Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Experts say modern diets depleted of vital vitamins and minerals can leave you feeling flat. Photo: Alamy

Five supplements you should consider taking – vitamins, minerals, omega-3 – to give your body a boost

  • We asked several nutritionists which supplements they suggest to help address important deficiencies in modern diets and lifestyles
  • These five supplements do things like maintain bone health, support the heart and reduce anxiety

Vitamins and minerals – there’s a veritable minefield of choice, but should we take any? If so, which ones? We asked several experts which supplements they’d take in 2019 – and why. Here’s what they picked.

1. Multivitamins

Michelle Lau is a registered nutritionist, nutrition educator and founder of Hong Kong-based consultancy Nutrilicious. She says that while she is “a believer in food first” and tries to get most of her nutrients from her diet, “realistically, it’s not always possible to meet all of our nutrient needs all of the time”.

That is why her top supplement choice is a quality multivitamin. Pick a zero-calorie, high-potency multivitamin, she says, one that contains more than 100 per cent of your daily needs for each vitamin and mineral.

Sudha Nair, at Hong Kong health clinic Balance Health, also advocates a broad spectrum multivitamin. Like Lau, she acknowledges that our food frequently doesn’t contain sufficient nutrients.

“We follow fad diets which rob all the nutrients [and] we lack variety in our meals as we stick to 10 to 12 types of food which we like to eat all the time,” says Nair, who holds a bachelor’s degree in naturopathy and holistic nutrition, and practises nutritional therapy.


She adds that even if we opt for healthier food choices or have a “proper meal”, often it won’t contain the same quantities of vitamins that it might have had in the past, as the Earth’s soil is being depleted.

Magnesium, taken with calcium, is important for bone health, experts say. Photo: Alamy

2. Magnesium

Denise Fair, a dietitian at Hong Kong’s Central Health Medical Practice, recommends magnesium, as does Lau.

“Magnesium is often overlooked but it is involved in over 300 body processes, though it’s most known for its roles in energy production and nervous system function,” Fair says. “It has a calming effect so can support mood and sleep issues. And, when taken with calcium, it maintains bone health and prevents osteoporosis.”

Fair says magnesium is enjoying a spot in the limelight. “There is a lot of research being conducted at the moment on the value of magnesium; it’s really hot right now.


“Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are restless legs and leg cramps, fatigue, anxiety, and migraines. From this you can tell that magnesium plays a role in cellular energy as well as in muscle contraction and bone health, and it is also important for activation of many enzymes and helps with glycemic control.”

“Recent studies suggest that almost half of the world’s population is deficient in magnesium. You’ll find it in green leafy vegetables, dried fruits such as figs, nuts and seeds, and in some fruits like banana and avocado.”

Drink and eat your way to beauty: a how-to guide to nutricosmetics

In scientist Gretchen Lidicker’s upcoming book Magnesium: Everyday Secrets – A Lifestyle Guide to Nature’s Relaxation Mineral, she says that there are a lot of reasons why a person might need a little extra magnesium in their lives, “including the reality that certain medications put you at risk of a deficiency and chronic stress gobbles up the magnesium in your body”.


As with many vitamins and supplements, there’s a confusing array of magnesium types on offer. Lidicker opts for magnesium glycinate, saying it won’t cause digestive upset like other forms of magnesium, such as magnesium oxide. But “if you’re looking for relief from constipation, try magnesium citrate,” she advises.

The average person’s diet is low in omega-3 fats, which can be found in fish, as well as other sources of food. Photo: Alamy

3. Omega-3

All the experts advocated omega-3, “especially if you are not eating enough oily fish”, Fair says.


Nair says omega-3 is important because it is considered one of the healthiest fats. “We need fat to absorb certain nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, and antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene. These give cells their structure, balance hormones and aid optimum nerve, brain and heart function.”

Is Hong Kong’s love affair with krill and omega-3 killing our planet?

Nair says the average diet is low in omega-3 fats and rich in omega-6 (pro-inflammatory) fats from processed foods, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and meat from livestock fed nuts with seeds.


A healthy balance is thought to be a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, but the typical modern diet provides a ratio of 1:10 or even 1:15, Nair says.

Omega-6 fats serve vital functions, but an excessive amount combined with low omega-3 intake can be problematic. “So supplementation with high quality omega-3 high in EPA/DHA along with eating other healthy fat options becomes one of the important priorities to reduce chronic inflammation.”

Joëlle Touchette Bradford, a naturopathic doctor at IMI (Integrated Medicine Institute) Hong Kong, adds that apart from being important for brain and heart health, omega-3 is also good for your skin.

It is difficult to get vitamin D in food. Photo: Alamy

4. Vitamin D

Another vitamin that’s enjoying its day in the sun is vitamin D. Fair says there is a link between low vitamin D and many chronic diseases, and many people are deficient.

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” but actually the sun converts the inactive form of the vitamin in our skin to the active form. Many people are low in the inactive form. It is also very hard to get vitamin D in food, though it is present in some fortified food such as dairy products.

Vitamin D is very important for bone formation, but recent research has suggested a link exists between vitamin D deficiency and some cancers and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Many doctors now advocate a blood test to determine vitamin D levels in the body.

Bradford says vitamin D is one of the top deficiencies she sees in patients’ blood tests. “It is important for helping mood disorders like anxiety and depression, boosting immunity, and [eliminating] fatigue and helping skin issues,” she says.

Consumers looking for supplements are spoilt for choice. Photo: Alamy

5. Probiotics

Though not strictly a supplement, a quality probiotic is also recommended, Nair says.

“Modern diets, stress, toxins and the overuse of antibiotics in meat as well as medicines, birth control pills, antacids – all of these conspire to upset the delicate balance of the system that’s in place to support us: our gut microbiome,” she says.

“We – humans – are 90 per cent microbial. Our microbes outnumber our human cells by a factor of 10:1, and together they make up an ecosystem called the microbiome.

“The unbalanced microbiome can hamper nutrient absorption, digestion, metabolic and immune functions. Supplementation with some of the well-researched probiotic strains such as L Plantarum, L Acidophilis and bifidobacterium longus and lactis is often more than beneficial – it becomes necessary.”