Have you ever wondered whether those popular food supplements are worth taking? We’re here to inform you on what they really are, which ones are best for you and where you can find them. So read below to find out more!
What is food supplement?
“Any food the purpose of which is to supplement (add to or enhance) the normal diet and which is a concentrated source of a vitamin or mineral or other substance with a nutritional or physiological effect.” – Food Standards Agency.
Please remember that it is not an alternative to food, nor a quick fix for a poor diet. Too much of one supplement can cause side effects so always seek advice from your doctor first.
- Supplements are useful for those who lack a specific vitamin, mineral or nutrient. For example, gym addict often take protein supplements.
- Folic acid food supplements are really useful in some cases because it helps to prevent birth defects during pregnancy.
- Finally, they are an easy way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need.
- Overdosing can cause harmful side effects. For instance, too much vitamin A (Hypervitaminosis A) can be toxic and lead to liver and brain damage.
- Food supplements aren’t as strictly regulated as legal drugs. Thus products sold from suppliers outside the UK and Europe may not pass our safety standards. Avoid “DNP” as it speeds up the metabolism too quickly and has been linked to deaths.
- Finally, keep in mind that they can react to medication you are currently taking and leading to side effects.
What food supplements are best for me?
Proteins can help people who want to lose fat, gain muscle and enhance their performance.
Proteine often comes in powder that you can add to your meals or into food supplement drinks. It helps to build muscle and body tissue, boost recovery and improve physical performance. Besides, some people use it for weight loss and muscle gain. Indeed, a high protein diet works by speeding up your metabolism which allows you to burn more calories. It also reduces your appetite, naturally reducing your calorie intake.
We are not big fan of proteins as it can cause frustration according to us. Spending your time eating powder sounds like no fun to us but it is something we think you should be aware of.
Are protein supplements healthy?
Not if they are being used as a meal replacement. Protein shakes, bars and tablets aren’t an alternative to a full meal. They should only be top-ups for those who want a high-protein diet. However, eating more foods that are rich in protein can be just as effective as protein supplements. This is a more natural and healthier option. As vegans, we can eat more quinoa, lentils, pulses, beans, tofu, soy and nuts (almonds, cashews and flaxseeds).
Vitamins are suitable for people with a balanced diet but lack specific vitamins.
There are a variety of vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to function and they can be found in all foods. You’re probably aware of the daily multivitamin A-Z tablets which are very common. Taking these are a safe way to ensure your body gets all the vitamins it needs. But, what do vitamins and minerals do?
Ever wondered what vitamins are good for joints and bones? This is one of them (and vitamin C and D). It regulates the heartbeat, helps blood clotting and builds strong bones and teeth. The daily intake for 19-64 year olds is 700mg. However, taking too much could lead to diarrhoea and stomach pain so never abuse it!
It helps to make thyroid hormones and keeps cells and metabolic rates healthy. The daily intake is 0.14mg. However, don’t take too much as it can lead to weight gain.
It makes red blood cells. The daily intake for women aged 19-50 is 14.8g. Taking too much could lead to constipation, stomach pain and vomiting. Not having enough can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.
This helps to maintain your immune system – your body’s defence from infections and illnesses. The daily intake for women is 0.6mg.
B vitamins (including Folic acid)
- B1, 2, 3 (Thiamin, riboflavin and niacin), 12 & pantothenic acid keeps the nervous system healthy and helps to break down and release the energy from foods.
- B6 forms red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and breaks down the energy from protein and carbohydrates. The daily intake for women is 1.2.mg. Taking too much can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
- B7 (biotin) helps the body to break down fat.
- Folic acid (folate) reduces the risk of birth defects in unborn babies and helps the body to form red blood cells. The daily intake is 200mcg. If you are pregnant (up to 12 weeks) your daily intake should be 400mcg.
It protects and keeps cells, skin and bones healthy. The daily intake for 19-64 year olds is 40mg. Taking too much can lead to diarrhoea and stomach pain while not having enough can lead to a condition called scurvy.
It helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. The daily intake during autumn/winter is 10mcg but throughout the rest of the year you can get vitamin D from the sun! Having too much can lead to hypercalcaemia.
It maintains healthy skin, eyes and immune system and you need 3mg per day.
This helps wounds to heal properly from blood clots. You only need a small amount (1mcg a day for each kg of your body weight).
Are vitamins healthy?
Eating a balanced diet should be enough to get all the vitamins you need. A balanced diet includes drinking plenty of water, eating your 5-a-day, starchy foods such as pasta and bread, some protein sources and dairy alternatives. Of course, you may need more of a vitamin if you are a child, ill or pregnant. This is when vitamin supplements are useful and especially healthy for you.
Where can I get them from?
After speaking with your doctor to find out what’s best for you, you’ll know whether you’re in need of an extra source of protein or a specific vitamin. They may prescribe you some pills or you may opt to buy food supplements. If you do, we’ve found a few plant-based brands for you. They sell protein powder, nutrition bars, vitamins and more.
It is always best to aim for a balanced diet that incorporates everything you need. However, there can be cases where this is difficult. Food supplements are a great option for those who need a little help. Check out our interview with The Food Psychology Clinic to find out more about what you can do to build a healthy relationship with food.