Supplements should not replace food and a healthy lifestyle. However, the exact quantization and concentration of the active ingredients, as well as their more easily absorbable form, make them excellent complements (therefore, “supplements”) in the event of nutritional deficiencies.
Why use a food supplement when we can simply take the food in which the active ingredient is contained? Because, while following a varied and balanced diet, our body could be lacking in nutrients. In this case, a supplement can be an effective complement for several reasons.
First of all, good supplements offer a precise quantity of active and concentrated principle, two elements that the single food (by its nature) cannot supply.
The second reason that supports the supplement’s argument as a complement to food is bioavailability. It is an established fact that not everything we eat is absorbed and used by our body. On the contrary, most nutrients and active ingredients are eliminated. The best known case is that of magnesium, a mineral that contributes, among others, to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, to normal energy-yielding metabolism, to the normal functioning of the nervous system, to the maintenance of normal bones and normal muscle function. Magnesium deficiency affects about 70% of the Western population, despite the fact that many foods are rich in it. In fact, only a small percentage is absorbed through food, since other nutrients present in the same foods that contain magnesium are those that prevent their absorption (insoluble dietary fiber from the bran and whole grains, oxalates in spinach and green leafy vegetables). With the right supplement, it is possible to complement the diet, choosing to associate it with molecules that help its absorption (such as fructose, soluble fiber and vitamin D) or using particular forms of the mineral, such as the sucrosomal one (a patented technology for greater absorption and tolerability).
Another mineral essential for our health but barely absorbable by the diet is iron, whose deficiency is the leading cause of anemia worldwide. On average, healthy people absorb about 10% of food iron. In particular, our intestine is able to assimilate 2-10% of iron from vegetables and 10-35% from animal food sources. Through a good supplement, we can get the iron in the most bioavailable form (Fe2 +), possibly combining it with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which further increases its absorption.
The last factor on the list that influences the decision to take a food supplement as a complement is the nutritional and active ingredients contained in foods. Most of the products sold in developed countries are not fresh, processed on an industrial level (frozen, over-cooked), rich in “hidden” ingredients (fats, sugar and salt) and chemical additives (trans fatty acids, preservatives, taste enhancers, colorants).
Food supplements do not replace a healthy and balanced diet. However, given their precise quantizations, concentrations and combinations, good quality supplements are excellent complements to the diet, allowing the quantity of each component to be standardized.