Best Dietary Supplements: Making Sense of The Choices

Sometimes the best diet supplements are the fewest.

Just try to make it through the shelves of supplements without getting overwhelmed. You can easily find a half-dozen varieties of similar vitamin and mineral combinations. And don’t forget those late-night commercials telling you that you’re in danger if you don’t buy their “special” formula in the next 30 minutes.

Face it: you know your body needs something. But which vitamins, minerals, hormones and herbs are the best for a lifetime of fitness? What exactly are the best dietary supplements?

The United States dietary supplement industry is a big business, with sales ranging in the $20-25 billion each year. Even though the FDA has a definition for dietary supplements, a definition alone will not determine what’s best for you. You have to understand what you’re trying to achieve and which ingredients will help you achieve those results.

Dietary supplements are manufactured to supplement an existing diet, by definition. Dietary supplements are not a replacement for food, although they may be marketed as such.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) acknowledges that certain segments of the population do in fact need supplementation to their diet, and these include senior citizens, strict vegans or vegetarians, pregnant women, those with intolerance to certain foods or with allergies, nursing moms and those with certain diseases such as cancer or HIV.

The best Dietary Supplements are like “insurance” and should not regularly replace meals. However, of course there are those who cannot eat solid meals because of illness or injury. In those cases, powdered and liquid dietary supplements, such as Ensure, are ideal because they offer many calories and vitamins per serving, making it easier for the ill or injured to take in enough energy to recover.

To improve sports performance, maintain a healthy weight and increase muscle tone, sports nutrition supplements such as protein powders and creatine are often used. There is evidence of a slight advantage for those who take these products when training.

A calcium supplement is one of the safest and most readily used dietary supplements. Calcium is found naturally in many foods such as milk, soybeans, fish, and broccoli. Still, some people just don’t eat enough of these foods to get adequate amounts of calcium.

Since many people eschew dairy because they feel it is fattening, or they have allergies, it’s especially important to get adequate amounts of calcium to help bones, skin and the entire muscular system stay supple.

The next best dietary supplements are the B vitamins (B-12, B-6, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin and thiamin), which are extremely important for seniors who absorb less as they get older. As with calcium, B vitamins can be found in dark greens, orange juice, grains and more.

Vitamin C is a must… even if there is very little threat of scurvey! Some argue that you don’t need a nutritional supplement of vitamin C; however, since it’s a water soluble vitamin, your body still may not get all it needs. Healthy skin loves Vitamin C; your immune system loves Vitamin C. Most people include plenty of this to give themselves some healthy insurance.

If you eat a colorful variety of foods, your vitamin needs could be covered through your diet. If you are not very active, your vitamins needs may be covered as well. But how many of us eat the right kind of nutritionally dense food and are not very active? Hmmm… Just eat plenty of oranges, broccoli, tomatoes and melons, and you’re just fine.

Same with Vitamin D… The sun is your best source; however, most people’s blood work shows that their Vitamin D levels are in the lower ranges. Liquid Vitamin D is an easy solution. If you work indoors, or live in an area where the sun doesn’t shine (too often), a dietary supplement of vitamin can give your immune system a healthy boost. It is important to at least get the minimum, since Vitamin D is crucial for bone-building and muscular health. Chances are, you are not getting enough Vitamin D for good health.

Of great importance: work with your doctor. You medicine, prescriptions, and the best dietary supplements should work hand in hand. Some minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can build up in the system and actually cause lethal reactions.