Monday, June 4, 2007

Discover the Benefits of Nutritional Supplements

In modern times, there is a growing and important need to incorporate nutritional supplements in one's diet for many reasons. While the average person may believe that he or she is eating a balanced diet, in fact he or she may be missing out on vital nutrients that cannot be easy gained on a daily basis. There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration when one is weighing the reasons for taking supplements.

Why Take Nutritional Supplements?

Modern farming methods utilize frequent crop rotations in order to maximize productivity. As a result, however, vital nutrients and especially minerals in the soil are rapidly depleted. This is so extreme that you may notice that a tomato from the store today just doesn't taste like the tomato of your childhood - and it probably has nowhere near the nutrient level either. As a result, those eating mass-produced vegetables and fruits are missing out on key phytonutrients, including bioflavanoids and minerals, which are generally no longer present in the amounts they were in the past.

In addition, today we are constantly exposed to overly processed food products. If you walk into any standard supermarket, you would likely eliminate 90 percent of the store if you were to ignore the processed foods that are offered. It's certainly hard to avoid, since these are the products advertised on television, available at grocery stores, and served in the multitudes of fast-food restaurants. Even if you are conscientious and try to eat well, you still likely are filling your stomach much of the time with processed grains (stripped of bran and fiber), fatty foods (loaded with saturated and trans-fats) and overly sweetened foods with few vital nutrients.

Plus, it can be almost impossible to achieve the diverse and vital nutrients that your body requires just in what you eat day to day. For example, different fruits contain different nutrients - but you are not likely to eat every type of fruit every single day, or even once a month. How often have you eaten blueberries, bananas, pears, cherries and raspberries in a single day? Because there is such a variety out there, and because these nutrients are all important, it can be simply impossible to consistently get them all from diet alone.

Another challenge is that Americans are eating the wrong types of fats - we eat too many products containing high levels of trans fats, saturated fats, and vegetable poly unsaturated fats, instead of healthy monounsaturated fats and fish oils. Fish oils, in particular, are a valuable source of essential fatty acids, which are critical for maintaining normal mental and cardiovascular function. But unless one is eating wild Alaskan salmon three to four times a week, every week, one is not likely achieving the optimal level of these essential fatty acids and vital nutrients from diet alone.

For all of these reasons and more, high-quality nutritional supplements can help fill in the gaps and provide the vital nutrients missing from foods. They can give you the variety that you need on a day-to-day basis. Nutritional supplements are also important as it becomes evident that many vitamins and minerals can optimize your genetic potential - and taking nutritional supplements with the right blend of vital nutrients can also achieve this.

How Can You Choose the Right Nutritional Supplements?

Therefore, if taking nutritional supplements is so important to your health, your next step is to figure out how to navigate the sea of options that currently exist. Walk into any grocery store or pharmacy, or do an online search, and you'll find thousands of nutritional supplements. How do you choose a product or a brand?

Generally speaking, you should start by making sure that any supplement you buy is from a manufacturer and/or supplier working under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These practices include documentation of the manufacturing process to eliminate the risks of i) contamination or adulteration of the vital nutrients the supplements contain, or ii) product mislabeling. Most well-known brands use GMP, so you may want to stick with a better-known product to ensure quality.

You can also investigate the manufacturer of a supplement to ensure that it has good quality control processes in place. The manufacturer should make this information available for consumers on its website or in product literature, including whether it has in-house testing of its products and whether it works with independent labs to confirm the potency and purity of its nutritional supplements and the vital nutrients that are included. In addition, you should be able to see up front if the manufacturer is promoting clinical research or simply featuring pseudo-science with little back up of its claims.

Take a look at the entire product line offered by the company as well. Many producers of nutritional supplements simply provide stand alone vitamins or single-ingredient herbs, such as a vitamin D supplement or an Echinacea pill. These companies are often simply of the "me too" variety - offering basic products just to make money. Other companies may offer blends or balanced formulations with the right combinations of vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, or herbs that work together to produce optimal results. Such companies are likely to provide balanced nutritional supplements that more closely mimic those found in nature and that are better for maintaining your health. Companies that provide such products are more likely to be interested in the overall well-being of their customers rather than in just selling a single type of ingredient.

Finally, look carefully at the delivery method of the vital nutrients in any supplement you are investigating. While many nutritional supplements are offered in a compressed tablet format, this is not necessarily the best way to get the nutrients into your system. If this type of tablet isn't formulated properly, or if it is compressed with too much pressure when it is created, it will not dissolve readily in the stomach. If you decide to try tablets, make sure the label notes that they meet USP dissolution requirements, which means that the product has been tested and will properly dissolve in the stomach.

A better choice for delivery is to find nutritional supplements that are isotonic - provided in powder form that can be mixed with water to create an isotonic solution. This enables vital nutrients to be absorbed more readily in the small bowel without need for digestion in the stomach, thus a very efficient delivery method.

Conclusion

Nutritional supplements can be extremely beneficial to your overall health and well being and can compensate for the lack of vital nutrients in modern processed foods and inadequate diets. However, it is important to choose very carefully the nutritional supplements that you purchase. Look into the background of the manufacturer or supplier of the supplements and make sure they are meeting quality control standards as well as providing these vital nutrients in a delivery form that has the greatest benefit.