We do our best to combat getting sick by covering our mouths and washing our hands. We also up our game with home remedies, vitamins and supplements.
However, those supplements may not help as much as you think.
Consumer Reports shows Americans spent $35 billion on dietary supplements in 2015. The makers of these products promise a lot of benefits ranging from improving memory to losing weight.
While dietary supplements and multivitamins may seem like the obvious way to plug the gaps of a busy life, doctors are still mixed. The evidence behind them is controversial and in some cases non-existent.
For those reasons, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force does not support vitamin and mineral supplements to prevent or fight disease.
So what can you do?
We reached out to professors at The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine for the answers.
Clinical Assistant Professor and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist April Davis says to start with lifestyle first by moving your body, laughing more, eating a variety of foods and improving social connections, mindfulness and sleep.
Also, consider cutting out processed food, refined and added sugars and stress. These are things that might work against any added dietary supplement.
If you follow these steps and still feel deficient in a specific nutrient, research whole food options that can offer it. For example, adding nutrient-dense nuts and seeds to your diet offers a great mineral supplement.
Nutrition experts said people can become so focused on the health benefits of a certain vitamin, that they miss the importance of a key factor within a daily diet: Food synergy.
Food synergy is the process in which vitamins in different foods work together so your body can absorb the nutrients it needs to be healthy.
For example, Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and dark-green vegetables and can enhance the body’s absorption of iron, found in lean meats, fish, beans and leafy green vegetables, when eaten at the same time.
Food synergy is also important because it makes our bodies use the nutrients properly. Something that cannot be done with a manufactured supplement. It also prevents us from absorbing too much of a single vitamin.
This is important because taking too much of a vitamin, supplement or antioxidant, no matter how healthy, can increase your chances of disease.
If you feel the need to take a dietary supplement, nutritionists recommend one that is made from a whole food source.
Nutritionists also stress the importance of working with a registered dietitian nutritionist or integrative practitioner to find the best type, dose and duration for the supplement because, ultimately, supplementation is strongly based on someone’s health, age, gender and their medical and prescription drug history.