As we reflect on 2020, we realize just how much our mindset and habits have changed in the past year. The pandemic shut down schools and businesses and separated us from family and friends. It has shown us how fluid our financial future and job demands can be. Mainly, it has taught us what is truly important in life.
Our shift in priorities has been reflected in our spending habits. According to research, among the top items purchased in 2020 were vitamins and supplements. People now realize, more than ever, just how valuable health is. Due to clever marketing, supplements have been deemed essential to achieving optimal health. Last year, sales of supplements increased 50% in the first six months alone and continued to climb as the year progressed.
While taking supplements can be useful toward achieving greater wellbeing, it is not the entire solution. Many people think that by taking supplements, they don’t have to eat their vegetables, exercise, or get enough sleep.
Supplements will not cancel the effects of poor lifestyle choices.
However, they can be helpful to those who have challenges meeting their nutrient requirements. This may be the case for those with limited food budgets, for children who don’t eat enough, and for the elderly, who often have difficulty absorbing key vitamins and minerals.
Supplements are also useful to help heal from disease. Think of supplements as medicine. You wouldn’t take medicine unless you are sick. The same applies to supplements.
Unless you have a medical need, taking supplements is not necessary. Another thing worth mentioning is that, like medications, supplements have side effects and can interact with different medications. Caution needs to be exercised when choosing which type of supplement to take and how much.
If you feel one of the above situations applies to you, how do you determine which type and brand of supplement is best?
I would recommend you start with a multivitamin. Read the label and look for a brand that offers 100% of the daily value for each of the nutrients. Next, look at the serving size on the label. Ideally you want one that requires you to take only one tablet per day. This makes it more affordable as opposed to brands that require two or more tablets per day.
If you are interested in taking individual nutrient or herbal supplements (e.g., Vitamin C, curcumin, garlic, ginseng, red yeast rice, melatonin, lycopene), then I would recommend you speak to your doctor before purchasing. These types of supplements have a greater potential for side effects. Your doctor can determine whether the supplement may be harmful, and if there are any associated potential drug interactions. Additionally, your doctor may be able to offer advice as to whether the supplement would actually be helpful for your medical condition or concern.
Let’s make health a lifelong intention, not just a new year’s resolution. Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!
Born and raised in Kona, Hawaiʻi, Dr. Jodi Leslie Matsuo is a Native Hawaiian Registered Dietician and certified diabetes educator, with training in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Follow her on Facebook (@DrJodiLeslieMatsuo), Instagram (@drlesliematsuo) and on Twitter (@DrLeslieMatsuo).