Getting the right nutrients is essential for your body to function and can even help protect you against disease. That’s why it’s so important to supplement your diet with a wide range of foods that provide vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and more. If you suspect you are lacking in a particular nutrient or would benefit more from it, you may be tempted to purchase supplements that will give you an extra boost. However, experts say there is only one supplement that is really better to get in pill form than food. Read on to find out which nutrient is the only one best to ingest as a supplement and why it’s worth adding to your daily routine.
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Experts say the best way to get all the necessary nutrients is to eat a varied diet rich in whole foods. According to the Mayo Clinic, this approach offers three key benefits compared to dietary supplements in the form of pills and powders.
First, whole foods offer complex nutrition that provides a wide range of micronutrients, rather than isolated nutrients. They also provide your body with essential fiber, which may “help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, stroke, and heart disease,” the Mayo Clinic says. Finally, getting your nutrients from food sources provides protective substances such as antioxidants, which protect your cells and tissues.
A complete diet should include “lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats,” says lindsay delkRD/RDN, a dietician over 20 years old. “If you have specific questions about which nutrients you need most, talk to your doctor or dietitian. They can help you create a personalized plan to make sure you’re getting everything your body needs. “, she adds.
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The New York Times recently published a quiz assess the public’s knowledge of dietary supplements. After each question, they offered fascinating facts about the risks, benefits, and uses of many popular products.
In this one, Anand Dhruva, MD, director of education at UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Health, touted the value of taking fish oil in capsule form rather than food. “It’s always better to get vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet than from pills, extracts or powders,” said the Time wrote. “The only exception may be fish oil, according to [Dhruva]. Fish oil supplements generally contain less mercury than fish, especially large predators, such as tuna, swordfish or shark.”
Fish oil supplements are made by extracting fat from fish tissue. They are rich in two types of omega-3 fatty acids– eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – both of which can help improve your brain health, heart health, cholesterol, blood pressure, and more. “When looking for a fish oil supplement, it’s important to check how much EPA and DHA it contains. Make sure that at least 50% of the oil is EPA and DHA. DHA,” advises Delk. “Most importantly, buy any supplement from a reputable brand with third-party certification,” she adds.
Although fish oil supplements offer a mercury-free way to experience a wide range of health benefits, you can also get those same benefits with minimal mercury from a select a few types of fish. According to the Mayo Clinic, salmon, sardines, freshwater trout, herring, anchovies, and Pacific mackerel are good options, as are tilapia, cod, and catfish. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of oily fish per week if this is your primary source of omega-3s.
Alternatively, you can get your omega-3s from fortified foods such as yogurt, milk, and eggs. For those following a plant-based diet, flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and soybeans can also provide an omega-3 boost.
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While food sources are almost always the ideal source of nutrients, experts say supplements or fortified foods may still be helpful for some people. This includes those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, are 50 or older, or have a poor appetite.
Supplements may also be helpful for people on a diet that excludes whole food groups, those with medical conditions that affect digestion, people with allergies, and those who have had surgery on their digestive tracts.
Talk to your doctor about whether supplements are right for you and whether you might benefit more from the nutrient supply in your diet.
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