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Food/Dietary supplements also known as nutritional supplements come in all different forms: pills, capsules, powders, gels & tablets and can be usually bought online, over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. But have you ever wondered if you really need them? Maybe you’ve seen a good advert on TV or an interesting article in a magazine, or maybe your friends has been raving on about this new super supplement he/she has been taking.

Well, food supplements work to deliver an array of nutrients (minerals, vitamins, amino acids etc). Some people may take them because they consume insufficient quantities of food throughout the day and face potential deficiencies. i.e. iron and anaemia or fish oil and Omega 3. 

Or, you could just be taking supplements because they can benefit in specific ways i.e. protein powder after your workout, or energy gels before partaking in different sporting activities.

Regardless of your reason behind taking supplements, it’s always important to know what you are actually consuming, how much of it you need and if this can really benefit you?

Firstly, studies show buying supplements could in fact cost you a great deal more in the long run than just buying whole foods, as many manufactures set high prices in order to gain a profit. Moreover, these manufactures have been known to add additional filler ingredients and therefore a definitive representation isn’t always stated on the label.

Now you may think “more is better”, but this is not always the case and having too much of a certain supplement could lead to potential side effects.

  • i.e. Consuming over 1.5mg of vitamin A has been shown to be associated with headaches, reduction in bone strength (more prone to fractures) and potential liver damage. Whilst a surplus of iron can lead to nausea and vomiting.

One top tip is therefore to always prioritise meals above any form of supplementation. Supplements aren’t intended to be substituted for food and can’t replicate the spectrum of nutrients and benefits found in whole food groups.

Whole foods have greater nutrition as they are complex and carry a range of antioxidants, fibre and micronutrients important for your body’s health.

“But what if I need to take supplements because of my dietary requirements i.e., vegan/vegetarian?”.

Well, certain fortified foods can now play a key role in keeping your health in check for those of you who follow a specialised diet.

  • Soya drinks can be fortified with calcium which is important for those who do cannot consume dairy products.
  • Similarly, if you do not ingest animal-based foods (prime source of Vit B12) fortified foods such as: plant-based milks and cereals, nutritional yeast etc… are great substitute source of Vit B12, particularly for vegans/vegetarians.

Now, if you are taking supplements and have found this works for you then super! But a few things to keep in mind if you want to decide whether to take supplements or not:

  • Consult a doctor, pharmacist or dietitian as a supplement that works for your friend might not for you.
  • Be mindful that the term ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean safe. Always read the label!
  • Try and ask yourself “what are the benefits for me, what is the appropriate dosage and when/how long should I take it for”

Thanks for reading.