For some age groups, nutrients gotten from mere diet might not be sufficient to keep the body running at a normal pace, hence the advent of nutritional supplements.

The sole reason for supplements is to help individuals achieve their daily nutrient intake and also help improve their health status as the case may be. Supplements are there to augment whatever lapses possible as diet alone might not be able to provide adequate amounts of a particular nutrient.

Nutritional supplements are consumables and the come either as capsules, pills or tablets. They are either the combination of a different nutrients (protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, fiber) and compounds or just one nutrient that is produced by the body.

A supplement is mostly needed to help balance a particular nutrient in the body especially if there is a condition that requires more amount of that nutrient than the body can produce or mere diet can provide. It is not intended to substitute a healthy diet.

Research has it that the global market for nutritional and dietary supplements recorded over US$104 billion sales as at 2013. These sales was cut across globally among geriatric populations, pregnant women and the rising urban population.

The major types of supplements used are multivitamins, calcium supplements, fatty acids or fish oils, and mineral supplements.

The National Agency of Medicines suggests that dietary supplements be grouped according to their intended uses:
1. Food supplements as products which supplements the usual diet
2. Food stuff for particular uses which due to their special composition are targeted at certain groups e.g for special people with disordered metabolism, for infants from 2-5 months, for special sets of people with special physiological condition
Supplements also, can be classified according to their origin, texture, or in the form in which they are available. They could also be grouped as follows
i. Vitamins and minerals; in a combination form as multivitamin or multiminerals.
ii. Protein supplements; in form of liquid or tablets and not combined with other macronutrients.
iii. Different compositions of amino acids
iv. Meal surrogates in form of wafers, biscuits or powder
v. Carbohydrate supplement with/without electrolytes
vi. Supplements with natural anabolic effects
vii. Activator supplements of growth and other hormones
viii. Herbs etc.

Class Example Contents
Activator Amino acids Growth hormones and other hormones
Carbohydrate Dextrose Some vitamins and electrolytes
Herbs Ginseng, saw palmetto Amino acid and other plant sources
Minerals Selenium, zinc, multimineral tablets Contains only minerals
Multivitamins and minerals Vitamin D, calcium supplement Contains a mixture of vitamins and minerals
Oil supplements Cod liver oil, primrose oil Oil base with vitamins and minerals
Vitamins B complex, vitamin C (high doses) Contains only vitamins

Examples of Botanical supplements and their uses

Common Name Uses
1. Gingko biloba -Memory improvement, lowering blood pressure
2. Ginseng -overall health, anti-stress
3. Saw palmetto- Treating of bening prostatic hypertrophy
4. St Johns wort- Antidepressant
5. Valerian- Reducing anxiety
6. Green tea extract-  Antioxidant

Dietary Reference Intakes for Nutrients
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are developed to help define nutrient requirements for healthy populations. These references are derivatives from scientific studies and researches to provide ranges for optimum to maximum indicators for good health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and even the outcome of excessive intake on the health status of individuals.

RDA (recommended dietary allowance) simply is the average amount of a nutrient for a particular age/gender group that is thought to be sufficient to meet their nutrient requirement and bodily functionality in a day to about (97%-98%).

For an individual to be deficient of a nutrient, it means he/she is getting an inadequate supply of a particular nutrient(s). this would normally happen as a result of impaired digestion, absorption, transport or metabolism of nutrients. When these occurs, illness or diseases arises; then comes in nutritional supplements to the rescue.


Consuming whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and fishes might not just be sufficient for particular groups. Certain amounts of extra nutrients are needed to ensure they have reduced risk of disease and mortality rates.
Most times, these supplements are more effective when used for as preventive measures.

Groups with increased requirements:

1. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
– folic acid: pregnant and breastfeeding women would require a folic acid supplement in order to help their infants brain and spinal cords develop adequately. Their bodily supply wont be enough to sustain both mother and child, so supplementation is key at this period. In addition to a diet of folate-rich food sources which include okro, liver, cabbage, spinach, beans etc, a pregnant woman should take at least 400mcg of folate every day.
– calcium: (intake from dietary sources like milk, yoghurt, cheese, leafy vegetables, almonds is recommended) 1300 mg/day for women of 18 years; 1000 mg/day for those of 19 years and above. This is to help babies build healthy bones and teeth.
– vitamin D: 600 units/day; consider 2000mg for women in very extreme weather conditions (especially northerners )
– iron: . Iron is important in pregnancy to help create red blood cells and prevent anemia for both mother and child.
Recommended dosage is 27 mg/day. To prevent gestational anemia in non-anemic women, monitored supplementation at 120mg weekly is adviced ; given at the 1st day of the week in 2 divided doses
2. Aged people
• people from 60 and above always struggle with poor oral health, depression, dementia and social isolation. This might deter the intake of nutrient by this group and so supplementation is needed. Especially for nutrients like Vitamin B12 to avoid malabsorption and deficiency.

Conditions with risk of malabsorption:

• People that has undergone bariatric surgery: vitamins A, D, K, B1, B12, vitamin C and folic acid; calcium, copper, iron, selenium and zinc. Patients require routine supplementation with vitamins and minerals for 2 years or more, with doses higher than those provided by nonprescription supplements

• People diagnosed with several types of gastrointestinal diseases known to cause malabsorption or maldigestion (e.g., lactose intolerance, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, food allergies): fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin B12, vitamin K, zinc, iron, calcium

• People who might have swallowing, chewing or dental problems.

There are quite a number of advantages attached to supplements as provide large content of nutrients in small volumes, specialized sporting needs, absence of unnecessary accompanying substances as fats, cholesterol and purines.

But for some reasons, some individuals tend to abuse these supplements by increasing the dosage or frequency which could result in a drop in the effectiveness of supplements. When this occurs frequently, the human body is forced to work harder to eliminate excesses.

An overdose of these supplements could lead to organ failure, hypervitaminosis, and endocrine disorders.

There are factors that lead to the appearance of side effects due to the toxicity of dietary supplements and they include: (i) dosage (ii) duration of intake (iii)special chemical properties found in supplements and their interactions with other foods (iv) the individuals weight (v) individual capacity.

These supplements have active ingredients that might be harmful to the body if not taken as prescribed by a physician, you should look out for reactions on your body as soon as possible and report to a healthcare center.
Some supplements can increase bleeding time if taken before surgery, while some can alter your response to anesthesia. Supplements have a tendency of reacting with some drugs in very detrimental ways and they include:
• Vitamin K can reduce the ability of the blood thinner warfarin to prevent blood from clotting.
• St. John’s wort can speed the breakdown of many medicines and reduce their effectiveness (including some antidepressants, birth control pills, heart medications, anti-HIV medications, and transplant drugs).
• Antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, might reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.
Metformin used by diabetics can reduce the absorption of vitamin B12


1. McCormick DB. Vitamin/mineral supplements: of questionable benefit for the general population. Nutr Rev 2010;68(4):207-13.
2. Maher LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy. 11th ed. USA: Elsevier, 2004. Vitamins. In: Kleinman RE, editor. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. 5th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2004.

3. Fraga CG (2009) Plant phenolics and human health: biochemistry, nutrition and pharmacology, vol 1. Wiley, Hoboken (more…)

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The name already implies that a gulp or say a can, would release a rush  of energy into your blood streams and make your muscles pop like when Popeye takes his spinach. 

So, I guess we could do a little bit of bisecting to know how much  energy we could benefit from these drinks. 

Energy drinks have been promoted to increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance, they contain significant amounts of caffeine as much sugar as soda, or even more as the case may be. 

A can of energy drink could contain about 200mg of caffeine, which is the amount in two cups of brewed coffee. 



A typical energy drink may contain the following: carbonated water, around 40 grams of sugar (from sucrose and/or glucose), 160 mg or more of caffeine, artificial sweetener, and herbs/substances associated with mental alertness and performance but that lack scientific evidence with controlled trials (taurine, panax ginseng root extract, L-carnitine, L-tartarate, guarana seed extract, B vitamins).


“Most energy drinks contain anywhere from 27-40g of carbohydrate from sugar”. The concentration of these carbohydrates is very high ranging from 20-25%. Sport drinks typically have a concentration between 4-6%. Research once demonstrated that high concentrations of carbohydrate such as glucose, sucrose, maltodextrins, fructose, and/or galactose will slow the rate at which fluid is absorbed from the intestine into the blood. In athletes who go through strenuous and vigorous activities, fluid replacement due to sweat loss is critical, these drinks may retard the rehydration process. In addition, consuming high concentrations of carbohydrate too soon before or during exercise can result in gastrointestinal distress and may have a laxative effect.

Caffeine and Herbs

Energy drinks contain caffeine or herbal forms of caffeine like guarana seeds, kola nut and yerba mate leaves. Herbal doesn’t even mean/suggest healthier. Due to processing, it is sometimes impossible to know the exact amounts of herbal caffeine that are in the drinks. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and provides a temporary feeling of being “energized.” In 2001, there was a demonstration to show that caffeine at a dose of about 6 mg/kg body weight  has often proved effective at enhancing exercise performance lasting from 1-120 min. ‘Although this may be the case, it is not a magic bullet”. Caffeine in large doses may make some athletes feel light headed, jittery, disoriented and nauseous and may cause diuretic and laxative effects

Other herbs added may include echinacea, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, ciwujia, hydroxycitrate, ephedra and St. John’s Wort. Companies may claim they aid in boosting the immune system, weight loss and memory. These ingredients are typically in small amounts, but even in larger amounts there is little evidence that any of them can benefit performance. “Standardization and purity of these herbs is not always reliable. Mislabeled products could result in positive doping and potentially serious side effects if herbs interact with athletes medications”.


Some energy drinks contain quite a number of minerals and vitamins. 

A particular brand (name withheld), contains 3000% of the recommended daily value of B12, and another brand contains 250% of the daily value of B6. Quite alarming amounts if i may say. 

B vitamins are water soluble and thus excess amounts are excreted in the urine. It’s important that athletes recognize that energy drinks should not be considered a well balanced meal replacement.


High concentrations of sugar contained in these energy drinks might lead to weight gain, and also, too much caffeine might lead to nervousness, insomnia, increased blood pressure, irritability, and rapid heartbeat.

  • Dangers with alcohol: so many recent energy drinks over the counter are mixed with alcohol; which is even a greater danger especially for people who are involved in binge drinking. Studies suggest that drinking this type of cocktail leads to a greater alcohol intake than if just drinking alcohol alone. “This may be because energy drinks increase alertness that masks the signs of inebriation, leading one to believe they can consume even more alcohol”. High consumption of energy drinks—especially when mixed with alcohol—has been linked to adverse cardiovascular, psychological, and neurologic events, including fatal events. 
  • Lack of regulation: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate energy drinks but enforces a caffeine limit of 71 mg per 12 ounces of soda; energy drinks typically contain about 120 mg per 12 ounces. “However, energy drink manufacturers may choose to classify their product as a supplement to sidestep the caffeine limit”.


Being optimally “energized” requires a suitable level of physical activity, adequate sleep, effective fueling and hydration strategies, and probably other unknown factors that affect neurochemicals in the brain. An energy drink alone will never make up for all of these elements.

Its advisable to always look out for the ingredients in any energy drink as an athlete, know their contraindications especially if you’re on medications and  if they contain herbs, be sure if the ingredients are safe and legal. 


Truly, so many people get confused on which to pick for effective athletic performance. But, unlike energy drinks, sports drinks do not contain herbs, caffeine and excess amounts of sugar.

Sports drinks go through extensive research and so provide alternatives to plain water for athletes to rehydrate after performance. 

During intense aerobic exercise, the body’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrate (rather than fat or protein) due to the efficiency of energy transfer to fatigued muscles. 

“The majority of sports drinks are formulated to deliver carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluids in such a way that will minimize stomach upset and maximize intestinal absorption”. “When compared with water, the flavor of sports drinks typically entices athletes to drink more, thus aiding the hydration process”.


If you’re concerned about being fatigued always, consider healthier means to boost your energy. Get enough rest, hydrate, exercise more, stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

If this does not work, then consider seeing a doctor.




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Hypertension: alternate spices

19 natural salt alternatives

Herbs and spices

Every now and then, so many people get scared of the common table salt because it seemingly is a dreaded name when it comes to heart problems.

There are better options which alternate the sodium chloride with potassium chloride; but this alternatives might also pose a huge threat on the kidneys when abused.

Salt (whether potassium or sodium) isn’t bad; but the right balance between minerals is really important.

The right levels of sodium helps your muscles contract. They also help regulate fluid levels to prevent dehydration.

Adequate amount of potassium helps coordinate normal heart rythms.

Herbs and spices are the healthy go-to nowadays when it comes to seasoning foods; both local and intercontinental.

Lets take a look at a list of  preferably healthier alternatives when it comes to seasoning.

1. Mint leaves

It has a bit of the menthol feel in the mouth.

  • Uses: Great in salads, on pasta or in couscous. It’s tasty with carrots, peas or broad beans.
  • Could also be used in smoothies.

2. Rosemary

  • Rosemary
  • Taste: An aromatic herb with a pine-like fragrance. Use sparingly; it can overpower other flavours.
  • Preparation: Roast whole sprigs with root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, sweet potato). If using dried rosemary, crush it first.
  • Uses: Add to roast or grilled meats, bread, homemade pizza, tomato sauce, beans, potatoes or egg dishes.

3. Nutmeg

  • NutmegTaste: Sweet and pungent flavour. Works well in baked foods with cinnamon and cloves.
  • Preparation: Freshly grated nutmeg has a much better flavour than ground.
  • Uses: Add nutmeg with black pepper to homemade white and cheese sauces. It also adds warmth and flavour to homemade potato, cabbage and cauliflower soups.
  • Could also be added to your local jollof rice.

4. Basil

  • BasilTaste: Sweet and peppery.
  • Preparation: Fresh basil retains more flavour and aroma than dried.
  • Uses: Basil is traditionally used in Mediterranean cooking, in tomato-based pasta sauces, pizzas and bolognese. Use lemon, Thai and holy basil in South Asian and Thai dishes.

5. Cardamon

  • Cardamon
  • Taste: A warm, aromatic spice.
  • Preparation: Add whole cardamom pods to your dishes or use the seeds inside, either whole or ground.
  • Uses: Commonly added to Asian spice mixes and curry pastes. Cardamom also works well in baked goods and sweet breads, with cloves and cinnamon, for a taste of Scandinavia.

6. Chilli/Cayenne

  • ChilliTaste: Chillis vary quite a lot in strength, so add a little at first and taste your dish. Cayenne is a specific type of chilli.
  • Preparation: Chilli can be bought whole (fresh or dried), as dried flakes, powder, or as hot sauce. Chilli sauce may be high in salt (or sugar in the case of sweet chilli sauce), so stick to powder, flakes or whole chillies.
  • Uses: It works well in most dishes, including vegetable or seafood stews or vegetable soup. Please don’t add too much of this pepper😢 so it wont end in tears.

7. Cinnamon

  • CinnamonTaste: Mostly used in sweet treats like cake and apple crumble, but works with savoury dishes too.
  • Preparation: Sold as cinnamon sticks (grate or add whole to dishes like curries or stews) or ground.
  • Uses: Cinnamon is an important spice in Turkish and Middle Eastern cooking, where it is used to flavour chicken and lamb dishes. Use it to deepen the flavour of cottage pie, curries, tagines, casseroles, roast vegetables, bolognese sauce or stewed fruit.

8. Chives

9. Coriander

  • CorianderTaste: Coriander leaves have a distinct earthy and lemony flavour, while coriander seeds have a warm, spicy, citrus flavour when crushed.
  • Preparation: Use coriander leaves raw or add to foods at the end of cooking. Coriander seeds are commonly used in Indian dishes. Fry them in a dry pan and add them whole or crushed.
  • Uses: Add coriander leaves to salads, soups (eg carrot and coriander soup), salsas, curries and fish and chicken dishes, or combine it with lime and chilli in stir fries.

10. Dill

  • DillTaste: Dill has a strong taste, often compared to fennel, star anise and celery.
  • Preparation: Use fresh rather than dried if possible – use the leaves only and discard the stem.
  • Uses: Popular in Russian, Eastern European, Greek and Scandinavian cooking, dill is a welcome addition to cottage cheese, low-fat cream cheese, omelettes, seafood, steak, potato salad and cucumber dishes. Try adding dill to broad beans and rice and serve with koftas (made from lean minced meat), as found in Iranian cooking.

11. Cumin

  • CuminTaste: Earthy and smoky.
  • Preparation: Fresh cumin seeds, dry roasted and then ground, provide a richer flavour than cumin powder.
  • Uses: After black pepper, cumin is the most-used spice worldwide. Goes well with indian and Mexican dishes.

12. Ginger

  • GingerTaste: Peppery, lemony and slightly sweet, with a sharp aroma.
  • Preparation: Buy ground or fresh (as a ginger root, which can then be chopped or grated).
  • Uses: Ginger enhances sweet and savoury dishes. Fresh ginger can be grated into stir fries and curries during cooking, or sprinkled over meat before baking or barbecuing.

13. Oregano

  • OreganoTaste: Oregano has a warm, aromatic, slightly bitter taste and a potent aroma.
  • Preparation: Fresh oregano leaves can be chopped into foods or added whole.
  • Uses: Popular in Greek and Mediterranean cooking. Use it to marinate meats, poultry and seafood before grilling, in egg dishes, breads, casseroles and salads. It’s also great in spaghetti bolognese and tomato salsas.

14. Paprika

  • PaprikaTaste: Paprika is milder and sweeter than cayenne pepper.
  • Preparation: Available as a red powder made from ground sweet and hot dried peppers.
  • Uses: For a Hungarian twist, team paprika with caraway, coriander, cinnamon and dill. Combine with garlic for a Spanish flavour. Paprika goes well with lamb, chicken and fish dishes, on baked sweet potato wedges, or in beans or scrambled egg.

15. Parsley

16. Sage

  • SageTaste: From the Mediterranean coast, sage is like rosemary, with more lemon and eucalyptus.
  • Preparation: Best used fresh and in small amounts. Unlike some herbs, sage does not lose its flavour with prolonged cooking.
  • Uses: Sage is traditional in Italian and French cooking, added to meats, poultry and stuffing, and is often chopped and stirred into pasta and gnocchi.

17. Tarragon

  • TarragonTaste: Adds a distinctive, bittersweet liquorice-like flavour to foods, and has an aroma similar to star anise.
  • Preparation: Tarragon should be added near the end of cooking time, as heat reduces its flavour.
  • Uses: Native to Siberia and western Asia, tarragon is a key herb in French cooking. It goes well with poultry, fish, egg dishes, beef and vegetable soups. It can also be added to salad dressings.

18. Thyme

  • Thyme
  • Taste: A strong earthy, slightly minty flavour with a subtle aroma. Lemon thyme is another variety and goes well in soups and vegetable dishes.
  • Preparation: Depending on the variety you’re using, thyme can be finely chopped or added as a whole sprig. Unlike most herbs, thyme needs a long cooking time to release its full flavour.
  • Thyme:Thyme works well with other herbs like rosemary, parsley, sage, savoury and oregano. It can flavour most meats, including chicken and game (as a marinade or in a sauce) and is a tasty addition to roast vegetables. Pair thyme with paprika, oregano and cayenne pepper for Cajun cuisine, and with cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne pepper for Caribbean meals.

19. Turmeric

  • TurmericTaste: Has a distinctive yellow colour so is sometimes used as a cheaper alternative to saffron, although it tastes quite different.
  • Preparation: Turmeric is an ingredient of curry powder and is in many South Asian dishes.
  • Uses: For a hint of North Africa, use turmeric
  • with ginger in meat and vegetable dishes, or flavour rice with it. A little turmeric goes a long way; as it cooks, its flavour intensifies.

It’s really a healthier option to stick to these herbs and spices whenever you’re cooking because they really don’t pose any health threats as they are natural.

A pinch of salt, with any of these herbs would still bring out the savoury taste of any local or intercontinental dish.



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