What are nutritional supplements and why would you take them?

At Complete Me, we call our products nutritional blends or food supplements. This means that by taking our capsules, you supplement with extra nutrients that you might be lacking in your daily diet.

In an ideal world, we would get all the nutrients we need from the food we eat, especially if we were eating a balanced diet of lean protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. However, this is not always the case and in the western world we live in, lots of our food is over-processed, with no nutritional value. We also may have absorption issues leading to not absorbing the nutrients we need. This can be due to low stomach acid, health complications such as Chron’s disease or even the foods we eat, which can sometimes interfere with other nutrient’s absorption! 

Food supplements were designed to bridge this gap, helping us maintain the correct levels we need to prevent deficiencies. This might be referred to as either an RDA (recommended daily allowance) or an NRV (Nutrient reference value), which you will see on the packaging of all supplements. This is the percentage of how much of the nutrient you need each day. In some cases this percentage may be over 100%, this is because the nutrient levels are set at the minimum we need, not the maximum. In some cases we will need lots more of that nutrient to help that particular problem, and increase the body’s stores.

So who would take supplements, and how could they help?

If you eat a restrictive diet..

This may be due to a medical condition, intolerance or allergy. However, if you are cutting out particular food groups, you may need to look at getting these nutrients in the form of a supplement. For example, if you are lactose intolerant you wouldn’t be consuming dairy, thus your sources of calcium could be lower. Calcium has many important roles in the body, including bone health, but it also helps our Digestive Enzymes function. These enzymes help break down our food and help nutrient absorption.

If you exercise…

People who work out frequently may need to supplement with a group of vitamins called the B Vitamins and Vitamin C. Both of which are water-soluble vitamins. This means they can be easily excreted from the body and lost if we sweat. If we work out frequently and feel that we could be lacking energy, it could be helpful to look at replenishing them. These nutrients are needed for our body’s to make energy from the food we eat.

If you live in the northern hemisphere..

Unfortunately, the farther we live from the equator, the harder it is to obtain Vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is best obtained from the sun’s rays; however, this may not be possible in the winter months, like in the UK and this is when you may need to supplement. Vitamin D is vital when it comes to regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Not to mention, it helps facilitate a normal functioning immune system. If you are unsure whether you need Vitamin D, you can now easily test to see your levels, and this is best done at the end of Summer around October and then again at the beginning of Spring in April.

If you eat lots of over-processed foods..

Unfortunately, in the western world, we consume lots of over-processed foods, and many people’s diets consist of these alone. It is believed that 90% of the population don’t get the recommended nutrients they need from food alone. In addition, it is said that around 63% of adults do not eat their 5 a day! Eating processed foods can make it difficult for our bodies to get the nutrients we need, leading to deficiencies.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan or thinking of going plant-based…

If you eat a Vegan or Vegetarian diet or are thinking about going more plant-based, then you may need to look at supplementing with specific nutrients which can only be obtained through animal foods. These include B Vitamins, and in particular, B12. These vitamins have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism. It is also worth having your iron levels checked if you are Vegan or Vegetarian due to the different forms of Iron heme and non-heme iron. Meat, in particular, red meat, contains lots of heme iron and can be easily absorbed by the body. In contrast, plant-based foods have the other form of iron, which is not as well absorbed and utilised.

If you’re are a female…

Women are often at a higher risk of iron deficiency which can lead to anaemia, especially those who tend to lose a lot of blood during their monthly period. This may result in the need to take iron supplements. If your periods are heavy and have signs of low iron and often feel tired, please contact your GP for a blood test to evaluate your iron levels and if they need supplementing.

With all supplements, it is important to say that they are not intended to replace a well-balanced diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, adequate lean protein, and healthy fats. However, they can be an effective way of helping to prevent deficiencies if you are not able to get the nutrients from your diet alone, due to some of the reasons mentioned above. If you are uncertain what nutrients you may need for the problem you have, please email nutrition@completemelife.com. If you are on any medication, please advise your GP before taking any supplements.

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