Find out which supplements you need to sparkle with health here.
You need: Iron
Why: The body needs iron to manufacture red blood cells, which hold haemoglobin – the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. When your iron intake is low, you have less haemoglobin, less oxygen and less energy. ‘You lose iron through menstruation and unless you eat a lot of red meat, you’re almost certainly deficient,’ says specialist nutrition doctor, Dr John Briffa.
What to take: Floradix, £8.99, available at health-food stores. It’s an easily absorbable form of iron, and unlike conventional supplements, not constipating. You need to take a supplement for at least six month to build up your body’s stores.
You need: Vitamin D
Why: A 2007 Study by University College London showed that a staggering 90 per cent of British adults have dangerously low levels of this crucial vitamin after the winter months. That’s because vitamin D is mostly produced in response to sunlight. ‘Sunlight is your best bet, but if you work inside or wear sun factor above 8, you won’t be getting any vitamin D from the sun either,’ warns Dr Briffa.
What to take: It you take a supplement with 1,000 IU a day and get 10-15 minutes of unblocked sunlight a few times a week you’re probably getting enough, but if you’re never in the sun, you can take 2,000 IU a day. Vtamin D3 supplements are widely available in health food stores.
What you need: Caricol
Why? ‘The best remedy for irregularity is to make sure you eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and drink plenty of water,’ says Max Tomlinson. But failing that, Caricol works wonders. ‘This new liquid supplement is derived from organic papaya fruit, which contains a super-high concentration of natural digestive enzymes and gut-soothing properties. Because Caricola maximises the active ingredient, papain, early studies suggest that taking it regularly can help sort out everything from constipation to heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome and bloating.’
What to take: The product comes in liquid sachets and it’s recommended you start with one to two per day after main meals (£15.94 for 20, nutricare.com)
What you need: Omega-3 fatty acids
Why? These essential acids are extremely protective and you can only get them through a small range of foods. ‘Fish oils really help regulate hormones,’ says Max Tomlinson. ‘That has huge repercussions for women in terms of protecting against cancer, eradicating PMS and ensuring the body burns fat instead of laying it down around your heart and stomach.’
What to take: ‘With fish oil, you get what you pay for,’ says Tomlinson. ‘Cheap ones are a waste of money at best, and full of nasty by-products at worst.’ Go for Minami Nutrition MorEPA Smart Fats Fish Oil (£25.95 for 60, nutricentre.com). Fish oil is best taken with food, so split your daily amount into two or three doses at meal times.
You need: Vitex agnus-castus
Why? If you’ve got a problem with your periods, a daily dose of this herb can work wonders. ‘With my hand on my heart, I can say it helps wipe out premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like anxiety, water retention and mood swings in two to three cycles,’ says Dr John Briffa. ‘Every woman should know about it.’
What to take: 40mg of dried herb or 40 drops of concentrated liquid extract a day. Try A.Vogel Agnus Castus tincture, £8.95 for 50ml available at good health-food stores.
You need: Magnesium
Why? Modern farming practices have stopped magnesium from our soil, and cooking high-magnesium foods such as green, leafy vegetables often destroys what’s left. That leaves nuts and dark chocolate (with a high cocoa count) as the best sources. ‘Given the amount of dark chocolate and nuts you’d need to eat to get enough magnesium, my feeling is that most people are deficient,’ says Dr Briffa. ‘If you aren’t getting enough, you’re just going to feel way under par, no matter what you do.
What to take: Although most multi-vitamins contain magnesium, it’s almost impossible for them to provide the 400mg we need a day. Dr Briffa recommends supplementing with morning and evening capsule of Bio-Care’s Bio-Magnesium (£14.40 for 60,nutricare.com)
You need: Digestive Enzymes
Why? Our digestive system relies on two types of enzymes to absorb nutrients from food. The first occurs naturally, particularly in fruits and vegetables. The second is a mix of digestive enzymes produced in our saliva, stomach and intestines. It’s a clever system, but it can go wrong. Stress, rushing meals and undiagnosed food sensitivities can make it hard for the body to break food down into the small particles needed to effectively extract nutrients.
What to take: Similase (£16.96 for 90, nutricare.com) or Digestive Aid by Specialist Supplements (£13.99 for 90, healthcareltd.co.uk)
You need: Probiotics
Why? Our bodies are inhabited by 750 trillion healthy bacteria that form the basis of our digestive system and immune systems. When this is depleted by diarrhoea, antibiotics or a high-sugar diet, bad bacteria strains take over and compromise the body’s defences. ‘Healthy bacteria really can prevent infections and viruses from taking hold,’ explains Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbial Sciences at Reading University.
What to take: Although many yoghurts and bacteria drinks contain probiotics, they can have high sugar levels. That said, Morrison rates Active Probiotic Yoghurt Drink (£2.59 for 8). For a supplement in pill form, take BioCare’s Bio-Acidophilus, £17.85 for 100g, natures-own.co.uk).