Maintaining a healthy diet is a minefield. Not only do you need to worry about portion sizes, balanced meals, and getting sufficient fruit and vegetables, but you also need to consider which specific nutrients you’re getting. Nowadays, it’s easier to get all your vitamins and minerals. How? Dietary supplements, of course! Just take a pill, and you’ve got all the nutrients you need. But are they really that good?

First off, dietary supplements are not a replacement for food! They should be taken alongside a balanced diet. However, to many people, they are a crucial part of maintaining a healthy diet. Take oily fish, for example. It’s incredibly good for you, packed with long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids (which prevent heart disease), but a lot of people can’t stand the taste of fish, or do not eat it for ethical reasons. Those people, however, can take an Omega 3 dietary supplement, allowing them the benefits of eating oily fish, without actually having to do so.

Unfortunately, some supplements can interfere with medicines. St. John’s Wort, for example, causes some antidepressants, birth control and HIV medications to break down quicker, drastically reducing their effectiveness. Vitamin E can thin the blood, so if taken with a blood thinner, such as Warfarin or aspirin, the results could be dire. However, as long as you speak to your GP before starting new medicines or dietary supplements, you should be safe.

It’s very easy to get more nutrients than you need from dietary supplements. For example, Vitamin A is very good for your skin and eyesight, and is found in a lot of foods, including cheese and bell peppers. However, if you get too much of it, or take a Vitamin A supplement on top of a dairy-heavy diet, you can end up overdosing. Symptoms include hair loss, liver damage, confusion and bone loss. It’s simply not worth the risk of taking an additional supplement for something you may already be getting.

However, some supplements can be very effective. Calcium is important for bones and teeth, and preventing bone loss. One supplement, AlgaeCal, has been proven to stop bone loss within 180 days. Don’t believe me? Just look at the AlgaeCal Plant Calcium clinical evidence; the plant improves bone health by including nutrients that aid digestion, to make sure that the calcium is properly absorbed. Iron supplements, when properly prescribed, are very useful for treating anaemia. Furthermore, Vitamin D, produced by sunlight on our skin, can easily be taken as a supplement for people who work indoors, or nights, allowing them to reduce their risk of getting Rickets.

To conclude, as long as you do sufficient research on the nutrients that are required, and are aware of the nutrients that you are lacking from your diet, then dietary supplements can be a great way to make up the missing vitamins and minerals. However, it’s best to consult a GP before taking anything, and, whatever you do, do not use them to replace food!