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It is vital to ensure that we are getting enough vitamins and minerals into our diets. But are food supplements really necessary? Or can our five-a-day provide us with everything that we need at a much cheaper price?
Why do we need vitamins and minerals in the first place?
Our body needs various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C or iron, in order to function correctly.
If you do not get enough of them, you could find that you become deficient in a certain mineral or vitamin. This could result in a range of health problems.
For example, those who do not get enough iron in their diet could find that they develop anaemia.
A lack of vitamin C could ultimately cause scurvy.
Most people know that they need to consume the right vitamins and minerals in order to keep their body healthy.
Some people purchase food supplements in order to ensure they are getting the vitamins and minerals that their body needs.
If you have a healthy diet, you may not need food supplements
According to the NHS, most people do not need to take food supplements. All of the vitamins and minerals you need, you can usually get from eating a “healthy, balanced diet”.
This means that for many people, food supplements may be an unnecessary waste of money.
The NHS offers guidance on its website as to what consists as a healthy, balanced diet. Needless to say, eating your five-a-day is a key part of this.
Food supplements could be harmful
Additionally, the NHS advises that taking too many food supplements or taking them for too long, could, in fact, be harmful.
However, some people may actually need food supplements. This is generally because they may be at risk of a deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals.
Women who are pregnant or planning to fall pregnant
The Department of Health recommends that those who are planning to get pregnant should take folic acid supplements. This is because folic acid can help to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.
Women are advised to continue taking folic acid up to the twelfth week of their pregnancy.
Food supplements: vitamin D
Among other things, vitamin D helps to keep our bones strong and healthy.
The Department of Health advises that, between the months of October and March, in particular, anyone who is over five years old should be thinking about adding vitamin D food supplements to their diet.
This is because a lot of our vitamin D comes from the sun. Our body makes vitamin D when we get sunlight on our skin. During the spring and summer months, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from being outdoors and having the sun on their skin.
Unfortunately, in the UK, we are unable to make vitamin D by sitting in the sun in the winter months.
We can get some vitamin D from a small selection of foods, such as eggs and oily fish.
However, the Department of Health points out that some people are more at risk than others of not having enough vitamin D. These groups are therefore advised to take vitamin D supplements as well.
- babies up to the age of one
- those aged between one and four years old
- anyone who does not go outdoors very much or covers up their skin when they do.
It is also recommended that children who are between six months and five years old, need to take food supplements which contain vitamins A, C and D. The NHS admits that this is a “precaution”, as children may not get enough of these essential vitamins when they are growing. Especially relevant for fussy eaters!
Conclusion: Are food supplements really necessary?
It seems that for the majority of us, food supplements may not be necessary. For those of us with a limited budget, this is welcome news.
However, vitamin D seems to be an exception to the rule. This appears to be due to the fact that the UK is simply not sunny enough for us to create sufficient vitamin D from the sun, all year round.
Additionally, those who fall into certain groups, such as those who are considering getting pregnant or very young children, may need to take specific supplements to stay healthy.
In summary, the current advice is that most people do not need to add general food supplements to an already healthy, balanced diet.