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Should I be taking dietary supplements?

What is a supplement, and should we be taking them?


Supplements are available without a prescription, over the counter or found online. Common supplements are vitamins, minerals, or herbal products. Some of them can be quite expensive, and can add up to our weekly grocery bill. Do we really need to be spending a lot of money on supplements?


Supplements that are recommended to you by your doctor or dietitian are usually due to deficiencies in your system. Regular blood tests can help to find out what you may need more of. Some individuals are more likely to be deficient in nutrients. For example, pregnant women need higher concentrations of folate and iron, and ageing women may need to increase their calcium and vitamin D intake to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. People who may not be able to consume enough nutrients from their diet, such as weight loss surgery patients, need to take lifelong supplements to ensure they get the right quantities for their bodies to function at their best.


Firstly, it is important to see if these nutrients are already in your diet. For example, some people find they are low in iron or B12, especially if they consume a vegetarian or vegan diet. Discussing your dietary intake with a dietitian is a good way to see if there are any ways to increase these nutrients in the diet first, before opting for supplements.


If you eat a nutritious, wide variety of foods and have no other health conditions, you may not need to take extra supplements. Speaking to a dietitian or your GP about this is still important, just to be sure. Discussing your diet and blood test results is a great way to find what options are best for you. Your dietitian can also point you in the right direction to the right kind of supplement, that might cost a little less or be more appropriate for your needs.