By Jessica, November 29, 2012
It’s a multi-million Euro industry with an estimated one on four Irish people taking at least one daily supplement – but are they really necessary? The general consensus among nutritionists is that while certain supplements can be useful in addressing dietary deficiencies, most people who eat a healthy well-balanced diet probably don’t need them.
In fact, taking supplements incorrectly can do more harm than good in the long run. If you do decide to boost your nutritional intake with multi-vitamins or other tablets, make sure to follow these rules to ensure you are getting the most from them.
Supplement, not Replacement
Supplements are intended to be exactly that: supplementary to a balanced diet. The best source of nutrients will always be food and no amount of pill-popping can compensate for a poor diet. Essential nutrients such as antioxidants, fibre and enzymes never have the same potency in supplementary form.
Taking supplements is completely redundant if your body isn’t absorbing them properly. As a general rule, supplements are usually absorbed better if taken with a meal – but certain foods can actually inhibit the absorption of your supplements. Avoid taking them with your morning coffee, for example, as caffeine prevents optimum absorption of Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron and B Vitamins.
Don’t Overdo It
Most supplements are water soluble and therefore any excess you ingest will simply be excreted by the body. However certain substances such as Vitamin D and Iron can be toxic in large doses, so make sure you’re not taking more than your recommended daily allowance.
Go for Capsules
Most nutritionists agree that capsules are usually the best form to take your supplements in. The soft casing is easier to digest than hard tablets and many liquid alternatives don’t contain the same concentration of goodness.
Personalise your Selection
While high-quality multi-vitamins are usually a reliable choice, you may not need everything that’s in them. Consider your diet – vegetarians may benefit from an iron supplement, those with dairy intolerance might need extra calcium and so on. Tailor your intake to what you need rather than taking a little bit of everything.
Ask your Doctor
When choosing which supplements to take, ask your doctor for their opinion. They will be able to recommend what you should be taking for your personal needs and at which dosage. What’s more, they may tell you that you don’t need to be taking them at all.
Take a Break
Every now and then you should take a break from any supplements you are taking. Prolonged use of certain supplements can put strain on the liver, while others simply lose their impact if taken every day for months or years. Unless a doctor has instructed otherwise, it can be a good idea to take a day or two off each week or a week off each month.