Do I need to take supplements?
The short answer is yes! As a registered dietitian nutritionist for over 30 years, I believe that eating real, whole food, first and foremost, is the way to go. However, there are many reasons why quality supplements are needed in addition to diet.
So, who needs supplementation? Some examples include:
Picky eaters who don’t consume a variety of foods and tend to eat the same foods everyday
People that consume a Standard American Diet (SAD): a diet high in processed foods with little nutrient value
People on special diets that may affect nutrient intake (vegan, vegetarian, gluten/dairy free, SCD, Ketogenic, Allergen free, etc.)
People with a health condition that may cause increased need of certain nutrients (i.e. any gastrointestinal problem can affect absorption of nutrients)
People taking medications that may deplete vitamins or interfere with the absorption of specific nutrients (i.e. birth control depletes B vitamins & statins effect Coq10)
Without testing and/or a dietary & symptom analysis, it is difficult to know which specific nutrients are needed. With that said, I feel that most people could benefit from a high-quality multivitamin/mineral, fish oil and vitamin D.
What do I mean by high quality? A high-quality supplement contains the purest, most easily absorbed form of the nutrient. It does not have any additives, colors, fillers, or allergens. It is tested for toxins (i.e. mercury, lead, etc.) and meets all manufacturing standards. Taking a poor-quality supplement is like throwing money out the window and can be detrimental to your health. You can find an array of high-quality supplements here.
The right multi will contain all the basic vitamins and minerals in one supplement. It is wise to choose a supplement keeping specific personal circumstances in mind, for example age specific multis, prenatal or multivitamins made for eye problems. Often good multivitamins need to be taken more than once a day to be absorbed effectively. Be careful about combining with other supplements as some vitamins can be toxic if taken in excess. For example, certain protein powders already contain vitamins and minerals, so it’s important to double check all labels prior to consumption.
Ages 4-13: Junior Nutrients by Pure Encapsulations (2 capsules/day)
PhytoMulti Iron-Free by Metagenics (3/day)
Basic Nutrients by Thorne (2/day)
VitaPrime Iron-Free Capsule by Klaire Labs (2/day)
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3’s are critical for immune function, a healthy cardiovascular system, nervous system and eye health.
If you are consuming a typical American diet with little fatty fish or grass-fed meat, you should consider incorporating an Omega 3 supplement into your daily regimen. The product should be molecularly distilled or “ultra-purified” to ensure low levels of mercury. The dose is 1000 mg for adults (EPA + DHA
= 1000 mg). To increase absorption, it’s best to take these with a meal containing fat.
It’s important to note that Omega 3’s have a blood thinning effect, so you should always consult with a health care professional before taking Omega 3’s with other medications that may result in similar side effects.
ProOmega Jr by Nordic Naturals (1-2 soft gels/day depending on child’s age)
ProOmega 2000 by Nordic Naturals (1 soft gel/day)
Eicosamax 1000 by Klaire Labs (1 soft gel/day)
Vitamin D is essential for healthy immune function, skeletal and vascular support, a healthy metabolism, and is involved in the regulation of over 2000 genes.
You should highly consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement (1000 IU) if you are not exposed to the sun for about 15 minutes (arms, hands, face) twice a week without sunscreen. You should also consider if you do not eat fish or are not taking cod liver oil. It’s important to take vitamin D during the winter months, especially in the northern latitudes where most are not getting adequate sun exposure. Your multivitamin may contain enough vitamin D, so my recommendation is to always check the dosage before taking both. If deficient, you may need more. It’s important to monitor vitamin D status with your doctor or nutritionist by checking blood levels. Like Omega 3’s, vitamin D should be taken with a meal containing fat to increase absorption.
Carlson Kids Super Daily D3 (400 IU 1 drop/day)
Pure Encapsulations D3 (1000 IU)
Liquid Vitamin D3 with K2 by Ortho Molecular Products
1 Drop = 1000 IU vitamin D 10 mcg K2
While I recommend taking a multivitamin/mineral, fish oil and vitamin D, it’s important to reiterate that supplements should be used to ensure adequate nutrition not as replacements for food. Remember: food first, always.
National dietary surveys have proven the American diet to come up short in many nutrients, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Everyone eats differently, so to just take a bunch of supplements without knowing if you are deficient is irresponsible and dangerous. Some nutrients like vitamin A can be toxic if taken in large doses. Guidance provided by a dietitian, nutritionist, nutritionally oriented physician or healthcare practitioner is crucial prior to selecting products.
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Next blog: Recommendations to Boost Your Immune System