Health Column - June/July 21
Should You Be Taking Supplements?
We should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need from the food we eat. However, modern day life is making it increasingly difficult to achieve a balanced diet. That’s where supplements come in.
Supplements are considered ‘top-ups’ for the vital vitamins and minerals our bodies require to function. They can take the form of vitamins, probiotics, herbal products, powders, drinks – and more.
There is still much debate surrounding their effectiveness, with few studies directly linking supplements to improved health. However, although medical professionals insist that supplements aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet, it’s been proven that some could have a positive effect on your health.
For example, many vegetarians and vegans will benefit from iron and vitamin B-12 supplements, while those trying for a baby are advised to take folic acid supplements until twelve weeks into their pregnancy. It’s also recommended that children aged between six months and five years take vitamin A, C and D supplements every day.
Other supplements, however, could be a waste of money. If you’re wondering whether supplements could benefit your diet, it’s worth speaking to your doctor or nutritionist first. But to start you off, we’ve put together a list of the top five supplements people take in the UK, and what they are taken for.
A vital vitamin for regulating our bodies’ calcium and phosphate content, vitamin D is a key contributor to healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
We get most of our vitamin D from the sun but living in the UK means we have limited daylight hours during the autumn and winter. For this reason, many people in the UK choose to take vitamin D supplements between late September and early April, when the sunlight is weaker.
Found naturally in foods such as pumpkin, spinach, soy beans and brown rice, magnesium is important for bone health and energy production. It’s a known stress-reliever too, and studies have proven that it can even help sleeping problems.
Best known for its ability to boost immunity and fight off bacteria and viruses, zinc is another vital mineral our bodies need to function.
Red meat, shellfish and dairy foods all have high levels of zinc, as do chickpeas, lentils and beans. In supplement form, you can top up your zinc levels with over-the-counter capsules, tablets and lozenges.
Swallowing fish oil first thing in the morning might not sound appetising, but there’s solid evidence to suggest that omega 3 fatty acids can help contribute towards a healthy heart and brain, while also reducing inflammation.
That’s why omega 3 supplements, often in the shape of fish oil capsules, are so popular. Vegans and vegetarians can also top up their intake with algae oil supplements.
Iron is responsible for making red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. It’s particularly important in younger women, but according to the 2018 National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 27% of women are deficient.
It’s predominantly found in red meat, which is why many vegans and vegetarians take iron supplements to make up for any potential deficiencies. However, smaller amounts can be found in beans, nuts and fortified cereals.