It’s a question many of are confused by – do we really need to take a vitamin supplement or can we get all we need by eating a healthy diet? Are they all a marketing ploy or could we all do with an extra nutritional boost?
The truth is, there are times when we could do with some extra help in the form of a daily supplement, so nutritional supplements most definitely do have a rightful place in our daily lives, and there are two in particular that are important.
We need vitamin B12 for releasing the energy from the food we eat, for a healthy nervous system and for manufacturing red blood cells. It’s a water soluble vitamin which means the body cannot store it, and we need to consume enough of this vitamin each day to remain healthy.
Vitamin B12 is produced in the guts of animals by the naturally occurring bacteria that reside in their gastrointestinal systems. For this reason, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products are all good sources of vitamin B12.
Vegans and those following a primarily plant based diet are therefore at risk of becoming deficient in vitamin B12. For this reason, it’s advised that those who avoid eating animal products take a vitamin B12 supplement of at least 10 micrograms per day.
The majority of our vitamin D doesn’t come from our diet. Instead it’s manufactured by the body when sunlight hits the skin. During the summer months, most of us can expect to get enough vitamin D in order to keep our teeth and bones strong and healthy.
During the winter months, when our skin is covered, we spend less time outdoors and the sun isn’t as strong, we’re at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Those who don’t tend to spend much time outside due to ill health, immobility or incarceration or who cover their skin due to religious or cultural reasons are also at risk of a vitamin D deficiency all year round.
Vitamin D is present in some foods including oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herrings etc), red meat and egg yolks. It can also be found in some fortified foods such as some dairy spreads and cereals.
Taking a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms per day is recommended during the winter months and all year round for those who spend most or all of their time inside or with their skin covered.
Catch All Multivitamins
Whilst taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement isn’t a replacement for a healthy diet or a reason to eat unhealthily, they are helpful if your lifestyle is busy, stressful and not always what you want it to be.
If you do decide to take a multivitamin, make sure you’re not taking anything else that contains vitamin A, such as some fish oil capsules. It’s possible to have too much vitamin A which can lead to weaker bones in later life.
If you’re in doubt as to whether you’re deficient in any vitamin or mineral, you can get tested to see if there are any supplements that you would benefit from, or any that you really don’t need to be taking. It will give you peace of mind that you’re getting all the nutrition you need to remain as healthy as possible, leaving you to get on with whatever else life sends your way!
Written by Bev Walton, BSc Nutritional Science
I achieved a First-Class Honours degree in BSc Nutritional Science, Nutrition Sciences from the University of Reading and now have over 35 years experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for magazines and websites as well as ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I’m also a proud member of the Guild of Food writers.