The Truth About Supplements

Supplements have gained a somewhat negative reputation among health purists. A lot of people argue that, with a balanced diet, it’s possible to sustain a healthy lifestyle without the need of external help. Unfortunately, a lot of people have busy lifestyles or aren’t able to eat certain foods and as a result, they find it hard pressed to get the recommended amount of nutrients.

While supplements aren’t miracle pills that’ll improve your health after the first dose, they do contribute to helping human beings top up their body with the necessary nutrients to maintain good health. Whether it’s a multivitamin, cod liver oil or ginseng, there is a good mix of natural and synthetic supplements to choose from at your local health store—but what’s right for you?

Natural vs Synthetic—What’s the Difference?

Supplements are usually categorized into synthetic or natural. Most labels will hide the fact that something is synthetic (most drugs and tablets are created synthetically) but a lot of health stores will gladly advertise “natural” supplements.

However, natural doesn’t imply that it’s made with completely natural methods and ingredients. Natural means that the main components are derived from natural ingredients such as vegetables, minerals or sometimes animals. Before they turn into a tablet form and get loaded into a bottle, they go through a refining process to separate the good nutrients from the waste. For example, Vitamin E can be extracted from vegetables and vitamin D can be obtained from fish liver oils.

A “natural” supplement only has to contain 10% natural ingredients. The other 90% can be completely synthetic and it would still be legal to label it as natural. Many people refuse to ingest chemical compounds that aren’t meant for human consumption, but unless a supplement is proven to be 100% derived from natural ingredients, there will be some synthetic compounds inside of it. Over 95% of supplements that are sold today fall into the synthetic category because they are easier to engineer. If you’re interested in the specifics of creating supplements and drugs in general, there’s a lot of information you can view online at

So Which Is Better?

There are many factors when considering what supplement is better for your current situation. If ingesting compounds that weren’t designed to be consumed worries you, then stick to natural supplements. However, you have to keep in mind that even if your supplement is 100% natural, there is still a chemical process involved—they aren’t made by grinding down foods with a pestle and mortar.

You also have to worry about the cost. Natural supplements are often far more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. You can buy bottles of synthetic multivitamins for a fraction of the price that you spend on their natural counterparts.

The question that needs to be asked is: does the supplement help me? While there are cases where natural vitamins are superior to their synthetic versions, it’s a small difference and the cases are few and far between. The reverse is also true because some synthetic supplements are easier to absorb than natural ones. Synthetic supplements work fine if you’re worried about the cost of natural supplements, and considering that an overwhelming majority of supplements on the market are synthetic—it’s safe to say they work and the only reason decision you need to make is how much you’re willing to spend.

What Kind of Supplements Are There?

The most common type of supplement that most people consume is the multivitamin. Next would be sports nutrition supplements, weight management, then finally specialty supplements that target specific conditions or illnesses. This could include fish oil supplements to prevent and manage heart disease or even hair growth supplements to prevent thinning hair.

As usual with medication, always consult a medical professional before you buy a large bottle of pills that you plan to consume. Always read the label and do research on how much a particular supplement will actually help improve your condition. Understand the side effects if there are any, and make sure you think hard about if you need supplements or not.

Most people don’t need supplements to improve their health but simply need to cut out fast food and sugary drinks. A supplement isn’t a miracle pill that’ll fix your health issues and manage your weight for you—cut bad eating habits and improve your diet and you’ll see more improvement than any supplement could ever give you.

To give you an idea on the types of supplements are available on the market, here are a few detailed examples.

Vitamins and Minerals

Our bodies need vitamins in small doses to help maintain their regular functions. The most common vitamin supplement is the multivitamin—a jack-of-all-trades pill that contains all of the vitamins our bodies need. While convenient, most people often don’t need a top-up of every vitamin. Vitamin E, for example, is commonly found in healthy foods such as leafy vegetables and wholes grains, and we get enough of it from our regular diets.

Some people prefer to take doses of single vitamins such as vitamin C because it helps to boost our immune system. When people have colds or the flu it’s common to see them drinking lemon tea or buying lemon flavored sweets. This is because lemon contains vitamin C, and we need all of the immune-boosting help we can get when we’re suffering from infections and diseases. Similarly, seniors take vitamin D because it helps to keep their joints working when they suffer from age-related conditions like arthritis. To give you an idea of what each vitamin does, here’s a simple list.

  • Vitamin A helps maintain healthy teeth, bones, and skin.
  • Vitamin B6 helps us form red blood cells and keeps our brains healthy.
  • Vitamin B12 is important for our metabolism
  • Vitamin C promotes healthy cells, wound healing and boosts our immune system
  • Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium which promotes healthy joints and teeth
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects our cells
  • Vitamin K helps our blood stick together (coagulate)
  • Biotin is essential for the metabolism of carbs and protein
  • Niacin is a B vitamin that helps our skin and nerves and also lowers cholesterol
  • Folate works together with vitamin B12 to form red blood cells and helps us create DNA
  • Pantothenic acid helps with the metabolism of food and also produces hormones
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) works with other B vitamins to grow our bodies
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) changes carbs into energy

As you can see, the thirteen vitamins that our bodies need can be quite overwhelming which is why many people resort to just taking a multivitamin. However, if you discuss with your doctor or a nutritionist about what vitamins you lack, then they can suggest brands and products for you to take if you don’t want to use an all-in-one pill.

Whey Protein

If you’ve been interested in bodybuilding then you’ve most likely heard of whey protein shakes. Whey protein is an essential supplement for sporting enthusiasts because it’s an easy way to get your recommended intake of protein for when you want to increase your weight and strength. Protein helps repair and grow your muscles after an intense workout.

If your goal is to build strength or muscles then protein shakes are an essential supplement. However, if you find it hard to consume enough protein in a day then a whey protein shake can be a good alternative to get your recommended amount. One of the most common sources of protein is chicken, so if you’re on the road to consuming less meat or becoming a vegetarian then whey protein can help your ensure you’re getting enough.


Glucosamine is naturally created by your body, but its production is slowed down as our bodies age and we grow older. It repairs cartilage and other tissues in our body, and it forms the essential building blocks for joints in our body. This makes it a great remedy for joint problems like arthritis. If you’re growing close to 40 then you need to start looking after your joints since the glucosamine production is weakening.

But before you consider taking glucosamine for your joints consult a doctor first. There could be minor side-effects such as stomach upsets, constipation, and diarrhea. You should also be careful about taking glucosamine if you have a shellfish allergy or diabetes. Your doctor will help you recommend the best brand of glucosamine for you to take.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Tinned fish usually turns people off, but fatty fish like mackerel and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential to decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, breast and prostate cancer, and it can even relieve sore joints and muscles. Research has also shown that it can decrease levels of depression. If you aren’t eating a portion of fish at least three times a week then you’re probably lacking omega-3 fatty acids. This supplement can come in a capsule form, but if you find it hard to swallow the large pills then it also comes in a liquid variety.

Taking supplements may be an option for those who are too busy to always eat properly, hope this guide answers some of your questions.

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