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When, How and Why to Supplement

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Almost 50% of the UK population are regular vitamin and mineral users, according to mintel's research.

It's clear that the supplements market is large, growing and looks set to continue on that trend.

Many of us might take some form of them, but when, how and why should we take supplements?

Let's dig a little deeper to unearth the truth to those questions.

Vitamins & Mineral Supplements

Should I take supplements?

It's a good question and one which is not easily answered. The truth is that every person is unique. What is necessary for one person might not be good for another.

Some people who are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals are required to take them each day. Some have medical conditions which mean their bodies are unable to absorb the vitamins properly, so need larger doses.

While this is true for some people, it's not true for the majority. What most people would benefit from is a back to basics approach.

Getting back to basics...

The basics are what ensure we are healthy. The foundation from which everything else is built. Those basics are:

  • Good food
  • Regular exercise
  • Deep sleep
  • Relaxation time
  • Good relationships
  • Adequate wealth to live well
  • A sense of purpose in life

For the purposes of this post we are going to look at good food because to include all the others would require a book!

What exactly is good food? Clean eating is banded around all the time, but what does it mean?

Since we are getting back to basics, let's use a basic definition. Good food is natural, whole food which has not been processed.

Fresh Fruit

Examples: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh raw meat & fish, unprocessed nuts and seeds.

Where the lines become blurred is when the above ingredients are processed in some way. That could be milled to make cereal, squashed to make juice, cooked to make meat or salted to make snacks.

That's where the problem lies because we don't know what processing has been done to make the foods turn out the way they are when we buy them.

We've survived and thrived for thousands of years on a basic diet of those foods. Our bodies have evolved and adapted over those years to extract everything we need from them.

Short story: You don't necessarily need to use supplements if you eat fresh, minimally processed foods which contain all of the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients that our bodies use for energy.

So, why would people want to use supplements?

Most of us want the quick fix. Eating whole, unprocessed meals can be time consuming. We all live very stressful, busy lives and don't make time for cooking. Meals packaged up as healthy are readily available from a shop probably less than 300 metres away if you live in a city like London.

With that convenience, availability and low price it's no wonder that people are deciding to take the easy option. We're wired to try and make life easier, it's how we are where we are today.

Unfortunately these easy options are not good for our health.

So, the short answer is that we want to make up for the fresh produce by popping pills. To reduce stress, sleep better, lose weight and feel great by taking a supplement to level-up our lives.

This can work to some degree, but we need to get the foundations right first before we look to using supplements to improve our health.

The body doesn't work absorb vitamins and minerals individually

The body isn't used to receiving vitamins and minerals individually. If you think about food, which the body is used to processing, it's a mixture of all kinds of vitamins and minerals in one. The body digests, absorbs and uses that mixture.

In fact, some vitamins and minerals cannot be absorbed alone. For example, calcium cannot be absorbed without using Vitamin D. This is just one example, and we probably don't know about most of the processes in our bodies.

Science is good, but not that good.

So, if you don't eat a balanced diet from fresh, whole foods and rely on processed, man-made vitamins and minerals you can bet that your body isn't going to work and process them in the same way as real foods.

So, how do you take supplements?

It's best to usually take them with other foods. If you are eating a pretty balanced diet but for one reason or another decide you need more of a specific vitamin, then take them at a meal time.

The other foods will provide the necessary other vitamins to help you properly absorb the contents of the supplement properly.

You should check out before-hand which supplement you are taking and when is best to take it.

Should I avoid anything?

It's probably best to get a blood test done first from your doctor to analyse exactly what the levels of each vitamin and mineral are in your blood. From there you can make the decision about which vitamins and minerals to supplement with.

In terms of avoidance, try to stick to more natural supplements. Meaning ones which do not have lots of artificial ingredients. There are also some vitamins which contain man-made, synthetic substitutes instead of the real version.

Vegans and vegetarians

If you follow a specific kind of diet, you can find that with time you become deficient in a certain vitamin, mineral or nutrient.

One such case is with vegans and vegetarians. Not eating fish means that the levels of omega-3 in the body will most likely be lower and could be too low.

In this case it's a good idea to use a supplement which conforms to your dietary needs so as not to miss out on vital nutrition. Omega-3 is a very important ingredient if you want to maintain good brain, eye, heart and many other key functions within the body.

Diet & exercise

It should be noted that your dietary requirements will change with many factors, such as age, gender and activity levels.

If you are active and train hard consistently, your body will be using more energy, vitamins and minerals. Therefore you will need to top them up. This is not always possible through diet alone, which is why a lot of athletes will use supplements.

Lots of personal trainers recommend the use of protein, which is a fundamental building block for our bodies. However, just like any other necessary nutrient, you can have too much of a good thing.

Protein is one example where the more active you are the more you will need to have in your diet. Carbohydrates are an example of that, too, where it's likely that the more you exercise the more you will require.

The key message here is that every person is unique. What works for one person might not fit with what will work for you. You could lead two totally different lifestyles and that would result in two very different requirements for vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Here at 365 vitamins we have a range of excellent supplements which are designed with you in mind. Check out our full range today.

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