The shelves of every health-food store are practically heaving with supplements that promise everything from better energy levels to weight loss. It’s overwhelming. If you eat a well-rounded diet, then your need for supplements should be just that supplementary—they shouldn’t be a replacement for good nutrition. But sometimes, we can do with an added boost. Whether we’re experiencing a busy or stressful time in our lives, in a bit health rut, or exercising more than usual (hello, January).
To clear things up, we called on nutritionist Sarah Flower to take us back to basics to reveal the three supplements we should be taking in 2018—and the three we can afford to ditch. Keep scrolling to find out which are the best supplements to start taking now.
This is a very powerful anti-inflammatory showing the highest measurement on the ORAC scale. The bioactive compound in turmeric is curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow colour. The use of turmeric for medicinal reasons dates back over 4000 years. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used as a cleansing and detoxifying agent. This has been shown to help with a variety of inflammatory conditions including arthritis, as well as helping to soothe IBS. You can add turmeric to your food, but to ensure your body can absorb the nutrients efficiently, you should combine it with black pepper. If you don’t want to add turmeric to your diet, you can supplement with NutriAdvanced Curcumin Megasorb (£25).
This really is a hero nutrient and almost every fundamental process in our body needs a good supply. Magnesium is required for the production and stability of the ATP molecule, which provides energy for basic bodily processes. These range from processing and transporting nutrients, to making enzymes, and activating cellular pumps so that important substances can move in and out of each cell.
Women, in particular, can suffer a range of hormonal problems from PMT symptoms right through to menopause due to low magnesium. In fact, our hearts are totally dependent on it. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to increase platelet aggregation, which contributes to the kind of clotting seen in heart attacks, pulmonary embolism and strokes, which is why those with lower levels are more likely to have heart conditions. Magnesium is also known as an anti-stress mineral as it helps relax muscles, has a nourishing effect on our nervous system and helps improve flexibility and tone of blood vessels. Those who suffer from anxiety, depression and migraines are usually shown to be deficient in magnesium. It’s also beneficial to conditions such as chronic back pain, leg cramps and IBS. Low magnesium has also been linked to Fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.
I would recommend adding plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as pulses, nuts, whole grains and leafy green vegetables to your diet. I would highly recommend PowerHealth New Era 8 (£9). These are so easy to take and simply melt in your mouth. If you like to soak in the bath, add some Epsom salt and have a soak for at least 15 minutes.
Whether it’s going for a short walk on your lunch break or a run in your local park before or after work, getting outside and moving can help to boost your mood, lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.
Vitamin-D deficiencies can affect our immune system, respiratory system (especially incidences of asthma), depression, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and even cancer. Vitamin D helps lower our blood pressure and helps to keep us calm and less anxious. It has even been shown to help the body break down the stubborn fat cells.
We can, of course, take a supplement or even get some vitamin D from food (such as fish and eggs) but studies have shown that the conversion from sunlight is much more powerful and has more of an impact to health. There are two supplement forms: Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D3 is produced by the lanolin in sheep wool. D2 is produced from ergot (a type of fungus). I recommend vitamin D supplementation in my practice, but prefer the vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) form as I feel it absorbs better.
Supplements to Avoid...
B Vitamins: Eight vitamins make up the vitamin-B complex, and they each play an important role in keeping our bodies healthy. Whilst many of the B vitamins work alongside each other, each has its own specific benefits such as promoting healthy skin and hair or preventing memory loss and migraines. Though these nutrients contain numerous benefits (which might make you more inclined to reach for some supplements), chances are the average person is already getting plenty of B vitamins from the food they eat. For example, B1, which is known to help the body make healthy new cells and is often called the "anti-stress" vitamin because of its ability to protect the immune system, can be found in whole grains, peanuts, beans, spinach or kale. Each B vitamin has enough contents in various everyday foods that make it unnecessary to take them in supplements.
Selenium: Selenium is a trace element that is important for the body’s immune system and for reproduction. It has received particular attention because of its antioxidant properties, which help protect cells from damage. Selenium is available as a supplement, however, numerous evidence has shown that too much can cause bad breath, fever, nausea, and liver, kidney and heart problems. Some vitamins and minerals that are consumed higher-than-recommended may interfere with nutrient absorption and cause unwelcoming side effects. It seems unnecessary to put your body through this when you only need 400mg of Selenium a day, which you can easily get from the foods that contain this mineral. For example, sources of it can be found in Brazil nuts, brown rice, broccoli or salmon.
Vitamin E: This is often used for treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Vitamin E can be found in many foods including vegetable oils, cereals, meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, vegetables and wheat germ oil, but it is also available as a supplement. It is highly recommended that people make a conscious effort to ensure they are consuming vitamin E by eating a well-balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains rather than from supplements. This is because vitamin E supplements can be harmful, especially for individuals who already suffer from illnesses (such as cancer), and can increase the risk of bleeding in people taking anti-platelet medication.