An Introduction to the World of Supplements
Supplements have a pretty interesting reputation. Many ordinary people swear by them, while plenty of others dismiss them altogether. All sorts of claims about their effectiveness have been made, whether it’s small improvements to the condition of hair and skin or huge changes in energy levels and cognitive function. Clearly, there are plenty of questions to be answered here. For anyone who isn’t an expert nutritionist or a qualified doctor, taking supplements can be a bit of a guessing game. What, if any, supplement do I need to take? How often should I take them? Are some supplements better than others? Can supplements replace fruits and vegetables? Are multivitamins even good for you?
All of these questions and more continue to fly around, partly because of the huge amount of misinformation and media hype across the industry, and partly because many people just don’t want to go out there and do the research. That’s where placebos and anecdotal evidence come into things. Sure, your auntie has been taking Vitamin D tablets and now she says she feels great, but what useful information can you really take from that?
Despite all the questions, and the majority of supplement takers not fully understanding what they are taking or why they are taking it, millions of people around the world are on board with the idea. This soaring demand for quick-fix pills has coincided with lifestyle trends dedicated to living cleaner and healthier. We all want to be in better shape, we’d all like to look and feel 100% all the time. Maybe that’s the reason that we’re willing to navigate the health food aisles and pick out whichever bottle has the most flowers on it.
As well as having countless different options to choose between, from acai capsules to folic acid and Vitamin K, there are also different formulations of each supplement, and different brands offering those different formulations. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why many people find it hard to separate what’s worth taking and what isn’t.
It’s probably a good idea to start at the beginning…
What are Supplements?
Supplements are tablets, pills or powders that contain specific amounts of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes or co-factors we need to stay healthy.
One thing that’s easy to forget when you check a bottle of multivitamins and see that it contains 17 trillion percent of your GDA for 26 different things you didn’t even know existed is this: Supplements are supplementary. The clue’s in the name. Sure, certain formulations will contain high concentrations of things that your body needs to function properly, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a replacement for a healthy, varied diet.
Do I need to take Supplements?
The truth? Yes, probably. But need might be the wrong word here. Reading this, you’ve probably made it this far in life without touching a single supplement – so they can’t be that important, right? But to understand why these extra vitamins and minerals are helpful, we need to take a step back and look at the collective; at how our lives have changed in the past fifty years or so.
First of all, there’s the pace of our modern lifestyles. It’s gone through the roof. Not only do the majority of us not have the time or inclination to eat a balanced diet, we’re working much harder than previous generations and are more run down as a result.
Second, the nutritional value of the food that we do eat is nowhere near what it used to be. Remember the days when your grandma used to grow her own potatoes, and you’d skip into town with your flowery basket and chat to local farmers? We don’t, but they did exist at one point. In fact, you often hear that the nation was at its healthiest just after the Second War and in the fifties and sixties, when local farmers came into their own and extravagant things like chocolate only existed in Roald Dahl books. Sure, people were still a little bit racist when it came to buying bananas, but we were much healthier.
Since then, the rise of fast food, carb-heavy snacks and quick fixes means that for most of us, the balance just isn’t there. The idea of whipping up a meal with your five-a-day in mind is about as likely as… well, it’s pretty unlikely.
These days food travels from far and wide to hit our supermarket shelves. And unfortunately, each and every air mile makes fruit and vegetables lose more nutritional value. From the moment it’s picked it becomes less and less good for us, so it makes sense that the further it has to travel, the less healthy it’s going to be. On top of this, many fruits and vegetables are picked prematurely to stop them from ripening during the journey to your supermarket, causing some nutrients not to form at all.
That’s where Supplements come in. In a globalised world where oranges need passports and your avocados are more well-travelled than you are, it’s a good idea to seek extra nutrition to top up your diet.
Everybody needs different things
An important thing to bear in mind before you choose whether or not to add Supplements to your diet is that everybody is different. Physiologically, we all have different requirements depending on sex, age, illness and medical conditions. What’s good for your auntie isn’t necessarily going to do you any favours, so it’s a good idea to see your doctor, arrange a blood test, or speak to one of our health professionals and see if there are any areas of concern or parts of your diet that are lacking. Then, you can tailor a Supplement regime to suit your needs.
So why do Supplements have a dubious reputation?
Plenty of people are skeptical about the use of Supplements. Some see them as completely unnecessary, others think they might be dangerous, and an even greater amount don’t know where to start or think they won’t make a difference. Plenty see an industry that appears to be unregulated and simply steer clear.
In truth, there are elements of each point that are right. Sure, the vast majority of us can get by just fine without Supplements. But the point is this: Do you want to be “just fine”, or do you want to be in the best possible condition?
There’s also an element of truth when people say that Supplements are relatively unregulated, and as a result if used without proper advice could be dangerous. Plenty of cowboys set up in the industry making all sorts of claims, and putting all sorts of dubious ingredients into their pills. Like any product you can buy, there are varying degrees of quality when it comes to Supplements. The solution to this is pretty simple: First, you have to know what you’re looking for and understand the warning signs. Second, you have to appreciate that when it comes to Supplements, you get what you pay for. High quality pills are more expensive to produce, so it’s only natural to expect that cost to be passed on from the manufacturer.
And what about the notion that they don’t make a difference at all? Well, the placebo effect does exist – all the more reason to ensure that whatever you’re taking is being taken for the right reasons.
Maitri – Empowering you to make positive health choices
Getting your head around the world of Supplements can be a pretty daunting task – but that’s what we’re here for. At Maitri we only stock products that we’ve thoroughly vetted, and with our years of experience we are sure will be of benefit to our customers. Our experts are here to help you make informed decisions about your wellbeing.
We’ll be looking at the world of Supplements in more detail in upcoming posts, with advice on what to look out for when purchasing, to detailed overviews on every vitamin and mineral you can think of.