• Amy McGuire

Do I need to take a supplement?

Do I need to take a supplement?

A balanced diet that provides the body with macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, protein), vitamins, minerals and fluids is generally adequate in optimising our health. Supplementation can occur in many forms for example by consuming a multivitamin capsule or purchasing fortified products such as “SuperMilk”. Supplements, as the name suggests, may be needed at stages throughout our lives when we are unable to reach our nutrient requirements through a food first approach. Let’s take a look at some examples:

General population

Vitamin D: The best source of vitamin D for us is made by our skin following sun exposure, therefore deficiency is very common in Ireland during the months of October and March, when UV rays are at their lowest. Foods such as milk, eggs and oily fish only contain small amounts of vitamin D, therefore daily supplementation of 10micrograms is recommended during the winter months. There is increasing evidence to show that vitamin D has positive effects on the immune system, and may protect us from upper respiratory tract infections. High doses (>25mcg/day) of vitamin D may cause irregular heart beat and increase the risk of kidney stones. Therefore, it is recommended to limit supplementation to no more than 25mcg per day.

Omega 3 fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that cannot be produced in the body and must be taken in through our diet. These fatty acids help the heart to beat more regularly, protect our arteries, and promote brain development. Omega 3 fatty acids are most abundant in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout. As oily fish is not to everyone’s taste, supplementation of 250-500mg may be necessary to ensure adequate amounts are supplied to the body. For those with a fish allergy or are vegan, an algae based supplement may be more suitable.


Two to three months before trying to conceive, and three months after, is an important time for early placental development. During this time frame, supplementing with 400 micrograms of folic acid can reduce the risk of neural tube defects by up to 70%. Folic acid plays an important role in red blood. cell function, DNA formation and nerve function. Folate, the natural form of folic acid, can be found in green leafy vegetables and legumes. A daily dosage of 10 micrograms of vitamin D is also recommended.

Over 65s

Calcium plays an important role in the maintenance of bone health and can be found in dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurts and tinned fish. People over 65 need 1200mg of calcium per day, which is slightly higher than those under 65. To meet this requirement, they may need to supplement with calcium if they can’t achieve their targeted amount through food alone. It is also recommended that adults over 65 years consume 15 µg of vitamin D3 per day.

Vegetarians Or Vegans

Appropriate supplementation is essential for vegans and vegetarians to ensure optimal and wellbeing. Vitamin B12 aids the development of red blood cells and helps maintain a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B12 cannot be derived from plants and therefore must supplemented in a daily dose of 3 µg per day.

Iodine is essential to thyroid health. Plant based foods contain very little iodine, rendering it difficult for vegans or vegetarians to consume the required 140mcg per day. In recent years, however, plant based milk such as Alpro have started fortifying with iodine, so that it now contains a similar amount to cow’s milk (22mcg/100ml). Therefore 1 pint/500ml of this milk would provide approximately 80% of the iodine needed per day.

As mentioned earlier, an algae based omega 3 supplement such as Minami, Together Natural or Testa would also be beneficial in ensuring optimal health.


Active lifestyles result in greater requirements for macronutrients and athletes in particular may benefit from sports specific supplements. The general exerciser would require more carbohydrates and protein than a sedentary person in order to refuel their energy stores and rebuild the microdamage they have inflicted on their muscles. The more elite an athlete becomes, the greater these requirements are. For example, a 85kg marathon runner should be consuming 850g (3400kcal) of carbohydrates per day in the lead up to the race, whereas a 85kg sedentary person would only need approximately 255g (1020kcal). Eating a lot of carbohydrates may seem like living the dream but it would be a major struggle to eat 3000+ kcal per day of food alone. Therefore endurance athletes, often choose to supplement with energy gels and drinks to help them reach their carbohydrate goal, without filling their stomachs too much. Similarly, sports requiring a high level of muscle mass such as sprinting or shot putt, have higher protein requirements than non-athletes (2g/kg/day vs 0.8g/kg/day). Busy lifestyles may render it difficult to consume large quantities of protein through food, therefore supplementation through protein powder may be more convenient.

Before taking any supplements, always consult with a health practitioner.

Featured Posts
Posts are coming soon
Stay tuned...
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square