The Norman Transcript

January 5, 2013

Supplements should augment, not eliminate a good, balanced diet

By Brenda Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Now that we have closed the book on 2012, many people across the state are looking at ways to get healthy in the new year.

Some people believe they can achieve optimum health by taking dietary supplements but the best way to get all the nutrients you need is by eating a variety of foods following the USDA Daily Food Plan. However, if eating a well-balanced diet isn’t feasible, you may benefit from dietary supplement.

There are several situations in which a supplemental may be helpful for some people, including having a nutrient deficiency, pregnancy or following a very low-calorie diet.

Other situations when a dietary supplement may have a role can include eating a poor diet, taking medication that uses nutrients or having a disease that changes the way your body uses nutrients.

When it comes to supplements, more is not better. Some people may think they can improve their health by taking supplement doses, but taking nutrients in large amounts is not recommended without medical advice. Vitamins and minerals in large doses can be dangerous. The body stores minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. Large amounts can build up in the body and can be harmful.

The body does not store water-soluble vitamins, but large amounts can still cause problems. A balanced intake is vital because nutrients affect each other. Too much or too little of one nutrient can affect how the body uses others.

Something you need to understand is supplements cannot make up for a diet that consists of unhealthy choices. Supplements do not have all the nutrients important for health. It is important to try to meet your nutrient needs with a balanced diet rather than supplements.

The more variety there is in a diet, the less likely a person is to get too much or too little of any vitamin or mineral.

After the USDA’s Daily Food Plan is the best way to get all the nutrients needed in a healthy diet. However, if you do take a dietary supplement, you need to choose a supplement that contains a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Do not take more than 100 percent of the dietary reference intake, unless recommended by your health care provider. Some people may think since supplements are not prescription medications they do not have to read the labels and follow directions, or they can take double doses in an effort to get more nutrients, but that simply is not true. It is very important to take supplements according to label directions and advice from your health care provider.

Brenda Hill is a home and health educator with with Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cleveland County.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.