How nutritional supplements boost health

It's becoming increasingly difficult to eat right, as busy workloads and domestic balancing acts can cut through your best intentions. Preparing a fresh and hearty meal is more of a chore when you barely have time to drive from work to school to soccer practice, and fast food can rapidly escalate from a rare treat to a daily habit. Of course, you'll have a hard time keeping up with your fast-paced lifestyle without a well-balanced diet, so how do you reconcile diet and energy requirements? For many people, vitamins and supplements are the best solution to the problem, and there sure are a lot to choose from. Find out just how supplements work, who they can help and what elements to look for in a vitamin complex.

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Do You Need a Dietary Supplement?

Whole foods provide your body with all of the nutrients your body needs to function well: micronutrients, fiber and protective substances like phytochemicals and antioxidants. If your diet is missing something, especially fruits and vegetables, you may want to consider adding a multivitamin supplement to your routine. Those who consume a limited amount of calories, have medical conditions affecting nutrient absorption or lead a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle are good candidates for a supplement, and should speak with a doctor about what their body may be missing.

On the other hand, some believe that multivitamins don't actually contribute to better health, which makes them a waste of money. The principal concern in this argument is that the body can only use so much of any particular vitamin, and the rest is simply expelled. So if you're already eating a balanced diet, you may not benefit from the extra supplements; those who are unable to keep up with a good nutrition plan or have altered their menu for weight loss should look into exactly what vitamins and minerals are missing from their diet before splurging on supplements.

How to Choose a Natural Supplement

Supplements are not as strictly regulated as drugs, so you'll want to pay close attention to what you're purchasing, even if it's labeled "natural" or "herbal." Compare products according to their active ingredients, serving size and amount of nutrients; brands that offer huge doses (over 100 percent of the recommended daily intake) of one nutrient and less of another are normally not the best choices. While an FDA-approved diet supplement is far better than one that bears no such claim, look for "USP" on the label, which indicates that the supplement meets federal strength and purity standards set by the testing organization U.S. Pharmacopeia.

A nutritional supplement will help to fill in the gaps if your diet is lacking, though don't expect it to cure or prevent illness. Remember that an herbal dietary supplement, a multivitamin or mineral oil isn't meant to replace food—a healthy diet is the best way to control your energy levels, organ function and weight.

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