Ask the experts: Supplements

Q: "I've been told because our food is not as good as it used to be and as we now eat so much processed food, we need to take supplements to ensure we get the nutrients we need. Is this true?

A: For most of us, supplements are not necessary as we can still easily get all the nutrients we need by eating a varied, balanced diet. Supplementation, however, is advised where research shows it is needed. An example of this is the recommendation for folic acid supplements for women four weeks prior to and in the first trimester of pregnancy. Or vegans, who may take a B12 supplement as this vitamin is missing from their diet. And in the case of iodine, where low intakes are New Zealand-wide, staple foods are fortified.

While there are definitely circumstances in which taking a supplement is important, if you're eating a balanced diet, you're unlikely to need to take supplements as an insurance policy.

First published: Apr 2009
Last updated: April 3 2017
Last science review: September 28 2016

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