By Rachel Read
Vitamins, minerals, plant-derived compounds , amino acids … navigating the world of supplements can seem like a maze! Denise Tam, of Food for Life, distributors of several internationally acclaimed health brands in Hong Kong, gives us the lowdown on their benefits.
What are the main benefits people can get from supplements?
As a nutritionist, I’m all about getting our nutrients from food – but the reality is that food nowadays can lack vitamins and minerals. GMO seeds, soil degradation, stress, pollution and processed foods may contribute to nutrient deficiencies, which is where supplements can help. They also help heal ailments needing high doses of certain nutrients, which can be difficult to obtain from food alone.
What are some of the best everyday supplements you’d recommend?
Probiotics are my go-to supplement! Our guts house 70 percent of the cells that make up our immune system – there is ample research on the positive effect probiotics have on digestive problems, weight issues, allergies, arthritis, skin issues, stress and even mood disorders; they really help bring your body back to balance, or at least create an environment for your body to heal. Similarly, the chemicals present in our food and skincare increase yearly, so a good detoxification supplement is crucial. Stay away from harsh detoxes that imprison you in the bathroom, and choose gentle, but deep, detoxes that strengthen your organs! Also, look for a clean omega oil. Fat has been seen as a culprit for weight gain but we now know there are good and bad fats. Omega-3 and 6 are the only essential fats our bodies require, so we should decrease our consumption of unhealthy fats and focus on including quality omega oils in our diet.
What particular supplements would you recommend for children?
Babies and toddlers need a good DHA supplement for eye and brain development, while breastfed babies benefit from extra vitamin D to improve bone health and immune systems. For older children, start with a multivitamin that includes key minerals; iron is often overlooked but is one of the most common deficiencies, particularly in girls. Again, probiotics are important for the healthy absorption of nutrients and strengthening the immune system – one of our brands, Udo’s Choice, organises their probiotics by age group, as different ages need different strains of probiotics at different doses.
What should we avoid?
The rise of health consciousness has meant a rise of supplements, but not all are beneficial to your body. You see a lot of great but empty marketing, particularly for children’s supplements – I’ve often seen sugar as their first ingredient! Be careful when supplementing; do your research, get your blood tested and speak to sales staff, who should be asking you questions rather than recommending a supplement straight off the bat. The right supplement can do wonders but the wrong one can undo everything or, worse, be harmful. Often, less is more!
Read more about how to stay healthy in Hong Kong.