The very best source of vitamins and minerals come from a healthy well-balanced diet based on wholesome, nutritious food. Supplements may be useful as insurance that you are getting all the required daily nutrients, but keep in mind that supplements do not offset or compensate for poor dietary choices. Supplements are more frequently required during times of stress or illness. Supplements come in various solid forms, including tablets and capsules, as well as in liquid formulations. Each form has advantages and disadvantages.
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Tablets and Capsules
The most common form of supplements is solid tablets. This is due to the fact that they are more stable and usually have longer shelf lives, notes Elson Haas, M.D., in his book “Staying Healthy with Nutrition.” Their stability come from the binders and fillers they contain, as well as the coatings they sometimes have. These “additives” may be undesirable, especially if they are made of yeast or other potential allergens. Read supplement labels carefully. Capsules are generally easier to take and probably better digested and absorbed than tablets, notes Haas. Capsules can be opened easily and added to food.
Powdered and Liquid Supplements
Powdered supplements are usually mixed with juice or water, making them more rapidly absorbable. The problem with powdered supplements is that not everyone likes how they taste and they are not as convenient as tablets or capsules. Liquid supplements are more often made for children and infants. They have the benefit of being easier to take and absorb, notes Haas, but they have the drawback of being excessively colored, flavored and sweetened. In a health-care setting, injectable liquid supplements can also be used.
Who Should Take Liquid Supplements?
Powdered supplements mixed with water or juice and liquid supplement are important for people who have trouble swallowing pills, or who have digestive problems. They are much easier to take than tablets or capsules and more readily absorbed and digested by the body, notes Haas. Furthermore, infants and some children and may not be able to swallow pills at all and therefore a liquid preparation may be essential for them. Finally, because digestion slows and becomes less efficient with age, the elderly, may need the more digestible and absorbable nature of liquid supplements.
Food for Thought
If the choice is between spending money on supplements or spending money on food, healthy food may be the better choice. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center recommends eating healthy whole foods to obtain your vitamins and minerals because these foods contain a variety nutrients and fiber. Whole foods also contain protective substances like antioxidants, which help to protect you from diseases and illnesses. For example, when you eat an orange, you get vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium, phytochemicals, and fiber. That beats a vitamin C tablet every time.