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The answer is, it depends. Whether or not you need supplements is based on a number of factors, including your current diet, lifestyle, and health status.
If you eat a well-balanced diet and get enough exercise, you probably don't need supplements.
However, if you have specific health concerns or are at risk for certain diseases, supplements may be recommended. Supplements are intended to fill in the gaps in our diet and provide us with the nutrients we might be lacking.
Supplements refer to vitamins, minerals or botanicals sold as capsules, tablets or powders.
Vitamins and minerals in the food we eat are generally better absorbed in our body compared to the synthesised versions found in supplements. Not only that, but food contains other beneficial nutrients such as fibre or phytochemicals. So while a Vitamin C supplement will provide your body with Vitamin C, eating an apple will provide your body with Vitamin C along with a host of other vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as well as fibre. So taking vitamin and mineral supplements is no substitute for a healthy diet.
However, there are some people who may benefit from taking a supplement. For example, pregnant women and vegans are often advised to take certain vitamins and minerals.
Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish, and vegans do not eat any animal products meaning both groups of people may be missing out on potential nutrients.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding increase the body’s requirements of certain nutrients such as folate which may be difficult to achieve through diet alone.
The body can become depleted of essential nutrients from those who smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.
Some foods contain essential nutrients, which can be difficult to obtain if a person has an allergy or intolerance to them.
Heavy blood loss during menstrual cycles can cause some people to struggle to obtain enough iron in their diets meaning they may require supplementation.
People who suffer chronic diarrhoea or coeliac disease for example, cannot absorb certain nutrients from food.
Be careful before starting any supplement, as it’s important to ensure you are exceeding the recommended amount of certain nutrients which can be dangerous.
If you aren’t sure if you need a supplement or not, you might like to book an appointment with a dietitian who can assess your current nutritional intake with a medical history and advise if any supplements are required.
Before starting to take supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor first to ensure they are safe for you and will not interact with any medications you are taking.
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