Food supplements: The importance of a good use in the diet
Published: 15 June, 2015 - Updated: 19 November, 2020 | 3'
Balanced, varied diet and healthy lifestyle.
The key to keeping you healthy and fit is a balanced, varied diet and a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition means providing the body with the necessary nutrients to carry out its vital functions.
The nutrients are, on the one hand, carbohydrates, lipids and proteins as energy sources and, on the other hand, vitamins and minerals as regulators and precursors of other molecules.
Healthy eating = healthy meals.
Therefore, the different food groups which provide the necessary elements to carry out all physiological processes in the body must be eaten daily in adequate quantities.
These food groups are displayed in a pyramid that symbolises the recommended proportions of each group to be taken. If a diet is varied and balanced, it will be sufficient to have all the necessary nutrients and food supplements.
Complementing the diet with food supplements.
Food supplements are provided to supplement the intake of these nutrients in the daily diet. They are concentrated sources of nutrients or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect available in dosage form, i.e. capsules, tablets, pills, liquid vials, dropper or dosage bottles and other similar forms which must be taken in small single quantities.
More than just vitamins and minerals.
Did you know that there is a wide range of nutrients and other elements that can be found in food supplements including, among others, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibre, various plants and herbal extracts, either as single ingredients or in combination.
There are many kinds of food supplements on the market, which are under the regulations and standards set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Manufacturers comply with this legislation and select the kinds and amounts of vitamins, minerals and other ingredients they use in their products, trying to meet the general advice given to the consumer.
Proper information for the consumer of nutritional supplements.
It is very important to provide good information to the consumer.
The recommended amounts of nutrients that people should take depend on their age and sex and are called the recommended daily amounts (RDAs) or reference intakes (RRIs). The recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals are currently shown by nutrient reference values (NRVs), each of which is different.
To make it easier for the consumer, the labelling of food supplements provides the content of these values in terms of percentage, according to the amount contained in the recommended dose or portion for each product. This labelling also provides instructions on how to use the product, including how much the manufacturer recommends to take and the conditions under which the product should be kept in order to maintain its optimum properties.
Within this context of consumer information, it is possible that, according to the composition of the product, one or more nutrition claims and/or advertisements may show that the food supplement or any of its components has specific properties.
Thus, nutrition claims1 may show that a product provides or contains one or more nutrients, or lacks or contains a small amount of another. For example, nutrition labels such as low energy, high fibre, no salt, etc. may be found.
There are also health and disease-reduction claims for certain nutrients or ingredients that are linked to health. These claims are such as the nutrient X contributes to... and have been previously approved by a reference health authority.
In general, food supplements containing the recommended amounts of nutrients do not have any interaction with medicines, but it is recommended that you ask your doctor if you are being treated or taking anticoagulants.
Healthy Food and Diet.
In short, food supplements are no substitute for the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet. Good and full information on the product and its components must be provided before the intake of these products, so that your choice is completely optional.
It is therefore recommended that you contact a health professional, whether a doctor, dietician/nutritionist or pharmacist, who will be able to give you professional advice.
Food Supplements Recommendations.
For adequate use of food supplements, follow these tips:
- Tell your doctor what supplements you are taking.
- Do not exceed the dose recommended by the manufacturer.
- Stop taking them if you feel any side effects, and ask your doctor for advice.
- Read reliable information and consult your healthcare professional.
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1 Find out more about nutrition and health claims in AECOSAN: Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition.
Information in English from EFSA. European Food Safety Authority. EFSA's role in Food Supplements