We know that performing regular exercise at least 2-3 times a week has many health benefits. Suppose we can increase that to 4-5 times, even better. We also know that feeding our body a balanced and varied diet works alongside the exercise, giving us a more excellent all-round health. But do we need to go one step further and implement the use of supplements into our diet?
Many would argue that it’s a redundant cause, but as we get older and our ability to repair and regenerate slows down, why wouldn’t we want to maintain healthy longevity in any natural way we could? The reality is that due to busy lifestyles, at any age, we often struggle to maintain a nutrient-dense diet every single day of the week. Skipping meals or grabbing convenience foods are surefire ways of missing out on your ‘five a day’, not to mention those (ahem ahem) weekend takeaways, which are more than likely lacking in vital vitamins and nutrients. We are all guilty of this at some point or another, and while it’s not a huge cause for concern if we’re hitting our nutrient quoter most days, it’s always good to keep on top of things – especially when it comes to your health and well-being.
Why do we need them?
Vitamins and minerals are essential for optimal body function; they help us build, repair, and maintain our body. They help us stay strong against viruses and free radicals, and if we didn’t have them at all, in extreme cases, we could run the risk of developing health concerns such as anemia, bleeding gums, or hair loss. While the majority of us rarely get to that stage, it is worth pointing out that most vitamins can not be made by the body independently; therefore, we have to get them by consuming the right foods. The amount of each vitamin needed also varies, as they each have a different set of functions within the body. This is why we’re always encouraged to eat an array of different foods by remembering quotes like “Your 5 A Day” and “Eat the Rainbow”.
When do we need them?
Life throws many variables at us; sex, age, physiological state, psychological state, social health, dietary health, and emotional well-being. The list goes on and can change significantly throughout our individual lives. This means that nutritional intakes may also vary depending on who you are and at what stage in life you’re at.
A 13-year-old on a good diet but going through a growth spurt, will have different nutritional needs to a 30-year-old who is fully developed but may choose to eat a plant-based diet. The same way the dietary requirements of a 70-year-old in decent health will vary from that of a 25-year-old woman going through pregnancy. It can be so varied, and it’s good to address these things for your diet and also when considering supplementation.
Which ones should we consider?
So if we are in full health, not pregnant, not on a restricted diet, or suffering from any underlying health conditions, do we need to take supplements? Some studies show that despite our best efforts, in some cases, we should. Supplement choices are abundant, so we’ve only highlighted just a few to consider…
Public Health England has stated since 2016 that people should consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D, especially in the autumn and winter months. However, in recent times, this advice has come to light again, from the recommendation of The Scientific Advisory Committee (SACN). Particularly as more of us are now following the government’s stay-at-home advice, working from home and perhaps not seeing quite as much sunlight as we usually would. With the potential spike of COVID-19 on the horizon, it sounds like this is a vitamin in which we should all take note. The recommended amount is 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes anyone at risk of Vitamin D deficiency as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, but it always a good idea to check first if you are unsure.
Fish can sometimes be an acquired taste we know, but maybe give it another go if you weren’t convinced before? Fish, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, are full of Omega-3 fatty acids which is an essential part of any healthy diet. Research suggests that Omega-3 is not only good for heart health, but it can also help fight depression and anxiety and maintain eye health. An Omega-3 fish oil supplementation could be worth considering if fish isn’t your thing or you’re following a plant-based diet. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises that you should not have more than 1.5mg a day (1500 micrograms) from food and supplements combined, especially if you already take a supplement containing vitamin A. However, this advice can vary depending on age, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, so it’s always good to check.
Getting in your five-a-day will usually tick this vitamin off the list; however, on the days when you don’t quite manage it, this one could be an great supplement to have in the cupboard, as back up. It helps protect cells, maintain skin and bones as well as blood vessels. The NHS recommends that we need no more than 1000mg of Vitamin C a day, so taking a supplement of no more than 500mg alongside a varied diet is ample to maintain our well-being.
Now we mustn’t mistake the extra vitamin intake as a signal to cut out certain food groups or get lazy with our diets – they are used to supplement an existing healthy diet – not to replace food.
There are a number of reasons for adding a little vitamin supplementation to your diet, and it’s essential to know why and when you should be taking specific recommendations. Always seek advice from your health expert if you are unsure at any point. Read the directions of use and follow the correct dosage required if you choose to take a supplement.
If you would like further information on vitamins the guidelines for supplementation use, you can always visit these websites to read up on the latest advice:
Nation Health Service (NHS)
Public Health England (PHE)
The British Dietetic Association (BDA)