Skip to content

Food supplements

Most people do not need food supplements – their diets provide all the nutrients they need. However, there are some exceptions.

Key facts

  • Most people do not need food supplements – their diets provide all the nutrients they need
  • Vitamin D and folic acid are the exceptions.
  • Don’t mix supplements with medicines without speaking to your health professional 
  • Eat a balanced diet – supplements cannot substitute for a good diet 

Vitamin D

Everyone should take a vitamin D supplement for bone and muscle health. The amount you need depends on your age, skin tone, situation and the season. Vitamin D is needed for strong healthy bones.

Exposure to strong sunlight is not recommended due to the risk of skin cancer. So, foods rich in vitamin D or a supplement are needed. This is particularly important in autumn and winter months.

Read more about when you should take a vitamin D supplement.

Folic acid

All people who could become pregnant, including those taking contraception, should take a 400 microgram supplement of folic acid every day. 

If you have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, are overweight or have a history of neural tube defects (NTDs) in your family or your partners, we suggest you speak to a medical professional for more advice. You may need to take a higher dose. 

All adults need 200 micrograms of folic acid a day. We can get this from foods like: 

  • green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, broccoli and cabbage 
  • peas, beans and lentils including chickpeas and kidney beans 
  • wholegrains including wheat bran, wholegrain rice and oats 
  • foods fortified with folic acid 

It isn’t possible for people who could become pregnant to get an extra 400 micrograms from their diet, so they need a supplement. 

Folic acid is a B vitamin. It helps the body to make red blood cells and DNA. Taking folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, known as NTDs. One third of women are not getting enough folic acid to protect against NTDs. 

For further information see the HSE website: 

Related pages

Safefood Logo

Sign up for our family focused healthy eating and food safety news.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.