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Supplements vs. whole foods
Supplements aren't intended to replace food. They can't replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Whole foods offer three main benefits over dietary supplements:
Greater nutrition. Whole foods are complex, containing a variety of the micronutrients your body needs.
Essential fiber. Whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, provide dietary fiber. Dietary fiber can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, stroke and heart disease.
Protective substances. Many whole foods contain chemicals that promote health, such as antioxidants — substances that slow down a natural process leading to cell and tissue damage.
Who needs supplements?
You likely don't need supplements if you're a healthy adult who eats a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish.
But supplements — or fortified foods — may be appropriate if you:
Are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant
Are age 50 or older
Have a poor appetite or have trouble getting nutritious foods
Follow a diet that excludes entire food groups
Have a medical condition that affects how your body digests nutrients, such as chronic diarrhea, food allergies, food intolerance, or a disease of the liver, gallbladder, intestines or pancreas
Have had surgery on your digestive tract that affects how your body digests nutrients
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