Which cheap supplements do nutritionists really rate? From vitamin D to magnesium, collagen and iron, here are the best budget vitamins from just £6.50
Taken alongside a healthy, balanced diet, supplements offer a good way of adding key micronutrients into your diet. But with such a huge market, spanning everything from the best supplements for menopause and perimenopause to the best skin supplements for ageing well to taking NAD+ for longevity, it can be tricky to navigate the great from the good without the help of an expert. And every nutritionist worth their salt will tell you, not all supplements are created equal. In fact many sound attractive at a low price point, but maybe more full of bulking agents and fillers such as chalk (calcium carbonate) at the expense of active ingredients.
With the cost of living crisis upon us, we are all looking to make savings, but not at the cost of our wellbeing. We asked registered nutritionists for their best budget supplements under £20, which still pack a punch when it comes to quality. But first, what to look for when you're shopping.
• 3 best basic supplements: Three core supplements that cover most bases, according to Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan are 1) a multivitamin and mineral 2) omega-3 3) and a probiotic. "Together these supplements offer a huge range of health benefits supporting many areas of your health. Omega 3 is associated with good heart health, while probiotics support the health of your gut and research in this area is really beginning to highlight the importance of the microbiome [the community of bacteria in your gut]."
• Choose quality over quantity. One hundred vitamin C tablets for a fiver? If it sounds too good to be true then it is. Check out the dosage, what percentage of the RDA does it contain? " If a product seems too good to be true with a low cost, it probably is," says Hannah Alderson, registered nutritionist and founder of The Positive Method.
• Don't double up on vitamins or minerals when self-supplementing. "You may end up taking too much if you're taking supplements alongside a multi (do the maths of the dosage)," Alderson advises. "Where possible seek the advice of a healthcare professional like myself, particularly if you're on medication as drugs can interact with certain nutrients."
•. Beware of fillers and bulking agents. Cheap supplements may contain lower and less effective dosages in favour of more fillers, bulking agents, sweeteners, and flavourings. Ify Akpuaka, naturopathic nutritional therapist at themodernglow.co.uk says to look out for names such as maltodextrin, carrageenan, sodium benzoate, titanium dioxide and magnesium stearate. "There is growing evidence that some of these inorganic mineral salts are detrimental to health, as is the case with calcium carbonate [chalk] can clog up arteries and cause kidney stones. Chewable supplements also have artificial flavourings and sweeteners added which can cause tummy upsets."
• The GMP stamp Good Manufacturing Practice tells you that the supplement has been 'truth' tested'. "This is an indicator of their quality as they are batch tested to ensure what it says on the packet reflects what the supplement actually contains," says registered nutritionist Rob Hobson. All Healthspan supplements for example, are GMP 'stamped' while remaining purse-friendly.
There are some good value supplements out there, says Alderson. We asked her and fellow nutrition experts to tell us the best cheap vitamins under £20 that still pack a nutritional punch.
Best budget vitamin D supplements
"Vitamin D plays a vital role in supporting brain function, immune health and bone health and therefore ensuring adequate intakes is vital for overall wellbeing," says registered nutritionist Jenna Hope. "Supplementation is recommended throughout the winter months as obtaining enough through the diet can be challenging. Our main source is from the sun however, throughout the winter sunlight exposure in the UK is limited."
The NHS recommends10µg (micrograms) a day, but many vitamin D supplements have 25µg or 1000IU of vitamin D (safe for everyone age 12 and above) and some have a high-strength dose of 75µg /3000IU, so it's always best to stick to the label guidelines, as the body stores vitamin D so it is possible to have too much. D3 is the most easily absorbed form of vitamin D, and registered nutritionist Daniel O'Shaughnessy, aka The Naked Nutritionist, advises taking it in drop form as oil helps the absorption.
Best cheap vitamin D for vegans Viridian Liquid Vitamin D3 50ml, £13.95
"This is a go-to of mine," Alderson says. "And being sublingual (taken under the tongue) it is super effective and a great little boost in the winter months at a low price tag." It's vegan and in the form of D3 with a 2000iu dosage using a base of sunflower seed oil and an orange flavour to give it a pleasant taste. You can take it directly in the mouth or add it to food or drinks. Much vitamin D on the market is derived from sheep's wool making it unsuitable for vegans. This one is derived from lichen. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so an oil base gives superior absorption.
Best high strength Better You D3000 Vitamin D Oral Spray 15ml, £8.45
"This oral spray in 3000 IU is a good dose, especially for winter," says O'Shaughnessy, "and it’s in D3 which is better absorbed." With a natural peppermint flavour, spraying this under your tongue is a convenient way to get your daily hit of vitamin D3. It can be taken during pregnancy and while breastfeeding and for those on a vegetarian and diabetic diet.
Best budget zinc supplement: Allergy Research Zinc Picolinate (60 capsules), £14.65
Zinc is highly lauded by experts for its cold-curbing ability — research has shown it to have impressive preventative potential, as seen from a study conducted by the University of Alberta that found that children who took 10 to 15mg of zinc daily were less likely to miss school due to a cold. Taking a zinc supplement may also decrease the length of a cold, as seen in another study that found that zinc acetate lozenges reduced duration from seven days to four. It plays a key role in fertility, in making one of the body's most powerful antioxidants called zinc/copper superoxide dismutase (SOD) as well as in brain health and skin healing. You can read our complete guide to the best zinc supplements here, but below is a purse-friendly buy recommended by our Alderson.
Alderson recommends taking it in the form of zinc picolinate. "This form of zinc is particularly great for conditions such as PCOS and is a good price at £14.95 for a month’s supply," says Alderson.
Best budget supplement for keeping respiratory viruses at bay: A.Vogel Echinaforce Drops (50ml), £8.99
Echinacea has been shown to support the immune system and now the latest research shows that it may even lower the risk of catching Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu as well as lessen their severity if you do get them. It's a budget no-brainer for cold and flu season. Dr Ross Walton, immunologist and founder of clinical research company A-IR, says: “Echinacea purpurea has been shown to prevent the symptoms of a common cold erupting, and more recently, a new study this year shows that it may be effective in reducing the risk of infection of Covid-19 by reducing viral load on infection. This may prove effective in lessening the severity of respiratory symptoms experienced and aid recovery."
Not all echinacea products are the same, however. Look for echinacea products such as A.Vogel's Echinaforce Drops,. "This have been assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) display a Product Licence (PL) on their packaging, meaning they have been assessed for efficacy based on clinical research, quality and safety," he says.
Best budget multivitamin supplements
Best multi vitamin with probiotics and omega-3 Healthspan Multivitality Daily Essentials Complete (28 days at 43p a day), was £12.95 now £6.48
Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, recommends the brand's Multivitality Daily Essentials Complete supplement. "Multivitamin and mineral supplements contain a wide range of nutrients including vitamins A, C and D to support immunity and B vitamins to support metabolism and mental health. All three of these supplements have been GMP tested. Separately these supplements can prove costly but buying them as a complete package is a huge saving here."
Best budget supplement for vitamins and minerals: Cytoplan Wholefood Multi (60 capsules), £22.50
"I recommend Cytoplan as a great cost-effective multi as it comes in at under £20 a month. It’s great as it contains B vitamins that have been methylated, which some cheaper options may not (this means it is in the active form) and it’s got a good dose of vitamin D (1,600 iu)," says O'Shaughnessy.
Best supplements for energy balance
Best budget B vitamin Complex: Biocare B complex, £8.55
Fun fact, there are eight different B vitamins - thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, B6, biotin (B7), folate and vitamin B12 - and this contains all of them. B vitamins are generally associated with boosting energy levels, mood and keeping your nervous system in check - you can read our B vitamin supplement 101 here. "This is a 30-day B complex, which also contains all of the readily available B vitamins in active forms," says O'Shaughnessy. The high potency vitamin B complex is designed to hormone balance, with added vitamin C and choline for synergistic support."
Best budget iron vitamin supplement: Balanced Iron Complex 60, £7.99
Iron plays an important role in producing red blood cells, and a lack of sufficient amounts can cause anaemia (iron deficiency). Iron supplements can be helpful for some people, but as nutritional therapist Petronella Ravenshear previously told us: “It’s easy to overdo it, especially after menopause when monthly blood and iron loss comes to a halt." So she recommends only taking iron supplements if your GP has told you that you are anaemic, "even if you have iron deficiency symptoms.”
If you choose to supplement iron, Alderson recommends Balanced's Iron Complex 60: "I would always recommend going for a chelated form of iron as it can be easier on the stomach. This is paired with vitamin C for better absorption and comes in at under £10, with no nasty fillers and it’s vegan."
Best budget omega-3 supplements
"There are two fatty acids referred to as essential fatty acids (EFA) - omega 3 and 6," explains naturopathic nutritional therapist Ify Akpuaka themodernglow.co.uk. "We need to consume these fats because our bodies are unable to make them and they are essential for a multitude of structural and biological processes throughout our bodies [though we usually get enough omega-6 from food].
"Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids need to be present in equal concentrations within the body tissues as they balance each other in the regulation of thousands of metabolic functions – they have opposing effects, think of them as ‘yin’ and ‘yang.’ Omega 3 is essential in the control of inflammation in the body, together with cardiovascular health, allergic reactivity, immune response, hormone regulation, intelligence and behaviour. When levels of omega 6 far exceed omega 3, symptoms of inflammation can develop, including diseases like arthritis, heart disease and cancer." Read our deep dive into omega-3 supplements here.
"Omega-3 supplements most commonly come in the form of fish oil or flaxseed oil," Akpuaka continues. "EPA and DHA are what you need from good quality fish oil. Unfortunately, good quality, sustainable fish oil packed full of EPA/DHA won’t be found in your supermarket for £5. In my opinion, fish oil can significantly improve your health and therefore it's worth spending your money on a good quality one." Alderson, agrees and urges her clients not to scrimp on this kind of supplement, but fortunately, there are some budget-friendly options below.
"This is great quality and value for a high potency in one teaspoon," Akpuaka says. "It's certified, sustainable and a fully-traceable source, is formulated for optimal absorption and comes in a tasty lime flavour. It's suitable for the whole family, too."
Cytoplan Fish Oil, £14.70
Another budget Omega-3 fish oil supplement recommended by Akpuaka. "This is a high potency formula which contains good levels of DHA and EPA, is distilled to ensure the oil is clean, stable and free of pollutants and comes in convenient and easy-to-swallow capsules," she says. Meanwhile, if you follow a vegan diet, try Cytoplan's Vegan Omega 3 supplement, £19.90, which provides essential fatty acids DHA and EPA derived from plant marine algae.
Best budget supplements for brain health
Best medicinal mushroom supplement for focus: Hifas Da Terra Hericium Digest Powder Superfood, £18
Lion’s Mane (also known as hericium erinaceus) is a medicinal mushroom and adaptogenic known for its brain-boosting powers. "It's rich in fibre and bioactive substances recommended for a healthy gut which may support improved mood due to the gut/brain axis. Animal studies have shown it increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor ) which is like Miracle-Gro for the brain. This product is also free of gluten, preservatives, chemicals, sweetener, flavours, starch, wheat, corn, soy, sugar, and dairy and is suitable for coeliacs, lactose intolerance, vegetarians and vegans," says Akpuaka.
Best budget probiotic supplement: Acidophilus Plus by Cytoplan, £18.60
"Incorporating nine strains of live native bacteria - providing 3.5 billion live bacteria per capsule - this probiotic supplement includes specially cultivated antibiotic-resistant strains which will survive the challenges of stomach acid and is stable at room temperature, meaning there's no need to refrigerate it," says Akpuaka. "This would be ideal for children from four years of age and adults up to their early 40s."
Best budget sleep supplement: Nutri Advanced 5-HTP (60 Capsules), £23.60
Coming in just over our £20 threshold, we've included this last sleep supplement for its slumber-inducing powers - and Rhian Stephenson, founder of Artah retreats swears by it. "If you’re struggling with sleep, taking 5 HTP about 30 minutes before bed can boost your melatonin levels," explains Alderson. The supplement 5-HTP is a supplement used to produce serotonin, which can be converted into the hormone melatonin."Nutri Advance has a 60 capsule bottle at £23.60 which comes in at around £12 for the month if you took one daily, so a bargain in my eyes as this is a great supplement brand."
Best budget magnesium supplement: Viridian Nutrition Hi Potency Magnesium (120 vegicaps), £19.60
“Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for human health,” says Akpuaka. “It’s necessary for energy production in muscles and cells, electrolyte balance, and uptake of calcium and potassium, helping regulate sodium levels and therefore controlling blood pressure. It helps lower cortisol and adrenaline, relaxing the sympathetic nervous system, which aids in the relaxation of muscles and can also reduce cramps and twitching, as well as supporting sleep and bone health.”
"It is also important for the health and function of female reproductive organs, maintaining a healthy pregnancy and helping women through menopause. It works closely with vitamin B6 and zinc so ideally should be taken alongside a multivitamin," she continues. "The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium is dependent on age and gender, however, a healthy range is from 250mg to 400mg. It's best to take one one tablet and increase it to two if you exercise or sweat a lot or continue to struggle with magnesium deficiencies such as cramps."
"This magnesium supplement contains three types of magnesium: magnesium citrate, which is one of the best-absorbed forms of magnesium, magnesium biglycinate (or glycinate), which helps to reduce stress and anxiety, magnesium oxide, which has the highest levels of magnesium per weight, therefore helping to address deficiencies within the body. At 300mg per tablet, this offers good levels of elemental magnesium."
Best vitamin C supplements
It’s important to have a great vitamin C in your supplement arsenal. “Vitamin C is an essential vitamin which means your body can’t produce it,” explains Akpuaka. And as we're sure you know it can be found in lots of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, strawberries, spinach, kale, peppers and kiwi. “It is a water-soluble vitamin meaning it can’t be stored by the body and will be circulated to the organs via blood plasma. When the blood arrives at the kidneys, any water-soluble vitamins that are found in excess will be excreted so it’s important to regularly top-up your vitamin C levels.” Plus it has some pretty impressive health benefits. “It helps our body fight infection, makes and builds collagen for our bones and skin, works as an antioxidant, protects against bruising and can help support stress levels by bringing down adrenalin,” as well as many more.
Best budget vitamin C Supplement: Cytoplan Vitamin C, £17
“This gives you 250mg of vitamin C as well as 80mg of bioflavonoids,” says Akpuaka. “Whilst the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 60mg/ day if you smoke, are a frequent exerciser or are regularly exposed to toxins you need more vitamin C for its antioxidant and collagen production benefits. One tablet is enough but if you're low on vitamin C then I would recommend taking two. And the added bioflavonoids help enhance the action and aid the absorption of the vitamin C.”
Best budget collagen supplement: Balanced Beauty Collagen, £24.49
Collagen powders are loved by celebrities such as Davina McCall and Jennifer Aniston. What do they do? As Dr Johanna Ward previously told us: “Collagen supplements can help to reduce the rate at which our own collagen breaks down (our natural ability to produce new collagen declines from age 25), while boosting our body's own production (by age 40 the body’s ability to produce collagen has decreased by 25 per cent and by age 60, it has plummeted by over 50).”
“They can also improve skin hydration by helping the body make hyaluronic acid, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, support hair, bones and joints and can even help heal leaky gut syndrome.”
You're hard pushed to find a quality collagen supplement under £20, so for a more economical option, Hannah Alderson points to Balanced's Beauty Collagen capsules, which also contain a good dose of vitamin C. "This is a great combination for skin health – collagen + Hyaluronic Acid and vitamin C – plus it comes in at around £12 a month if you opt for taking the lower recommended dose of one capsule a day."