Supplements Or Not

To supplement, or not to supplement? That is the question.

Well, maybe not the question, but it is certainly a question that is worth considering. Something that makes an answer harder to find is that most people have an opinion on this. Let me introduce you to the first type of person. They supplement many vitamins and minerals in their diet, and they really enjoy it. No amount of science or peer reviewed research could possibly convince them otherwise, and any mention of the word ‘Placebo’ makes them think only of the 90s rock band. Then we have the other kind of person.They read a blog on the internet once which said supplementing vitamins and minerals was stupid, and an Instagram influencer they follow who only eats raw venison called supplementers ‘victims of big pharma’. 

It can be exhausting, can’t it? Today, I am going to try and lay it all down as straight as I can. Supplements became a big thing in the 1940s, as people looked to address the deficiencies in their diet, and it hasn’t really slowed down since. Almost 50% of Australians take a supplement in some way, shape form. If that figure surprises you, remember that popping a vitamin c pill at some point would put you in this category, as will a protein shake before or after a workout. Aside from this, the most common types are fish oil, omega 3, DHA or EPA fatty acids.

The reality is this: in a perfect world, I wouldn’t sell them. Obviously, in a perfect world there would be no such thing as hospitals or pharmacies, but I hope you can take my point. Ideally, you would get absolutely everything you need from your diet, and supplements would be as pointless as canned oxygen (which sadly, does exist). It’s just that we don’t live in some Platonic world of forms, we live in the real world where sometimes you need to make a microwave dinner which will fill you up, but delivers negative nutritional value. I thought I would list all the different vitamins and minerals and all the foods you can find them in, and I am pretty confident that about 98% of you will realise that you aren’t getting enough of (at least) one of them. My preference would be that you go and modify your diet to make sure you’re getting what you need. But if that feels like a fridge too far, then the next best option is a supplement. The worst thing you can do is shrug and do nothing. Every single one of these plays a critical role in your long term health. 

Vitamin A - Leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli or spinach, milk, eggs, beef liver, mango, capsicum and tomatoes

Vitamin C - Anything citrus: orangles, lemon, lime, kiwifruit or grapefruit, strawberries, capsicum, potatoes, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower

Vitamin D - This can actually be absorbed by time spent in the sun, and it is slightly harder to get from your diet. Nonetheless, you can pick it up through cod liver oil, swordfish, salon, tuna and sardines.

Vitamin E - Capsicum, pumpkin, nuts like peanuts or almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, mango, avocado, asparagus

Vitamin K - Leafy greens like spinach or kale. Alternatively, fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha or sauerkraut.

B vitamins: 

Vitamin B1 thiamin - fortified breakfast cereals, yohgurt, fish, pork, sunflower seeds, peas, beans, lentils, noodles, breads and rice.

Vitamin B2 riboflavin - Milk, salmon, yohgurt, chicken breast, cheese, beef liver, eggs, lean pork and beef.

Vitamin B3 niacin - beef or pork, bananas, poultry, fish, legumes, brown rice, cereals and breads, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin B5 pantothenic acid - Fortified cereals, milk, liver and kidney, nuts and seeds, beef, chicken breast, avocado, mushrooms.

Vitamin B6 pyridoxal - Beef liver, chickpeas, salmon, fortified cereals, tuna, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, oranges, paw paw, and rockmelon.

Vitamin  B12 cobalamin - Meat, cereals, eggs, fish, cheese and milk

Biotin - peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, egg yolk, organ meats like liver and kidney, soybeans and legumes

folate/folic acid - most seafood, dark leafy greens like turnip, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale and spinach, whole grains, fresh fruit, peanuts and beans.

Calcium - Dairy milk, plant based milks, almonds, cheese, yoghurt, sardines and salmon, orange juice, squash, tofu and edamame beans.

Phosphorus - Generally found in foods that are rich in proteins such as dairy products, red meat, poultry, beans, fish and nuts

Potassium - Bananas, dried fruits, avocado, potatoes, leafy greens, beans, lentils and squash.

Sodium - I’ll be honest, in today’s climate you are unlikely to struggle to get too much sodium into your diet. The challenge will be to keep it at a healthy level. If you find yourself incredibly thirsty with swelling in the feet or hands, you might need to seek urgent medical help or lay off the salt, depending on how severe the symptoms are

Magnesium - whole grains and dark leafy greens, dried beans like soybeans, baked beans, lentils and peanuts as well as almonds and cashews.

Iron - Red meat (the redder it is, the more iron it contains), liver and kidney, eggs, nuts, tofu, oats, dark leafy greens, wholemeal pasta and bread.

Zinc - Beans, nuts, crab, oyster, wholegrains, dairy products and cereal.

Iodine - Seaweed, chicken, eggs, milk, yoghurt, fish and shellfish 

Sulphur - Dark leafy greens, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, whole grains, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds, turkey, beef, chicken.

Cobalt - Oats, dark leafy greens, fish and nuts

Copper - Liver, oysters, spirulina, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, leafy greens, oyster, dark chocolate

Fluoride - Happily, we have this in our water, so you don’t need to spend any time thinking about this one.

Manganese - whole grains, coffee, leafy vegetables, soybeans, oysters

Selenium - Eggs, fish, pork, beef, turkey and chicken.

If you’re still here, well done. I’m sure you found at least one vitamin and mineral in there which you don’t get a lot of in your diet. Turns out eating dark leafy greens crossed off half of these. But if that’s not your thing, there is always a supplement.

Good luck,

Floyd - Senior Pharmacist 


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