The word nutrient refers to ‘life enabling substances’ which boost overall health and energy, support immune system, reduce the risk of deficiency related diseases and age related conditions as well as expedite the healing process and recovery during ailments. Thus, a nutritional supplement is a product for oral consumption containing dietary ingredient(s) intended to increase the nutritional value of the diet.
The dietary ingredient may be one or a combination of any of the following nutrients:
They are available in varied forms such as tablets, capsules, gels, liquids, powder, energy bars, etc. They are readily available in food and grocery stores, pharmacies – physical and online stores.
While a routine healthy and balanced diet provides several of the above mentioned nutrients, the necessity of supplementing it arises in special situations such as pregnancy, growing children especially those who are fussy and picky eaters, illnesses, post-surgery recovery, body building, old age, imbalanced diet and sedentary lifestyle.
According to World Health Organisation, 8 out of 10 people are not eating their recommended 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. On account of their busy schedules and high stress levels, most people have adopted a modern lifestyle of convenience with a dietary in take devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and replaced by nutrient deficient packaged, processed and refined foods.
Poor access to fresh, locally grown produce is another contributing factor. Also, environmental factors have reduced plant nutrient levels.
Lastly, several nutrition scientists have claimed that even a wholesome diet rich in plant-based, health-benefiting phyto chemicals does not provide all essential vitamins and minerals to the body. A diet lacking in micronutrients can, over a period, cause some serious deficiency-related disorders.
Hence, there arises a gap between what we eat and what we need, which can be bridged by following an appropriate supplement program.
Children in the age group of two to thirteen years require the right nutrients in their diet for this is the age span when they undergo a spurt in their physical growth and mental development. Protein and DHA are the vital supplements essential to meet their growth and development requirements. They also need an extra intake of fibre to maintain their digestive health which in turn ensures an improved immunity.
The need for supplementing the children’s diet takes a leap forward in case of fussy and picky eaters, whose diet is seemingly lacking in the essential nutrients. An imbalanced diet during this critical period can have an irreversible damaging impact on their overall growth. Paediatric health drinks such as Pediasure serve as a source of complete balanced nutrition for children.
Expecting and lactating mothers are again at an increased demand of high protein, DHA and iron in their diet. While these prenatal nutrients ensure the foetal growth and development, they also help the pregnant women and nursing mothers maintain good health.
Given the high nutrient demands of athletes, even a healthy diet needs to be fortified with a high quality, comprehensive supplement regimen. Commonly referred as ‘ergogenic aids’, they enhance their exercise and athletic performance. Some of the common sports supplements include amino acids, protein, creatine and caffeine. Bodybuilding supplements like Brutal 4CE help increase lean mass muscles. Nutritional drinks such as Boost Breeze help sustain energy that helps in maintaining muscle mass.
The elderly group is another important stakeholder with special needs for nutritional supplements. With age, both men and women encounter difficulties, such as
reduced ability to chew and swallow
As a result, the older people find it difficult to meet their nutritional needs from their daily diet. Most of the supplements meant for the elders exist in liquid form, making it easy for them to consume, and include some of the key nutrients, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, fiber and potassium. These nutrients help prevent osteoporosis, improve energy, maintain nerve function, improve digestive health and control blood pressure.
The ailing and those recovering from a surgery, need special nutrients to aid their healing process and ensure a speedy recovery. Also, they may face loss of appetite and taste changes, which makes it difficult to consume all kinds of food. Hence, following a disciplined nutrient supplement regimen becomes important. Jevity is one such nutritional supplement drink with fiber for long term tube feeding.
Besides the above stated high need groups, every individual should include supplements in his/her diet to meet optimal health and overall well being.
While augmenting our daily diet with supplements is a wise strategy to employ, they have to be tailored to meet individual needs. They should also not serve as a substitute for our daily food. To reiterate, they only fortify our daily dietary consumption to meet our nutritional bases.
This stance takes special relevance in the context of small children building eating habits. They need to be exposed to a myriad of foods with varied tastes and textures.Younger children often take easy repose in consuming an energy drink rather than biting and chewing on food. Parents use these nutrition supplements as an easy route to get their children their daily dose of nutrition.However this can in a lot of cases result in the children missing their developmental milestones with respect to eating habits like chewing and digesting.
Another thing to be careful about when using supplements is that our daily intake of any nutrient through food and supplement should not exceed the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Overdose of the same can be detrimental to the body causing toxicity and other complications.
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Swati Chadha has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2017. A stay-at-home mom of two wonderful children, her professional experience has been in the social development sector with a focus on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention. She considers ...
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