Nutritional supplements—Who needs them? – The Okanagan Naturopath

by Rajesh Kaur

As we age, it becomes increasingly important to take care of our bodies and ensure we are getting the necessary nutrients to support our health. While a healthy diet is crucial, there may be cases where nutritional supplements can provide a beneficial boost.

Vitamins and minerals are essential for various biochemical reactions in the human body. They serve as cofactors and building blocks for tissues, and their daily intake is crucial for optimal nutrition and health. Each vitamin and mineral plays a specific role in different bodily functions.

Vitamin A is involved in eyesight, skin health, and the immune system. Vitamin B is crucial for energy production, organ function (including the nervous system), and detoxification. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage and contributes to connective tissue development and immune system health. Vitamin D is essential for calcium and bone metabolism, as well as hormone regulation and immune system function. Vitamin E is another important antioxidant that protects fatty membranes. Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and bone metabolism.

Minerals also play crucial roles in the body. Calcium is essential for bone structure, blood clotting, and muscle function. Sodium is a major electrolyte that supports muscle and nerve function. Potassium is vital for muscle and nerve function as well. Magnesium acts as a cofactor for biochemical reactions and supports muscle and nerve function. Iron is involved in oxygen transfer and enzyme reactions. Zinc supports the immune system, wound healing, and cellular metabolism. Other minerals, such as boron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, phosphorus, strontium, and sulfur, also have important functions in small amounts.

According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended dietary daily allowances (RDA) are the levels of essential nutrients that are deemed adequate to meet the nutrient needs of the majority of healthy individuals. A healthy diet should ideally provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals to meet these requirements. This includes consuming ample fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and proteins from meat or alternative sources.

However, it’s important to note that farming practices and devitalized soil can impact the nutritional value of our foods. Despite this, experts still recommend consuming these healthier foods as they provide more nutritional value than processed and refined junk foods. Organic foods are also considered a healthier option, but it’s still beneficial to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and proteins, even if they are not organic.

In an ideal world, all nutrients would be obtained from food alone. However, there may be days when our diet falls short, making nutritional supplements a good insurance policy to fill those gaps. For example, some days we may not get enough vitamin B12, calcium, or iron from our food. Supplements can provide a convenient and reliable way to ensure we meet our body’s needs.

While there are tests available to evaluate vitamin and mineral levels in the body, they may not always be accurate or covered by healthcare plans. Blood tests can measure levels of iron, vitamin B12, and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. However, other vitamins and minerals are not as easily tested. In some cases, it is more cost-effective to recommend nutritional supplements based on symptoms and overall health.

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and nutritional supplements can help support our dietary needs, promote optimal functioning, and prevent the oxidative deterioration that comes with aging. Consulting with a healthcare professional or nutritionist can help determine the appropriate supplements for specific needs and ensure they are taken in the correct dosage.

In conclusion, while a healthy diet should always be the foundation of our nutritional intake, there are cases where nutritional supplements can be beneficial. They can help fill any nutrient gaps and support overall health and well-being. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements to ensure they are suitable for individual needs and to avoid any potential interactions with medications or existing health conditions.

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