Walk down the health food aisle of any supermarket and you’ll notice there’s a ridiculous amount of supplements on the market.
But do we need them?
For most people who follow a well balanced diet the answer is probably no.
Food is the best source of nutrients, and if you have a varied diet it’s likely you’re getting everything you need.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of marketing that goes into these products, and it can be easy to be convinced that you need to pay money for something your body is already getting.
So when are supplements necessary?
Well, supplements are advisable when the required amount of a particular nutrient isn’t being obtained through food.
Some examples of this includes vitamin B12 supplements for vegans, as vitamin B12 is only available through the consumption of animal products or fortified foods.
Iron supplements may also be required for vegetarians and vegans, but only if there is a deficiency. This can be identified through a blood test.
Pregnant women, or those trying to conceive, are advised to take folate supplements as most women don’t get the required amounts through food.
This is something that should be discussed with your GP.
Calcium and vitamin D may also be required for those who do not obtain enough from their diet, or for those who have osteoporosis. Again, this should be discussed with your GP before you start on a supplement.
The other issue with supplements is that because they don’t require a prescription, and are often seen as being ‘natural’, we’re not as careful with them as we should be.
It’s important to remember that supplements do have their risks and potential side effects. Some supplements interact with prescribed medications, and there’s also the potential for toxicity issues if they are over consumed.
For these reasons you should always speak to your doctor before starting on any supplements, and remember the best supplement is a well balanced diet.