Should I Take Supplements? (Answer: It Depends)
So you want to get your life in order. Maybe you’ve started hitting the gym. Or perhaps you want to start eating better and taking better care of your health. Eventually, you’ll start thinking if you need supplements in your life. Well… The short answer is: it really depends.
After scouring the internet and reading tonnes of literature on supplements, we can safely say that most health professionals and doctors agree that consuming whole foods is the best way to provide your body with all the nutrients you need for optimal health. So you probably don’t need supplements if you can eat your way through the entire food pyramid.
But if that’s YOUR idea of a food pyramid, then your diet might need an extra boost to help your overall health and well-being.
Well, there are plenty of supplements out in the market that can help fill the gaps in your diet. But the sheer amount of variety and types available is also a problem. Where do you start? Which ones should you take? What do you really need? How many should you take? Keep on reading!
We waded through all the hype in the health and fitness industry to present to you 5 types of supplements which you can take if you wish to improve your health and well-being. Oh, we’ll also list natural, whole food sources which you can consider if you’d prefer to just eat real food instead.
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Things To Consider When Buying Supplements
Before you head out or go online to purchase supplements, here are a few key things to consider:
- Always stick with the recommended dosage. Yes, there is such a thing as supplementing too much. Case in point, too much calcium can cause constipation.
- Continue to eat real, whole foods.
- Look for products with no added fillers, colouring, or unnecessary ingredients.
- Only buy products from reputable companies and sources.
- Always consult your doctor or a health professional for medical advice before starting on any supplements.
Why Would We Ever Need Supplements?
While there are plenty of scientific studies that have shown that supplements may help to manage certain health conditions, it is important to note that there is also insufficient evidence to suggest that healthy people will benefit from taking supplements and vitamins. However, that is not to say that supplements have no place in an average Joe’s diet.
Overall, it is generally agreed that health supplements function exactly as their name suggests: they are SUPPLEMENTS. Meaning they fill in nutritional gaps where an individual’s diet is lacking. They should NEVER be used as a replacement for a proper diet.
Here are some examples of individuals who would benefit from supplements:
- Are recovering from surgery or illness
- Are on restrictive or limited diets (eg. vegans, vegetarians, pregnant women)
- Have food allergies and intolerances
- Have poor appetites (young children or older adults)
For those of you who remember burning magnesium during chemistry lab to produce a REALLY bright light, you might be going “Why do I need THAT in my diet?”
Well, magnesium is an important nutrient that is involved in more than 600 biochemical reactions in your body. These include:
- Metabolising food
- Protein synthesis
- Regulation of the nervous system
And you may not be getting enough of it, even if you eat a healthy diet. So why is this a problem? Studies have shown that a shortage of magnesium could affect your general mood, mental health, and overall sleep pattern. Here’s a good example of a magnesium supplement you can take to avoid this:
- Blackmores Bio Magnesium, 100 tablets – Available on Shopee (up to 8% Cashback)
If you wish to incorporate more magnesium into your diet, choose to snack on almonds, avocados, cashews, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds. And try eating more quinoa, salmon, spinach, and mackerel.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Like magnesium, one of the key nutrients which the majority of us don’t get enough of is long chain omega 3 fats. These fatty acids are found in naturally oily fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna. And are necessary for a healthy heart and brain. Omega 3 fatty acids also help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Omega 3s have also been touted to be a means to reduce heart disease but studies have been inconclusive with regard to this claim.
However, we still need Omega 3 fatty acid supplements because our bodies cannot produce eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) naturally. So besides getting our daily Omega 3 requirement from salmon fillets or tuna steaks, we can supplement with:
- Blackmores Cod Liver Oil, 1000mg, 80 capsules – Available on Qoo10 (up to 2% Cashback)
- GNC Superfoods Flax Seed Oil, 1000mg, 180 capsules – Available on GNC (5% Cashback)
Other types of whole foods which are good sources of Omega 3s include avocados, walnuts, as well as chia seeds and flax seeds. The last three would work great sprinkled on your morning bowl of Greek yoghurt, or blended into your daily smoothie.
If you’ve ever seen a Yakult commercial or watched the Netflix special, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, then you’re probably well acquainted with probiotics. For those of you who are going “What?”, this is why:
FYI: that’s the main protagonist, Peter Kavinsky trying and endorsing the probiotic drink.
But seriously, these cultured milk drinks are really good because they contain ‘good’ bacteria that line our digestive tracts and help support our body’s ability to absorb nutrients. It’s not that our bodies naturally lack these ‘good’ bacteria, but it’s always good to replenish our gut flora especially after a course of antibiotics which would have flushed out most of the healthy bacteria from our digestive system.
In fact, some studies have also shown that probiotics appear to improve a body’s immune response. And that, in turn, helps the body be better prepared to fight off infections like the common cold. We’re not saying that eating copious amounts of yoghurt will prevent you from catching a cold. But it’ll at least help lower the chance of you catching it.
We’re sure Terry approves of this message…
(Writer’s chant: Nine! Nine!)
It’s worth noting that probiotics come in various forms: capsules, drinks, and powders. And there are many different strains for different uses: some support immunity, some aid digestion, and some can even regulate weight and hormonal imbalances. Here are some examples:
- California Gold Nutrition, LactoBif Probiotics, 30 Billion CFU, 60 Veggie Capsules – Available on iHerb (5% cashback)
- GNC Ultra 25 Billion CFU Probiotic Complex Unflavoured Powder, 30 Packets – Available on GNC (5% Cashback)
So always check with your doctor what kind you should use.
Natural sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as tempeh (a soy product), kimchi, kombucha, and Greek yoghurt.
You’re probably going, “I won’t need this because I’m not trying to look like the Hulk or Wonder Woman.”
While most people can obtain adequate protein through their diet, there are some who will benefit from protein supplementation. Namely athletes, as well as individuals with poor appetites, or those with a limited (eg. vegans and vegetarians) and less than ideal diet.
Yeah… As good as that looks. That 6-burger a day diet DOES NOT equate to meeting your daily protein needs.
So why is protein so important? Besides the obvious reason of aiding muscle gain and fat loss, consuming protein has also been proven to help weight loss by boosting overall metabolism and reducing hunger. It is also essential for building and repairing your body’s cells, and helps in producing critical enzymes and hormones which help regulate your body.
There are plenty of options out there, but all you really need is a simple whey protein or plant-based supplement:
- Dymatize Nutrition, Elite 100% Whey Protein, Rich Chocolate, 2.3kg – Available on iHerb (5% Cashback)
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein – Available on A1Supplements.com (1% Cashback)
And like other supplements, getting all your protein from protein powders is not the best idea as it could potentially affect your intake of vitamins and minerals. You should always opt to consume beans, dairy products, eggs, fish, and lean cuts of meat (like chicken breast and turkey) before turning to supplements.
Vitamin D is one of the 24 micronutrients essential for human survival.
It is essential to how our body functions and plays a critical role in having strong bones, as well as maintaining muscular and overall health. While all we need is about 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to the sun to get the optimal amount of vitamin D, a supplement will definitely benefit those who spend a lot of time indoors (read: the majority of us who work in air-conditioned offices and workspaces) or wear sunblock regularly.
Studies have also shown that maintaining optimal levels of Vitamin D also reduces the risks of developing asthma, heart disease, and cancer. Here’s an option to consider:
- Now Foods High Potency Vitamin D-3, 5000IU, 120 Softgels – Available on iHerb (5% Cashback)
And while you can get vitamin D from sources like salmon, oysters, shrimp, egg yolks, mushrooms, and vitamin D fortified foods like milk and cereals. The best and fastest way your body absorbs vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to the sun.
So do yourself a favour, go for a run outside or play a game of basketball. A little bit of sun never kills anyone… Unless you’re a vampire.
One More Thing To Consider Before Buying Your Supplements
So, you’ve talked to your doctor and identified the supplements you need to complement the whole food diet you’ve got going on after buying your groceries at Fairprice On (up to 4% Cashback). What’s left is to buy your supplements. And… Here’s a bit of good news!
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Featured image credit: monicore | Unsplash
Are you already using supplements? What are the best ones you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below!