1.a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.
In this day and age, we have factors working against us even when we are eating nutrient-rich diets and exercising. However we should understand why we need to supplement, how to supplement and which supplements are best for you. Some of the reasons that we should supplement are due to but not limited to:
Soil: It is a fact that over the years essential soil nutrients have been depleted by using harmful fertilisers and other soil in-puts. Plants don’t absorb nearly the maximum amount of minerals they should.
Environmental factors: There are so many harmful pesticides, herbicides etc that are sprayed on crops that we eat, in the air that we breath and even the chemicals we use in our homes to clean and much more.
Exercising: While this is a good thing, any time we put our bodies under repeated stress the result is inflammation. We must replenish these nutrients regularly to aid in recovery.
Natural ageing: There is no denying it, everything we do today is meant to delay the process of ageing. Certain enzymes in our bodies deplete over time as part of that ageing process
Dietary Limitations: If I asked you where you get Choline from, would you know what this is? No? You are not alone. Most of us eat based on the old notion of “plate must have protein, starch and vegetable.” While this is OK, if you do not vary the sources of your food, you will miss out on some essential micro-nutrients over time. This is why someone who is relatively healthy, falls sick , gets blood panel done, which reveals that they are suffering from one/more nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies are
corrected by implementing foods and supplements that incorporate these
Whenever anyone tells me they want to adopt a vegan lifestyle, I first question them on how their current diet is and whether they’ve had a complete blood profile done in the past 3 months. Trust me, if your diet is wanting as an omnivore it will be worse on a plant-based vegan diet. This is why certain people seemingly “fail” to thrive on a vegan diet. So my advice, get your blood work done, discuss the results with your doctor and a nutritional counsellor then arm your kitchen with life-giving nutrient-dense foods and beneficial supplements for your body. This is why supplementation is not a “one-size fits all” situation. I’m looking at you multi-vitamins!
Here are some common supplementation scenarios:
Vitamin B-12 in the body encourages and helps with the growth of red
blood cells. This vital nutrient is important in preventing anaemia. Food sources: enriched cereals, fortified soy products and over ripe fruits. Supplement: Yes, tablets, sprays or liquid
Iron is another important role player in the development of red blood
cells. Food sources: beans, peas, lentils, leafy and dark coloured vegetables, enriched cereals, whole grain, and dried fruit. Spirulina and other green algae’s are abundant in iron. The human body does not easily absorb non-animal based iron. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron and that is why it is a good idea for Vegans to incorporate vitamin C foods along with their iron foods to help absorption. High doses of Vitamin C are in citrus fruits, strawberries, cabbage, broccoli and tomatoes. Supplement: No, unless strictly authorised by your doctor
Zinc is a mineral that plays an important part of several enzymes that assist with cell division and production of proteins in the body. Food sources: Soy products, whole grains, wheat germ, and nuts are all good sources of zinc. Supplement: Yes
Calcium helps the body to grow and strengthen teeth and bones. Food sources: Dark coloured vegetables like turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, bok choy, and collard greens ; fortified soy milk, calcium-enriched, calcium-set tofu, oranges, figs, are other good sources. Supplement: Yes, about 500mg per day should be good.
Vitamin D important for bones because it can increase calcium absorption when the body signals that it needs calcium. We obtain vitamin D directly from sun exposure about 20 minutes a day. While the body can store vitamin D made in the sunnier months for use during less sunny months, this does not work for everyone. In fact, some people, even those living in sunny climates, develop extremely low levels of vitamin D. This can manifest itself through fatigue and bone pain. Food sources:The vegan diet contains little, if any, vitamin D without fortified foods or supplements. Supplement: Yes, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) tablets or spray. Better to take small amounts daily than sporadically.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the “good” types of fat as and occur as ALA, EPA and DHA. They may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. Your body can’t make them, only converts them to a usable form. You have to eat them or take supplements. Food sources: chia seeds, algal oil, flax seeds, walnuts, brussel sprouts, hemp seeds and perilla oil. Supplement: Depends on your ALA levels, if they are OK then EPA is OK, otherwise vegans should look into increasing their ALA food intake or take a DHA supplement.
In conclusion, only you know your body at it’s optimal level so whether that means you supplement or not is up to you, but make an informed decision either way. Supplements are not to be taken in place of food, rather to fill in the nutritional gap.
Sources: Vegan Health (an evidence-based nutritional site)