“Pure Nutrition” Today we can see a major influence of western culture in our lives. Whether it is in the way we dress, the way we workout or be it in terms of our diets.

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    Unlike our grandparents our platters don’t quite represent the cultural community to which we belong. Lets say, a south Indian who is born and brought on a traditional breakfast of home cooked idli-sambar is now advised to replace it with a bowl of boxed cereal. That food is alien to his gut. It defies his genetics and he cannot digest it well. A plate of idli sambar would have provided him with the necessary B12 vitamins (due to the fermentation process), which otherwise lacks in his vegetarian diet.

    So with modernization we have moved on to processed ready to eat foods like breads, bakery products, sugar coated cereals, juices that are stripped of all essential nutrients, instead of wholegrain unprocessed foods.

    Today as industrialization has boomed up, availability of packaged foods has led people to prioritize convenience over good health. We are actually eating more and yet are malnourished. The packaged foods provides you with tons of sugars, fats and trans fats but lack any essential micronutrients.

    Besides Even though we may try our best to eat wholesome foods like vegetables, whole fruits there’s still no assurity of gaining all the benefits. That’s because the farmers are using more and more of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to meet the ever growing demands in a short span of time and make profits. These pesticides degrade the soil quality and the plants do not get the necessary minerals from the earth. Also the fruits are plucked before they completely mature and ripen. They are then ripened using artificial chemicals, which further degrades the quality.

    And as there are different fads of eating non local exotic foods, we lose out a lot of vitamins & minerals due to the longer transit period for the ingredients to reach from the farm to our kitchens.

    Other than that there are vegetarians, vegan or other people who eliminate a particular food group from their diets which makes them deficient in micronutrients like calcium, Vitamin D, protein etc.

    All this makes it necessary to compliment our diets with add-ons or supplements, in order to meet all the nutrients that are lacking in our diet, to prevent any deficiences.

    Dietary supplement can have a lot of different ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other substances

    They can be in different forms like pills, capsules, liquids or powders.

    How to choose a good supplement? and How to identify a bad supplement?

    • The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a supplement is to read the label.
    • A good supplement should have clear labeling with all the ingredients mentioned in details (including any fillers or coating etc).
    • For example, A good multivitamin should provide you nearly 100% of the dietary value of almost all nutrients. Unclear labeling only means that the nutrients are not present in a sufficient quantity and that it may be of no good.
    • The amount of nutrient per serving should be mentioned on the label whether it is vitamin supplement or protein powder.
    • Avoid products that have ingredients listed in ‘proprietary blend’.
    • Many companies use this term to avoid giving an exact break up or the amount of ingredient per serving in their supplement. This is backed by a legitimate argument that its a way to prevent competitors from mimicking their product using the same formulation or making a better one. However, most of the times proprietary blend may be used as a way of fooling the consumers by not mentioning about the active ingredients. They get away by adding the ingredients in small doses which are therapeutically ineffective. That way the company can cut corners and you end up shelling out money for nothing.
    • The label should also ensure a marking for quality assurance. A standardized product should have a USP certification or NSF label. These certification make sure that the product is tested by U.S. Pharmacopeial convention or NSF International. They make sure that the claims are authentic, whether the ingredients mentioned do exist and that there is no contamination.
    • You can also verify a good product by checking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website or NIH office of Dietary supplements to see if the product is safe for consumption. They provide a lot of information on the safety information, labelling, warnings and evaluation.
    • Also look for the expiry date which should be printed on the side or bottom of the container. If the supplement doesn’t have the expiry date, it is better to put it back on the shelf.
    • You can make out if a product is fake by paying attention to the label. A misspelling or grammatical error in the brand name is usually a sign that the product is unsafe.
    • You may be tempted to buy supplements which are priced lower. But if a supplement is priced unusually low, then there has to be something suspicious about it. Checking the label for the detailed ingredient list should help you determine whether the product is good or not.
    • Always go for a reputable brand to ensure supplement safety as opposed to generic brands which might have not undergone the safety checks.
    • It is also important to know the source of the supplement. Make sure you always buy supplements from authorized distributors. When you buy a supplement, you can verify if the manufacturer has a Certificate of Analysis (COA) or if the product is manufactured at Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
    • If you are buying products online, you need to check if the website is giving a complete factsheet of ingredients. Avoid buying product if the website doesn’t give a clear nutrition label or has only key ingredients mentioned.
    • A little research before buying a supplement goes a long way. Try googling about the company background or ask around. If a product has been on the market for a few years then its probably gained some reputation and feedback from other users.

    With due necessary diligence, we need to understand how the body is reacting to the supplementation. By far the best way to monitor this is to identify the nutrient deficiencies, select the right supplements and after persistent use of a particular product for a designated time we need to do a blood tests, to see an improvement in the blood parameters.

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