Which Health Supplements to Take

How to build the most effective supplement programme to ensure you get all the nutrients you need

In case you are new to health supplements, I thought I’d explain the basic building blocks of a good nutritional supplement programme, based on my research at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in establishing Optimum Daily Allowances.

Theoretically, at one extreme you could take a mega-mega-multivitamin and mineral that has everything you could possibly need in it. The trouble is this would be enormous, impossible to swallow and no doubt give you a lot more than you need of some nutrients. The other extreme is to take one supplement for each nutrient, exactly matching your requirements – but you’d end up with handfuls of pills.

So, instead, nutritional therapists use ‘formulas’ – combinations of vitamins and minerals – that, when combined appropriately, more or less reach your needs. In a typical health supplement programme you may end up with four supplements to take. These formulas are like building blocks. The essential building blocks are shown in the Supplement Jigsaw below


1. Start with a High Potency Multivitamin and Mineral

The starting point of any supplement programme is a high potency multivitamin and multimineral. This should provide the following nutrients:

Good multivitamin should contain at least 7,500iu of A, 10mcg (400iu) of D, 100iu of E, 250mg of C, and 25mg each of B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, 10mcg of B12, 200mcg of folic acid and 50mcg of biotin.

This should provide at least 300mg of calcium, 150mg of magnesium, 10mg of iron, 10mg of zinc, 2.5mg of manganese, 20mcg of chromium and 25mcg of selenium, and, ideally some molybdenum, vanadium and boron.

You simply can’t fit all of the above vitamins and minerals into one tablet. So good, combined multivitamin and mineral formulas recommend two or more tablets a day to meet these kind of levels. The bulkiest nutrients are vitamin C, calcium and magnesium. These are often insufficiently supplied in multivitamin and mineral formulas. Vitamin C, in particular is best taken separately simply because you’ll never get 1,000mg (the ideal daily dose) into a multi.

2. Add Extra Vitamin C and Other Immune Boosting Nutrients

VITAMIN C This is worth taking separately because the amount you need won’t fit in a multi. The supplement should provide around 1,800mg of Vitamin C. Some vitamin C formulas also provide other key immune boosting nutrients such as bioflavonoids or anthocyanidins in the form of black elderberry and bilberry and zinc.

3. Add Extra Antioxidant Nutrients

The evidence is now very conclusive that an optimal intake of antioxidant nutrients slows down the ageing process and prevents a variety of diseases. For this reason it is well worth supplementing extra antioxidant nutrients – on top of those in a good multivitamin – to ensure you are achieving the best possible ageing protection. The kind of nutrients that are provided in an antioxidant supplement are vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene, zinc and selenium, possibly iron, copper and manganese, the amino acids glutathione or cysteine, plus phytonutrients such as bilberry extract, elderberry extract, pycnogenol and grape seed extract. These plant chemicals, rich in bioflavonoids and anthocyanidins, are also often supplied in more comprehensive vitamin C formulas.

4. Are You Getting Enough Fat?

There are two ways of meeting your essential fat requirements: one is from diet, either by eating a heaped tablespoon of ground seeds every day, having a tablespoon of special cold-pressed seed oils and/or eating oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring, anchovies) three times a week; the other is to supplement concentrated oils. For omega 3 this means either flax seed oil capsules or the more concentrated fish oil capsules providing EPA and DHA. For omega 6 this means supplementing a source of GLA such as evening primrose oil or borage oil. Even better is a combination of all three – EPA, DHA and GLA.

These are the basic building blocks of a good supplement programme. I take these every day. Then, there are optional extras – from nutrients that support your brain, your mood and give you an energy boost when you need it, to natural relaxants or hormone balancers.

Receive your own supplement recommendations by completing my online 100% Health Programme – simply complete the questionnaire online and you’ll receive your ideal diet, lifestyle and supplement programme. Click here to start.