By Lucy Gornall
The supplements market is a saturated one, with many claiming to boast incredible health benefits - but what’s actually worth considering?
While the jury is confusingly out among diet professionals, the official advice – and that of most dieticians – is that with a few exceptions (including folic acid for pregnancy and vitamin D in autumn/winter) we can get all the vitamins we need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
That said, there are occasions when supplements have a role to play. ‘There’s no substitute for a good diet, but for periods when your diet is not under your control – perhaps when you are travelling or under work pressure – a multivitamin can be useful to help plug the gap,’ says dietician Dr Sarah Schenker.
Below we outline eight supplements for women that could be worth considering, as recommended by nutritionist Cassandra Barns. If you’re 50 or above, you may want to take a look at our expert buying guide on the best vitamins for women over 50, and for more detailed information relating to specific issues, click the links in relevant places below.
Also remember that you should speak to your doctor before you take any supplement, to make sure it’s safe for you. The UK’s NHS also advises that taking certain supplements for too long or at high doses can be dangerous, so seek again advice from your doctor or pharmacist.
- Omega-3 fish oil: Reducing inflammation can ease those pesky monthly pains. Omega-3 also helps to maintain healthy skin. If you’re pregnant, it’s vital for the baby’s development. You'll find an expert selection of the best fish oil supplements in our dedicated buying guide.
- Bone support formula: From menopause onwards, women are prone to bone loss. Cassandra says: ‘We need more than just calcium for strong bones. I suggest taking a formula that includes at least magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2.’ If this and other symptoms associated with the hormonal changes that occur at this stage of life are a concern, take a look at our extensive guide to the best menopause supplements.
- Evening primrose oil: Cassandra says: ‘This is helpful for clear skin and to manage painful periods.’
- Probiotic: ‘An imbalance in gut bacteria can affect moods and cravings,’ says Cassandra.
- Iron: ‘Iron deficiencies are more common in pregnant women or those with heavy periods. Vegetarians and vegans are also at a higher risk,’ says Cassandra. Before taking a supplement, it's especially important to see your doctor to get your levels checked.
- Magnesium: ‘It supports hormone balance, calms the nervous system, relieves stress, encourages sleep and prevents cravings,’ says Cassandra.
- Hormone-balancing herbal blend: This blend, based on the ‘female’ herb agnus castus, helps with PMS and menopause. Try Natural Health Practice Meno Support.
- Multivitamin for women: Especially beneficial for women who suffer from PMS.
Lucy is Health and Fitness Editor at various women's magazines, and also Editor of Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan. She lives and breathes all things fitness; she works out every morning, and mixes it up with runs, weights, boxing and endless box jumps. She is also a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios, primarily Digme Fitness. Lucy is pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food, and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to the odd Negroni on the dance floor with her friends.
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