Supplements, Do You Need Them?

Supplements have become a hot topic in society lately. How do we know which supplements may be more worth our attention and are safe to use? This blog series of “Supplements, Do You Need Them?” will talk about vitamin/mineral supplements, and natural health products, and help us understand which supplements may benefit our well-being! 

Invest in Food

Eating a balanced diet of nutritious foods provides our body with the vitamins and minerals it needs. While supplements are not always needed for maintaining good health, there are times when they may be helpful.  

Natural Health Products

Natural Health Products (NHPs) include probiotics, vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, traditional medicines, amino acids, and essential fatty acids (1). NHPs are regulated by Health Canada to ensure safety, effectiveness, and quality. Approved NHPs have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN) (1). Make sure to look for either number before purchasing a product that is marketed as a NHP, especially products like herbal remedies. With the large number of supplements on the market, the first part of this blog series will focus on 2 popular supplements that may be recommended for specific populations. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important vitamin for our health, it helps us absorb calcium and build and maintain strong bones and teeth (2). Humans can get Vitamin D from food, sunlight, and supplements. Vitamin D is only in a few foods naturally in fatty fish and eggs, but it is also added to foods such as milk and plant-based beverages (3). Aside from food, Vitamin D is made when our bodies are exposed to sunlight. However, due to factors like time spent in sun, age, or skin colour, we can’t make enough from from the sun, so supplementation or eating foods with vitamin D daily is recommended. For most people, the suggested form of supplementation is Vitamin D3; getting around 400 IU – 1000 IU is the recommended amount for most children and adults (4).


Omega-3 fats are an important nutrient that our bodies need (5). The two forms of omega-3, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have many health benefits. EPA and DHA play a role in reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, and aiding in the development of the brain and eyes of infants. Omega-3 fats are naturally in fish, seeds, nuts, and oils. Whereas some foods like eggs, milk, and juice may have omega-3 fats added. If meeting the EPA and DHA needs through food alone is challenging, taking an omega-3 supplement may help. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplements because everyone is different.

Key Takeaways

  1. Food First: There are lots of vitamins and minerals in food. Eating a balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs. 
  2. Natural Health Products (NHP): NHPs are regulated by Health Canada and approved products will have a DIN or NPN. 
  3. Beneficial Supplements: For most people, taking Vitamin D and Omega-3 supplements can be beneficial for their health. 

Stay tuned for the next article in this series, where tips for using supplements safely and how to choose products that are safe and approved will be discussed! 


  1. Health Canada. About Natural Health Product Regulation in Canada. Version current 6 July 2022. Internet: (accessed 19 June 2023).
  2. Health Canada. Vitamin D. Version current 2 May 2022. Internet: (accessed 19 June 2023). 
  3. Government of Canada. Fortified foods: Canada’s approach to fortification. Version current 11 May 2023. Internet: (accessed 19 June 2023). 
  4. Alberta Health Services. How Do You Get Enough Vitamin D. Version current n.d. Internet: (accessed 19 June 2023). 
  5. Alberta Health Services. Omega-3 Fats for Heart Health. Version current June 2016. Internet: (accessed 19 June 2023).

Written by Karine Chan. Edited by Emma Wiwchar and Doug Klein. Photo by Natali Hordiiuk on Unsplash

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