insufficient intake of this vitamin can lead to increased susceptibility to illness, risk of bone and hair loss, and higher chances of experiencing back pain.


Here are some of the benefits associated with vitamin D:


  • Vitamin D supports faster muscle recovery
  • It plays a vital role in fertility and supports health during pregnancy.
  • This nutrient aids in the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and supports the generation of immune cells.
  • Vitamin D influences serotonin levels in the brain.
  • It plays a critical role in regulating calcium and phosphorus levels.
  • In addition to supporting bone health, it contributes to maintaining healthy teeth.




Omega-3 fatty acids, the renowned and health-promoting compound typically found in fish, are essential to the human body. This dietary supplement has the potential to reduce triglyceride levels. However, type should consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable for your body.


If you have an aversion to consuming fish, taking this supplement can provide some benefits. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that there is no universally applicable solution, and individual circumstances may var




Vitamin A


Also referred to as retinol, Vitamin A is a type of fat-soluble vitamin. The recommended daily allowance for women is 700 micrograms, while for men, it is 900 micrograms. You can find vitamin A in various dairy products and fruits and vegetables.


The benefits of vitamin A include:


  • Enhancing skin health by combating toxins.
  • Strengthening bones and teeth.
  • Assists in fighting against infections.
  • Supporting and maintaining healthy vision.
  • It plays a crucial role in the well-being of the lungs, heart, and kidneys.



Magnesium is a crucial nutrient for overall well-being and must be obtained through food or supplements. While magnesium is commonly recognized for its role in promoting bone health and energy production, it offers numerous other benefits.


  • It calms the nervous system and reduces stress
  • Regulates muscle and nerve function
  • Contributes to the synthesis of bone tissue, proteins, and DNA.
  • Maintains balanced blood sugar levels.
  • Aids in alleviating sleep problems.


Although magnesium deficiency is prevalent among many individuals, the primary cause is often inadequate consumption of magnesium-rich foods rather than a need for nutritional supplements. 




Our bodies have specific requirements for optimal functioning. To meet these needs, nutritional supplements become invaluable, particularly for individuals with medical conditions. You cannot achieve optimal performance when consuming consistently unhealthy foods that fail to meet your nutritional requirements. That’s precisely why familiarizing yourself with nutritional supplements becomes crucial. 






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