We are all aware that what goes into our body plays a vital role in determining how we feel physically and mentally. What most of us don’t realize is that our body’s needs varies with our age – even when it comes to nutrients. Small children need nutrients for growth and energy, whereas adults need nutrients to maintain or repair body tissue and to provide energy.

Dietary supplements are intended to supply our bodies with nutrients that are insufficient in our diet. Supplements can be taken as a pill, powder, beverage, or in other forms.

Calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, and vitamin E are each essential, but more so at different stages of life. Why are these nutrients so important to our health and wellbeing, and how do we know if we should supplement our diet?



Calcium, an important mineral, is especially vital for children and teens, and women of all ages. It is responsible for building strong bones and teeth. If we do not get enough calcium from the foods we eat, our body leeches it out of our bones. Decades of this leaves our bones weak, brittle and susceptible to breaking – a condition is called osteoporosis. It can also result in a shrinking jaw bone, loss of teeth and curvature of the spine.

Women after 50 are especially at risk for osteoporosis, but it is a disease best fought early in life. By consuming recommended levels calcium as young children, teens, and into their 30’s, women can reduce their risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Not all calcium is created equal. Calcium from dairy products can be absorbed easily by our body. Low-fat dairy products including milk, yogurt, and pudding are rich in calcium. Leafy green vegetables, tofu, and canned fish with bones (such as sardines) are other good sources. Some varieties of orange juice and bread have added calcium as well.

To ensure calcium absorption, having sufficient vitamin D in our body is essential. People with kidney stones or cancer should not take calcium supplements. Iron and calcium should not be taken at the same time because calcium will limit iron absorption. If you need to supplement iron and calcium in your diet, take them at opposite ends of the day.


Vitamin D

Most people meet their vitamin D needs through normal daily exposure to sunlight. Very few  foods in nature contain vitamin D and fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. For example, almost all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with 100 IU vitamin D/cup of milk, amounting to 25% of the recommended daily value per cup for adults 19-50 years old. If you routinely do not go outdoors, and do not consume adequate amounts of vitamin D fortified foods, then you should consider supplementation.

Vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption and maintaining adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood so that bone mineralization occurs normally. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.


Folic Acid

Folic acid, also known as folate, is important for women capable of becoming pregnant. Folic acid should be taken during the weeks prior to conception, and continued through the first trimester. Folic acid is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells in embryos, and helps protect the embryo against later premature birth, low birth weight, and neural tube defects including spinal bifidia. Folate is best absorbed from foods that naturally contain the nutrient including spinach, lettuce, dried beans, peas, and turnip greens. It is difficult for most people to consume the recommended amount folic acid needed during and before pregnancy, from just their diet. Therefore, a 400 μg folic acid supplement, alone or as a prenatal vitamin, is recommended for all women who may become pregnant, in addition to a diet rich in folate from foods.

Overconsumption of folic acid has its risks. Excessive folic acid may inhibit the consumption of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is common in individuals over 50, so consult your doctor before taking folic acid supplements.


Vitamin E

Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is an antioxidant and boosts the immune system. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereal.

Vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease, and may prevent the formation of blood lots that can lead to a heart attack. For this reason, 400 IU vitamin E supplementation should be considered for those who are middle-aged and older and/or at an increased risk for coronary disease.


A Healthy Diet is Key

No pill is a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat and protein, and low in saturated fat is ideal. A healthy, well-rounded diet will provide the fiber essential fatty acids and amino acids, protein, and nutrients necessary for most people. Vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients are more easily absorbed from natural food sources than from supplements.

At certain times in our lives, though, we may need to supplement certain vitamins and minerals. Early childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, and the later years are times when our diets should be examined and supplementation can be considered. As with any lifestyle change, consult a doctor before undergoing a major diet modification, and before taking more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance of any nutrient. Visit http://ods.od.nih.gov for more information on safe dietary supplement usage.


Where to Buy Halal Dietary Supplements

Consumers can be assured of the quality of IFANCA halal-certified nutritional supplements. Below are some of the many companies that provide IFANCA halal-certified dietary supplements. Visit www.ifanca.org for a complete list of certified products for each company.

GNC Products by Nutra Manufacturing: A variety of supplements including vitamin D, vitamin E and calcium are available at GNC stores. Visit IFANCA.com to see which ones are halal-certified.

U.S. Pharma Labs: HalVit™ multi-vitamin for adults, and HalVit™ Jr chewable multi-vitamin for kids are available online at www.halvit.com, as well as select stores nationwide.