With thousands of supplements on the market promising everything from weight loss to better sleep, it’s hard to know which products — if any — you should take.
If I’m recommending one supplement, it’s almost always a general-purpose multivitamin and mineral, an all-encompassing supplement containing a broad range of nutrients that are necessary for normal functioning, growth, and development.
If I’m recommending two or three supplements, I’ll often add Fish Oil and Vitamin D3 into the mix.
The omega-3’s in fish oil (EPA & DHA) are essential for normal brain function, growth and development, and also for moderating inflammation. Deficiencies are linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, mood disorders and inflammatory conditions.
Vitamin D is essential for optimal bone health; it may also help prevent and treat conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and multiple sclerosis. Optimal vitamin D levels can enhance athletic performance, and might even protect against certain types of cancer.
The good news is that healthcare professionals can order simple blood tests that measure your levels of omega-3s and vitamin D (via lab test for 25-hydroxy-vitamin D, also referred to as 25(OH)D), to help determine if supplementation is necessary.
When it comes to a multivitamin, however, things get a little murkier.
Studies have shown no benefit of a multi in terms of outcomes like longer lifespan or decreased risk of cancer, and wellness experts disagree whether a multivitamin is necessary if a person eats a healthy, well-balanced diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says the best nutritional strategy is to “wisely choose a wide variety of foods.”
While this is a noble nutritional goal, it’s not always realistic. People often get stuck in a routine, reaching for the same types of veggies, fruits, whole grains and protein sources for many of their meals and snacks. The result: They end up getting the same types of nutrients over and over again.
Even for those who make a conscious effort to vary the foods they choose, it can still be quite challenging to get all of the necessary nutrients through diet alone, so I often recommend a multivitamin to my clients as a type of nutritional insurance, just in case they aren’t getting all of their nutrients through food.
But taking a multivitamin doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from eating fruits and vegetables. Supplements may supply many of the vitamins and minerals that we know about, but there are also loads of nutrients that exist in foods that scientists haven’t even identified yet, much less incorporated into nutritional supplements.
- Multivitamin | GNC Mega Men & GNC Ultra Mega Women
- Fish Oil | Nordic Natural’s Ultimate Omega + D [includes D3 as well] and Carlson Labs
- Vitamin D3 | variety of brands on shelves
And remember that supplements are just that: supplements — not substitutes — to an otherwise healthy lifestyle.
Be aware that supplements can interfere with certain medications or other supplements, so as always, let your physician & healthcare professionals know what supplements you are taking, and ask before adding any new products to your regime.
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