I’m often asked whether taking supplements is important to round out a healthy diet.
In an ideal world, I believe we should get all the necessary vitamins, minerals, enzymes, healthy bacteria, and phytochemicals straight from our food and drink.
The thing is, of course, we are not in an ideal world and we don’t always eat “perfectly.”
Furthermore, we are no longer growing our food in native soil. Most farming soil at this point has been stripped of nutrients and deadened with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
We live busy lives, often do not sleep well or long enough, deal with stress on a daily basis and some of us battle with physical ailments that require extra support from our diet. Using high quality nutrient supplements can be a good idea for many.
My general bent is that we should always strive to move our diet toward the most nutrient dense, high quality foods as possible.
After that, we should also consider taking quality supplements in order to provide our body with what it may not be getting directly from our food. The point I try to underscore is that no supplement can replace a quality diet, but some supplementation can enhance and elevate even the most envious of pure and healthy diets.
So what supplements would I suggest for the “average” person?
This is a highly individual question– very hard to answer broadly. In fact all the information I provide on this site is to help educate, not to diagnose.
Please take this information as a starting point, talk with a trusted health care provider about your specific situation and needs, and make choices for your health by considering what conditions are uniquely yours.
With that in mind, though, there are some guidelines for everyday supplements that many folks may consider adding into their diets– at least as you work toward boosting the nutrient quality of the foods you eat and explore more deeply what your unique body may or may not need to run optimally.
Here are four supplements that I take most days
NOTE: I am not a “hard-core must have my supplements daily” kinda gal. I try to get them in and really emphasize the quality of the foods I eat more than not missing a supplement dosage.
1. Whole-Food Multi
- When choosing a multi-vitamin, you may want to consider choosing one that is sourced from whole foods and not made synthetically. Also look for a multi that is free from allergens and additives. If it comes from food, not isolated synthetic chemicals, you are getting the full benefit of a whole-food complex, which includes the plant’s active biochemicals.
- I currently use New Chapter for my multi-vitamin. An additional bonus to these vitamins is that they come in a probiotic culture and contain useful herbs and extracts that enhance nutrition and nutrient uptake.
2. Omega 3
- Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish and flax seed oil that are essential to many areas of our health, especially cardiovascular and nervous system health. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in many vegetable oils. The key with omega 3 and 6 oils is the balance between the two in our diets. Because we consume way more omega 6 than omega 3s most of us could benefit from supplementing with omega 3 fats to even the balance.
- If you are not a vegan, I would highly suggest getting your omega 3s from fish, cod liver or krill oil. Though flaxseed does contain omega 3, the form it is in does not convert easily in our body and much of it is lost because our body cannot use it.
- If you are deciding between cod liver or fish oil the main difference is that with cod liver oil you are also getting vitamin D and vitamin A along with it. This is generally what I do– I take cod liver oil in the fall and winter to boost my vitamin D reserves when the sunlight is slim. Then I switch over to fish oil or krill oil in the spring and summer when I get enough vitamin D from sun exposure.
- Be sure to get your omega 3s from a company that can certify its oil is free from mercury, PBCs and other contaminants and that uses molecular distillation instead of chemical distillation.
- I have used the following companies: Nordic Naturals, Carlson, Young Living
- A healthy digestive tract is the cornerstone of a healthy immune system. Both probiotics and digestive enzymes work to strengthen and support a healthy gut. Good bacteria is supposed to live in your intestines. It helps your body absorb nutrients from your food and keep foreign microbes from invading your blood stream. When the balance of the good bacteria (probiotics) and bad bacteria get out of whack, we suffer a weakened immune system and the many troubles that can follow.
- If your diet is not rich in many fermented kinds of foods (things like kefir, yogurt, fermented vegetables, kombucha, or miso), consider taking a probiotic supplement. Look for a supplement that contains at least 1 billion live cultures per serving.
- You will likely not need to take this supplement long-term, especially if you are committed to bringing healthy bacteria into your system through the foods you eat. But this supplement is helpful as you reestablish the healthy bacteria balance and shift your diet.
- Something else to consider is prebiotics (which are food sources for the good bacteria- so they can grow and multiply in your intestines). FOS and inulin are two main prebiotic sources, found naturally in bananas, asparagus and onion, or in supplement form.
4. Digestive enzymes
- Finally if your diet is low in “living” food— that is raw, natural foods that retain their own living enzymes (which are lost when exposed to too much heat – as in most cooking, or when they are denatured and destroyed in processing), it may be helpful to stoke your own digestive fire and supplement with digestive enzymes for a short time.
- In addition to supplementing with digestive enzymes, I also aim to eat some raw foods every day, ideally with every meal. In the spring and summer, I substantially increase the amount of raw food I consume. This could simply mean some vegetable sticks with lunch, or fresh fruit, raw salads or raw dairy.
Taking nutritional supplements can be a tremendous advantage to regaining and maintaining your health.
A fantastic resource when using supplements to support your health is the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Do you take supplements daily? Which ones and why?
I take a multi-vitamin everyday. I do try to eat a healthy well-balanced diet as well, but there are some day when it seems we are so busy that we have drive thru’s for lunch and take out for dinner. Actually, the last couple of times this happened the food was so bad that now whenever I think I don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal, I think about how awful the last fast food meals were, I open a can of tuna and have it with whole wheat bread and avocados and tomatoes. So much yummier and less expensive.
I would like to add cod liver oil into our family. I have narrowed it down to Nordic Naturals. Is there one product the whole family could take, since I noticed they have some children’s products? Here’s our info.: I’m 36 weeks pregnant and plan to nurse. I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a 2 year old (plus hubby). Can the children just take the same product as I do? And what do you recommend as far as the straight liquid vs. the soft gels? (sorry….lots of questions)
I know Nordic naturals has chewable ones for kids–that is what i give our kids (2 and 3 1/2)
I’ve given both the liquid in a teaspoon and the chewable capsules– I think it would just depend on the preference of your kids!
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