Should vitamin supplements form part of our healthy eating routine?
Faced with so much confusing information on how to become fitter and healthier it’s a wonder that anyone knows where to start
Dr Arup Paul, AXA PPP’s deputy chief medical officer, attempts to decipher the piles of wellbeing news and information available and give us a clearer picture of where and how we should start and what role vitamin supplements can play in our healthy eating regime.
“If you are on a mission to become healthier this year you don’t have to wait until the start of the month or change of season to take better care of yourself,” says Dr Paul. “Anytime is a good time and that time could be now.”
Taking better care of our health and wellbeing doesn’t always have to start with our diet. Being physically active, taking time out, sleeping well, all play a part in the way we try to balance our day-to-day lives. For some of us, vitamin supplements can play their part too.
Dr Paul’s approach to vitamin supplements
“There is ever changing advice as to what and how much is good for us regarding taking vitamin or dietary supplements. No one person is the same so it is hard to give a definitive yes or no when someone asks if they should be supplementing their diet with them. Many factors can come into play – some of which are explored below. ”
There is a booming vitamin and supplement market in the UK. Mintel reports, that in the 12 months ending June 2016, 65% of adults had taken some form of vitamin or supplement (either occasionally or on a daily basis).
Life can be very busy and so it is understandable that at times if we have skipped a meal or eaten on the go then we may feel we need a supplement to give our health a boost.
Our bodies need nutrients to be healthy
Vitamin pills, however, are not a shortcut to better health. A supplement should only be considered as an ‘extra’ – a support to our healthy lifestyle not as a replacement for eating healthily. Our bodies need to be nutrient rich to prevent the onset of chronic diseases such as cancers, heart disease or type 2 diabetes and this comes from fuelling our bodies with the right foods.
So…reducing the amount of trans fat, saturated fat, salt, refined sugar and sensible portion sizes will not only leave us feeling good about ourselves but will also help to decrease our chances of developing long term health issues.
A healthy person should be able to get all the nutrients needed from eating a balanced diet which contains lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains; along with some dairy, meat, fish or protein plant foods such as tofu and healthy fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds and oils.
Click here to learn more about eating healthily – Do you know your fats?
However, some of us, at certain times of our lives may be deficient in certain nutrients and so could benefit from supplements:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers – Public Health England advises should take folic acid and a vitamin D supplement until the 12th week of pregnancy
- Children aged 6 months to 5 years should take a Vitamin A,C and D supplement
- Those at risk of vitamin D deficiency – people with darker skin or those not getting enough sun exposure (such as older people or those who may be housebound). Public Health England recommends taking vitamin D throughout the winter months.
- For those excluding animal products from their diet as they may lack iron, B12, Omega 3 fatty acids
We mustn’t forget to exercise
Alongside eating well we should all be staying physically active. Moving our bodies can boost our energy and immune systems, improve blood flow to the brain, and improve our sleep. Increasing our exercise can negate our need for a vitamin supplement and is better for us in so many other ways too.
Being physically active increases the size of our brain associated with memory and learning, is good for our mental wellbeing and our cells even start to renew which can help to slow down the ageing process. The benefits to exercise are almost immeasurable!
The government recommendation is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week which can be broken down into 30 minutes, 5 days a week or even shorter bursts. Taking the dog for a walk, taking the stairs or gardening all count!
Click here for some inspiration on how to exercise indoors
It’s important to research supplements carefully
Mintel’s research has found that multi-vitamins are the most popular with us Brits, although single vitamin supplements have gained recent popularity as they are seen to target specific health issues. It is thought that multi-vitamins are most commonly bought as they are relatively low cost, considered low risk and perceived to fill that nutritional gap in our diets.
The jury is out on whether vitamin supplements should form part of our healthy eating routine. Some experts agree that multi-vitamins could help aid as part of a healthy lifestyle, while others disagree and claim that the way the chemicals in fruit and vegetables work together cannot be replicated in a supplement. They argue that half an apple, despite only containing 5.7 milligrams of vitamin C has the antioxidant activity of 1,500 milligrams.
There is obviously more research to be done and we are all individuals with different needs. But if you are considering taking a supplement as a boost to your system it is worth finding out what you may be deficient in first. For example; you may assume you need an iron supplement as you are continually tired, but without being tested to find out if you are iron deficient you may be making the wrong choice. Your tiredness could be due to an underlying condition and taking extra iron into your body could lead to health complications.
It has also been shown that certain vitamins, taken in high doses, are potentially harmful – in particular A and E vitamins. Certain supplements can interfere with some prescribed medicines too so do check with your GP first if you are planning to supplement your diet this way.
However, if after checking with your GP, you find a vitamin supplement is appropriate for you then try visiting AXA Active Plus, where you can find a broad range of health and wellbeing products to choose.
Sources and further information
Mintel Vitamins and supplements market in good health
All content on Silversurfers.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated at all as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Silversurfers will not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content on www.silversurfers.com and we are also not liable for the content of any external websites or links from or to Silversurfers to any other websites. Please always consult your own doctor if you’re in any way concerned about any aspect of your health
Have you got a health question?
We've teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a health related question of your own - about your or your family's health, medication or upcoming procedures, for example - you can also access their, "Ask the Expert" service. Available around the clock, 365 days a year this free resource allows you to ask the team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives and pharmacists about any health concerns you may have - whenever you need them, 24 hours a day, every day. Please get in touch now.
Click below to submit your question online.
AXA PPP healthcare
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!