Do I need vitamin supplements?

Do we really need vitamin supplement?
Do we really need vitamin supplement?

Most people don’t need to take vitamin supplements and are able to get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, such as ironcalcium and vitamin C, that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.

Many people choose to take supplements, but taking too much or taking them for too long could be harmful. The Department of Health recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency. These are described below.

Folic acid supplements in pregnancy

All women thinking of having a baby should have a folic acid supplement, as should any pregnant woman up to week 12 of her pregnancy. Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Read more about vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy.

Vitamin D supplements

The Department of Health recommends that everyone over the age of five (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly between October and March.

Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D than others, including:

babies from birth to the age of one, (including breastfed babies and formula fed babies who have less than 500ml a day of infant formula)

all children aged between one and four

people who aren’t often outdoors – for example, those who are frail or housebound, in an institution such as a care home, or if they usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors

These people should take daily vitamin D supplements, to make sure they get enough.

Read more information about vitamin D.

Supplements containing vitamins A, C and D

All children aged six months to five years should take a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D. This is a precaution because growing children may not get enough of these vitamins – especially those not eating a varied diet, such as fussy eaters.

Your GP may also recommend supplements if you need them for a medical condition. For example, you may be prescribed iron supplements to treat iron deficiency anaemia.

Effervescent tablets: salt advice

Effervescent (fizzy) vitamin supplements or effervescent painkillers can contain up to a gram of salt per tablet. Consider changing to a non-effervescent tablet, particularly if you have been advised to watch or reduce your salt intake.

Iron Deficiency Anemia – Infographic

Some of you may remember that a few years back we covered the area of iron deficiency in some detail. I even put together a recipe for an iron rich pesto which was (and is) actually edible.

So I was very please to locate this excellent infographic which gives a great overview of iron deficiency anemia. Or Iron deficiency anaemia as we call it in the UK!

Iron Deficiency Anemia - Infographic

Source: Medindia

Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition where a lack of iron in the body leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells.

Iron is used to produce red blood cells, which help store and carry oxygen in the blood. If you have fewer red blood cells than is normal, your organs and tissues won’t get as much oxygen as they usually would.

There are several different types of anaemia, and each one has a different cause. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type.

Other types of anaemia can be caused by a lack of vitamin B12 or folate in the body – read more about vitamin B12 and folate deficiency anaemia.

Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia

Many people with iron deficiency anaemia only have a few symptoms. The severity of the symptoms largely depends on how quickly anaemia develops.

You may notice symptoms immediately, or they may develop gradually if your anaemia is caused by a long-term problem, such as a stomach ulcer.

The most common symptoms include:

tiredness and lack of energy (lethargy)

shortness of breath

noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)

a pale complexion

Less common symptoms include:


hearing sounds that come from inside the body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)

an altered sense of taste

feeling itchy

a sore or abnormally smooth tongue

hair loss

a desire to eat non-food items, such as ice, paper or clay (pica)

difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

painful open sores (ulcers) on the corners of your mouth

spoon-shaped nails

When to see your GP

See your GP if you experience symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia. They should be able to diagnose the condition using a simple blood test.

Read more about diagnosing iron deficiency anaemia.

What causes iron deficiency anaemia?

There are many things that can lead to a lack of iron in the body. In men and post-menopausal women, the most common cause is bleeding in the stomach and intestines.

In women of reproductive age, heavy periods and pregnancy are the most common causes of iron deficiency anaemia as your body needs extra iron for your baby during pregnancy.

Unless you’re pregnant, it’s rare for iron deficiency anaemia to be caused just by a lack of iron in your diet. However, if you do lack dietary iron, it may mean you’re more likely to develop anaemia than if you have one of the problems mentioned above.

Read more about the causes of iron deficiency anaemia.

How iron deficiency anaemia is treated

Treatment for iron deficiency anaemia involves taking iron supplements to boost the low levels of iron in your body. This is usually effective, and the condition rarely causes long-term problems.

You’ll need to be monitored every few months to check the treatment is working and your iron levels have returned to normal.

The underlying cause will need to be treated so you don’t get anaemia again. Increasing the amount of iron in your diet may also be recommended.

Good sources of iron include:

dark-green leafy vegetables, such as watercress and curly kale

iron-fortified cereals or bread

brown rice

pulses and beans

nuts and seeds

meat, fish and tofu


dried fruit, such as dried apricots, prunes and raisins

Read more about treating iron deficiency anaemia.

Further problems

If iron deficiency anaemia is left untreated, it can make you more susceptible to illness and infection, as a lack of iron affects the body’s natural defence system (the immune system).

Severe iron deficiency anaemia may increase your risk of developing complications that affect the heart or lungs, such as an abnormally fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or heart failure, where your heart is unable to pump enough blood around your body at the right pressure.

Pregnant women with severe or untreated anaemia also have a higher risk of complications before and after birth.

Read more about the complications of iron deficiency anaemia.

The Energy Diet – Top Tips for Feeling Great Through Diet

The Energy Diet
The Energy Diet

The best way to eat if you want to banish tiredness is to have a healthy, balanced diet that contains foods from the four main food groups in the right proportions.

The four food groups are:

fruit and vegetables

potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods

milk and dairy foods

beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other non-dairy sources of protein

Eat at regular intervals

If you eat at regular times, your body knows when your next meal is coming and learns to manage feelings of hunger and sustain your energy levels.

Try to eat three meals a day and limit snacks – especially high-fat ones – between meals.

Breakfast boosts your energy

Breakfast gives you the energy you need to face the day. Despite this, up to one-third of us regularly skip breakfast, according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

Go for healthier options, such as porridge with fruit, vegetable omelette, or wholemeal toast with a scraping of low-fat spread or jam.

If you can’t face eating as soon as you get up, take a high-fibre snack to eat on the run, rather than snacking on high-sugar or high-fat foods.

Here are five healthy breakfasts, plus how to choose healthy breakfast cereals.

Aim for at least 5 A DAY for more vitality

Most people in the UK eat too much fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre – essential nutrients that your body needs to work properly.

Try to incorporate at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg into your daily diet. They can be fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced.

Find tips on how to boost your fruit and veg intake.

Read more about how to get your 5 A DAY.

Slow-burning starches give sustained energy

Starchy foods – also called carbohydrates – such as potatoes, bread, cereals and pasta are an important part of a healthy diet. They’re a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients.

Starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything you eat. There are different types of starch. Where possible, go for slow-burning wholegrain or wholemeal varieties, as they release energy gradually.

Read more about healthy starchy foods.

Sugar steals your stamina

Adults and children in the UK eat too much sugar. Sugar is not only bad for your teeth, it can also be bad for your waistline. It gives you a rush of energy, but one that wears off quickly.

Cutting out all sugar is virtually impossible. There are natural sugars in lots of foods, including fruit and veg, and you don’t need to avoid these.

However, it’s a good idea to cut down on foods with lots of added sugar, such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, non-diet fizzy drinks and chocolates.

Read the facts about sugar.

Iron-rich foods prevent fatigue

Four in 10 (40%) girls and women aged 16-24 and almost half (44%) of girls aged 11-15 have low iron stores, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

Being low on iron can make you feel tired and faint, and look pale.

While red meats, green vegetables and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals are good sources of iron, the important thing is to eat a range of foods to get enough iron.

Here’s more advice on good sources of iron.

Non-alcoholic drinks boost zest levels

Watch your alcohol intake. It can dehydrate you, which will make you feel tired.

Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids – the government recommends 6-8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices.

Read more about healthy drinks.

Eat enough to pack a punch

Make sure you eat the right amount for your activity level. The average man needs around 2,500 calories a day, and the average woman needs 2,000 calories. Remember, we all overestimate how active we are.

Learn how to understand calories.

Fighting Anemia with Food – Recipes for Health. An Iron Rich Pesto!

Iron rich pesto
Iron rich pesto
Yesterday I explained that my wife and were increasing the amount of iron in our diet as she is undergoing tests for anemia.

In that blog post I mentioned that I was preparing a pesto for yesterday evening’s meal.

As it was based upon that day’s research I thought I would share it with you. While I’m not a food blogger I am a health blogger so I felt it would be suitable to share this recipe. I should mention that Mrs PatientTalk.Org described the meal as “very tasty”.

This recipe can be vegan or vegetarian according to taste.

Ingredients (serves 4)

a) 400g of Cavolo nero (also called Tuscan kale) – full of iron but also vitamin A, calcium, vitamin K and manganese.
b) 150g of water cress – again iron rich.
c) 10 Brazil nuts – a read source of antioxidants
d) Chopped garlic – to taste really but I used 2 cloves. An antibiotic often used as a folk treatment for the common cold.
e) Juice of one lemon – a great way of getting vitamin C.
f) Olive oil to taste. Olive oil is a way of lowering cholesterol.
g) Salt and pepper again to taste but go for more pepper than salt.
h) Optional but you can use a hard cheese such as Parmesan.

How to do it.

1) Strip the leafy green parts of the Cavolo nero away from any tough stalks.
2) Steam the green leafy parts for five minutes.
3) Please in your blender along side all the ingredients except for the brazil nuts.
4) Blend the ingredients till they become just a bit thicker then the consistency you like.
5) Add the brazil nuts and blend for 30 seconds.

Serve with whole grain pasta and a green salad.

If you have tried this at home please tell us what you think in the comments box. Please do feel free to

Iron deficiency- some great sources of iron and why you need it to stay healthy.

For the last few weeks my wife has been suffering from a rather nasty cough.

A great source of iron
A great source of iron

A course of antibiotics failed to shift it so a couple of days ago she returned to the Doctors after an all clear from the x-ray machine. Greeting her at the door (I’m paranoid rather than doting) I asked what was wrong.

She patiently explained that the Doctor was not sure. But that she was run down and that it could be Iron deficiency anemia. So they gave her a full battery of blood tests and we should find out in due course.

Iron deficiency anemia means that a lack of iron in the body means a reduction in the number of red blood cells. Because these red blood cells carry oxygen around the body this means that we don’t get enough of it. In turn this cause fatigue, shortness of breath and a pale complexion.

Just in passing he UK’s NHS recommend that the amount of iron you need is 8.7mg a day for men and 14.8mg a day for women. They also say that this should be available through diet rather than supplements.

So this is where I come in. One of my duties as household chief bottle washer is that I do the shopping and cooking. So treating anemia with diet has come my mission for the week. If we can start a small foundry by Sunday I’ll not be to blame!

So I’ve decided to plan this weeks meals by using produce which I know is high in iron. The results of my research have been rather useful so far and the iron sources recommended are:-

a) Liver. Now I love liver but my wife does not. Her exception to this is pate which she found, rather to her surprise on her breakfast plate this morning.
b) Meat. A bit of a generic you’ll agree. But beef is considered very good. This is lucky as I served steak yesterday evening.
c) Green leafy vegetables such as kale and watercress. Shades of Popeye here but good news as we are fond of salad.
d) Beans. Flatulence aside this is a great opportunity to delve into the Mexican larder and knock up some refried beans.
e) Nuts. To be honest I find peanut butter too sweet for my taste.
f) Whole grains. In particular brown rice is recommended.

Which make this evening’s meal rather simple. I’m planning a kale pesto (with pecan nuts) on brown rice pasta.

But does anyone have any high in iron and high in taste recipes they would like to share. If so please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

PS By the way liver is not recommended for pregnant women as it also contains large amounts of vitamin A. Vitamin A could damage your baby.

PPS Have you heard of iron overload. You can find out more about haemochromatosis here.