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Is having nutritional supplements beneficial to health?

Q: I want to know whether eating supplements like milk with added supplements, multi-vitamin tablets help the body or not? Some people say it is good while some say it is a waste of money. What do you say? It is said that calcium is very important for the body. What if I take calcium tablets daily with milk, will it help? My mother is 57 years, can she have calcium tablets?

A:A healthy balanced diet – which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, is rich in whole grain cereal foods (wheat, jowar )and contains moderate amounts of dairy products, and moderate amounts of protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and lentils – will provide all the nutrients that most people need. Vitamin and mineral supplements are no substitute for good eating habits. Fruit and vegetables are rich in a range of nutrients, including fiber and antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and A (in the form of carotenes). Many of these nutrients are also available in the form of dietary supplements. These nutrients do not work in isolation. Rather, its a mixture of different foods that seem to be the most effective. So, taking supplements wont necessarily have the same benefits as eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. With the wide variety of supplements on the market, its possible for people to exceed their daily requirements quite substantially. For some vitamins and minerals this isn't a problem because the body can easily get rid of the excess. However, it can be harmful to take too much of the vitamins and minerals that the body stores, such as vitamin A or iron. However, supplements are recommended for some people. For example, women who have heavy periods can benefit from iron supplements. Pregnant women are also advised to avoid supplements containing vitamin A, including fish liver oil supplements, because having too much vitamin A could harm their unborn baby. Older people should also consider taking supplements after consultation with a doctor. For your mother, it’s a good idea to have some milk or other dairy products every day, because they are the richest sources of calcium. They also contain other valuable vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. Some dairy products can be high in fat, but there are plenty of lower-fat options you can choose, or you could have just a small amount of the high-fat varieties. To cut down on fat, try using: - skimmed or semi-skimmed milk - low-fat spread instead of butter - cottage cheese - low-fat dahi - dahi instead of cream in cooking. Adults need plenty of calcium. If you have one glass (200 ml) of semi-skimmed milk, a small katori (150 g) of dahi and 40 g cheese that would provide roughly the amount of calcium an adult needs in one day. Other sources of calcium include fortified breakfast cereal, soya beans, tofu, soya drinks with added calcium, dried figs, okra, curly kale, rice pudding and baked beans.

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