By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Of all the dietary debates, none is more heated than the one surrounding the issue of supplements.
Should I take supplements? Are they safe? How much do I need? Is it worth the money?
Even if you have the time to wade through the conflicting literature surrounding supplements, it can be hard to find a straightforward answer to these questions.
Just recently, a new study surfaced saying that Omega-3 fish oil—one of the more highly-touted supplements—wasn’t effective in reducing a person’s mortality risk, or their propensity to have a heart attack or stroke. These results ran contrary to the prevailing wisdom that Omega-3s may help stave off heart disease and death.
The bottom line—most experts say—is that no pill can replace a balanced diet.
“My motto is always: food first,” says Rachel Berman, R.D., Director of Nutrition for Calorie Count, “Foods found in nature are always more nutritious because our bodies are used to processing natural food.”
A well-balanced diet is best
Dian Grisel Ph.D., co-author of the book, “TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust,” agrees that getting nutrients from natural sources is the way to go.
“Not only is it possible to get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need from foods alone, but also this is the best way to ensure we’re getting all the nutrients we need,” she says. Even accounting for modern farming practices and soil depletion, naturally-grown fruits and vegetables outstrip artificial sources of nutrition.
What makes real food more beneficial than manufactured vitamins and minerals?
Supplements are generally made up of isolated nutrients. Each pill contains, at most, a handful of closely-related compounds.
The problem with this, according to Griesel, is that vitamins and minerals were never meant to be consumed in this manner. “In nature, they [nutrients] are packaged in a complete form and work together for our physiological benefit. Isolated and out of proper balance, they can create problems,” she says.