Supplements

 

Vitamins & Minerals

Supplements are a way to compensate our eating habits that do not provide a healthy variety of food items. The best use of supplements is to restore balance with targeted supply of individual vitamins and minerals. For instance, pregnant women benefit from additional iron (a mineral) and folic acid (a vitamin) supplements. Like caloric foods, vitamins and minerals should not be ingested in excess. Nutrition information provides guidelines as such in form of daily values. For instance, fortified cereals that provide a 100% supply in one meal (such as advertised for Total) provide too many nutrients if combined with additional food. However, supplements are an ideal and easy way to get vitamins and minerals that might be in short supply in certain situations or locations (vitamin D in northern hemisphere during winter). .


Antioxidants & Phytochemicals

Many supplements are non essential in contrast to vitamins, minerals, and some amino acids and fatty acids. Antioxidants and phytochemicals mean two different things for the same nutrients. They are essentially plant products (phyto for plant) and strongly interact with either light and/or free radicals thus functioning as antioxidants. Antioxidants are not needed since our body produces its own antioxidant molecules. An exception is probably vitamin E, which is a fat soluble antioxidant protecting the cell's membranes from chemical damage.


Prebiotics

These supplements are bacterial cultures that can be added to the intestinal flora, the large microbial ecosystem in our colon. It is well known that some 300 to 400 bacterial species live in the human colon that are important for a healthy digestion, absorption, and secretion of nutrients, water, and waste products. Occasionally, a parasitic or pathogenic microbe nestles in the gut, but importantly, our own microflora is helping our immune system to combat such intruders and eliminate them before they have a chance to enter the blood stream and cause major infections. Prebiotics can also provide digestive processes that are absent in some of us (lactose intolerance) and are an example of functional food.


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