Food / 09.04.2015

5 supplements that work for busy women

By Roisin Dervish-O'Kane
Because who really manages plates this perfect 365 days a year?


We all have good intentions to eat healthily, but not many of us manage that perfectly balanced nutritional plate at all times.

In fact, as few as 20 per cent of us eat well enough to provide us with all of our essential nutrients, estimates Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietician at the Health Supplements Information Service (

A government study found 23 per cent of women between the ages of 19 and 64 are not consuming enough iron, while one in nine people are classed as ‘deficient’ in vitamin D and two-thirds as ‘severely lacking’.

In addition, some of our produce may not be as vitamin-packed as we hope. ‘Statistics show the soil is less nutrient-dense than it was 60 years ago,’ says nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton.

But you don’t need to take every pill on the vitamin alphabet to reach optimum health. Stock up on these five instead to give your body a daily boost on those days when you don’t get your fix of lean proteins and seven portions of veg.

A daily multivitamin

‘This helps ensure you have a good base level of nutrition for when life gets in the way and diets slip,’ says Dr Ruxton.

Vitamin B

‘Great for regulating menstrual mood changes. Studies show B vitamins are used faster with hectic lifestyles,’ says Norton.


‘Many of us have inadequate levels of this powerful mineral, proven to boost immunity and help combat heart disease and cancer,’ says Norton.


Red meat is the best source, although official recommendations advise limiting the amount you eat. ‘Other food sources like spinach also contain iron, but it’s harder to absorb so a supplement can help bridge the gap,’ says Dr Ruxton.

Vitamin D

This supports bone health and immunity. ‘Vegetarians should look for supplements with high D3 levels, found in animal products and better absorbed by the body,’ says Dr Ruxton.


‘These essential fatty acids are vital for cognitive function and help ease inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis,’ says Dr Ruxton.

The supplement rules 

How you take your supplements is just as important. Make the most of your little nutritional ninjas with these four rules.

Take supplements first thing with water
‘But hold off for half an hour before having your muesli and a cuppa,’ advises Dr Ruxton. ‘Polyphenols in tea and phytins in wheat fibre impair mineral absorption.’

Combine your fatty acids
Take your omega-3s with gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6. ‘By balancing the fatty acids, you increase the flow of blood and oxygen to blood vessels in the brain,’ says Dr Ruxton.

Double your antioxidants
Feeling run down? Pair a high-dose vitamin C with zinc. ‘You’ll better absorb the nutrients,’ says Dr Ruxton.

Add acids
For strong bones, try betaine hydrochloride and vitamin D with calcium. ‘As you age, the stomach’s ability to make hydrochloric acid reduces, which can compromise its absorption of minerals,’ says Norton.

Knowing your fat-soluble from your water-soluble pills is also a must. The fat-soluble sort include A, D, E and K. Your body stores them in your liver and fatty tissues for future use.

Stores can build up so they’re available when needed. But if you have more than you need, fat-soluble vitamins can be harmful. Take with food or a glass of milk to ensure they’re well absorbed.

Vitamin C and B vitamins, including B12, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin and folic acid are all water-soluble. They’re not stored in the body, so you need them more frequently. Although your body gets rid of the extra vitamins when you urinate, this does not mean all large amounts are necessarily harmless. Take with a large glass of water.


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5 supplements that work for busy women
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5 supplements that work for busy women
Don't get overwhelmed by the choice of supplements out there. Here's our edit of the supplements that work – and tips on how to take them
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