"In an ideal world we would get all the nutrients we need from a healthy diet, we would exercise regularly and get at least eight hours sleep a night; we wouldn’t smoke, drink or get stressed out. Back in the real world, however, things are very different. Taking a few carefully chosen supplements is a simple way to make up for any nutritional shortfall", says Healthspan’s Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer.

"But, with as many different dietary supplements available as there are conflicting messages about them, it can be hard to know what is best for you. There are also questions of how best to take them, when to take them, how much is too much and other important considerations", she says.

With this in mind and with the help of Dr Sarah, we have put together a comprehensive guide on how to make the most out of your vitamins and minerals.

First things first: find a routine

Although diet should always come first, your vitamin and mineral supplements are designed to be taken every day to supply a recommended daily amount as a nutritional safety net.

This helps to ensure your metabolism keeps running smoothly, the correct level of enzymes, hormones and structural proteins are made and worn out cells replaced on a daily basis.

Top tips
If you’re struggling to maintain a supplement routine, try the following top tips:

• Put them in a place you will remember them, such as your bathroom cabinet, by your bed or next to your breakfast cereal (but out of the reach of any small children)

• Set a reminder on your watch, phone or computer

When to take your supplements

What’s the difference between vitamins and supplements?

If we look at the definition of supplement (thanks Google), it means ‘something that completes or enhances something else when added to it’.

You probably already know that the former part of vitamin, ‘vita’ means life, but did you know that the latter part, ‘min’, is derived from the longer word ‘amine’? Amines are a class of compounds to which vitamins were originally thought to belong.

In effect, a health supplement, such as a vitamin D supplement, is a method of aiding, enhancing or simply supporting your health.

Contained within a supplement is the actual vitamin, which in the case of vitamin D can only be obtained naturally by your body through sunlight.

There are vitamins called A, B, C, D, E, and K
...But what happened to vitamins F, G, H, I, and J?

Now that’s a good question.
Hint… a lot of them got re-identified as part of the vitamin B complex.

Vitamin F:
Reissued as an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) a long time ago – think omega 3 and omega 6. And if you’re further interested in the science, it was reissued because it doesn’t have an independent organic composition.

Vitamin G:
Previously this was the American name for what the Brits called B2. Now both sides know it as ‘riboflavin’.

Vitamins H and I:
Vitamin I was reclassified as part of the B complex, but you may well have heard the name used as a colloquial term for ibuprofen. Vitamin H, more commonly known as biotin, is also part of the B complex group of vitamins.

Vitamin J:
Vitamin J was once identified as choline, which was also formerly considered to be a B vitamin (vitamin B4).

There are other B numbers that are missing too: inositol was once vitamin B8 and para amino benzoic acid (PABA) is sometimes referred to as vitamin B10.

Things to be aware of

What are RNIs?
RNIs (Reference Nutrient Intakes) are the levels of intake of essential nutrients that are considered to meet the known needs of most healthy people.

Upper safe levels
Nutritional scientists have identified upper tolerable levels for the long-term use of vitamin and mineral supplements. These reflect the doses that most people can take every day without experiencing side effects.

In many cases, these doses are a lot higher than the NRV in your supplement. For a few supplements, however, the upper safe level is close to the recommended daily amount (e.g. for iron and magnesium).

Combining supplements
If you are combining supplements that might contain the same vitamins or minerals, check the combined doses carefully to ensure you do not breach upper safe levels, except under medical advice (e.g. to treat iron-deficiency anaemia).

What about supplements that already combine vitamins and minerals?
Some supplements have a synergistic effect when used together, which is why glucosamine and chondroitin is one of the most popular combined supplements. Calcium and vitamin D are also often used together, as vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Similarly, vitamin C boosts the uptake of dietary iron. One of the most popular combinations for many people is a multivitamin and mineral plus an omega 3 fish oil as this provides a good foundation for nutritional health.

Top tips:
  • If you order from Healthspan's call centre, their Nutritional Advisors will automatically let you know if you are likely to go above upper safe limits based on the supplements you purchase.
  • If you have a medical condition and are thinking about taking supplements always check with your doctor or pharmacist first. This is especially important if you are taking prescribed medicines or over-the-counter remedies. Many drugs are known to interact with foods or supplements, so always check for potential interactions before taking them.

Water-soluble vs fat-soluble

Vitamins fall into one of two categories based on their solubility. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are readily lost from the body via the kidneys, so a regular daily intake is important to avoid deficiencies. By contrast, fat-soluble vitamins are more readily stored in liver and fat cells, so it takes longer for low dietary intakes to lead to a deficiency. It is important not to exceed recommended doses of fat-soluble vitamins as excess could build up in the body and cause toxicity.

Examples of water-soluble vitamins:
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, biotin, C.

Vitamin B12 is unusual as, although it is water-soluble, the liver can store significant amounts.

Examples of fat-soluble vitamins:
Vitamins A, D, E and K.

Delivery methods are important, too

With such an extensive range of vitamin and mineral delivery methods to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. The reason behind this diversity stems from our belief in personalisation when it comes to health; no one product is perfect for everyone, and we hope this is reflected in our supplement range, as well in our development of new delivery methods such as our range of 'opti' supplements.

What is opti-absorption?
The term 'opti' essentially means that the formulation of the supplement is optimised to ensure maximum absorption by the body.

An optimised formula is based on research into the most bioavailable (easily absorbed) ingredients. An optimised supplement will supply nutrients that are quickly absorbed in a form that your cells can use as speedily as possible.

If you do struggle to take capsules, Harvard Medical School has some great top tips for making your life easier.

But if swallowing capsules really isn't your thing...
Here are some different ways of making sure you don't miss out on your vitamins:

Drink them
Yes, you really can 'drink' your way to better health (but not in the alcoholic sense). It's a myth – just so you know – that the human body can survive on Guinness and tomatoes. Effervescents – a powdered bundle of vitamin(s) that you can drop into a glass of water, watch emulsify and drink – are easily added to any meal time and a great alternative if you don't like swallowing pills.

Eat them
Aside from a healthy balanced diet, which we'd always advise as your first step towards topping up on nutrients, taking supplements doesn't have to be a chore. Chewable vitamins or gummies are not only great for kids but a tasty alternative to supplements that you could have on your desk at work for easy access. Oral sprays are also a great way to get the vitamins you need without having to swallow pills.

Lather them
Transdermal application refers to the administration of ingredients through the skin. Magnesium bath flakes are a perfect example of this delivery method as being an alternative or additional measure for the intake of minerals.

The term 'topical' refers to the application of something to a specific place on the body. Topical gels, similarly to transdermal application, are usually administered directly on to the surface of the skin. For example, glucosamine gel, which is applied to the skin over a painful joint when required. Do make sure to stay always stay within the upper safe level of any vitamin or mineral.

Related Articles



Missed Promotion: {{missedPromo.DisplayText}}






(Basket total above includes promotional prices. You have SAVED £{{cart.TotalPriceListDiscount| number : 2}} today.)

Review basket and check out

Your basket is currently empty