The wide world of supplements is continuously growing and marketing is promoting more and more products by the minute. Sometimes I wonder myself if I need a supplement or two; however, I always do my research and make sure to focus on food first. Truth is, sometimes your diet can’t meet 100% of your needs – BUT more is not always better. So the question remains: Do you need supplements?
Short answer: it depends.
Long answer: On the surface, it makes sense to think about getting all your vitamins and minerals and other nutrients from food, but unfortunately, things aren’t that easy – even when you think you are eating the perfect diet.
5 Main Reasons We Are Nutrient Depleted
- The eroding topsoil and industrial farming is decreasing our mineral supply
- Increased stress and nutritional demands resulting from a toxic environment
- Genetic alterations in our foods
- Poor storage and transportation of our food
- The abundance of processed factory-made junk foods have no nutrients
If you have insulin resistance – and keep in mind that most people do to some degree – I do recommend additional nutrients based on the individual’s needs and dietary intake to help reset and correct metabolic imbalances, balance blood sugar, reduce internal inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity. Balancing your blood sugar helps to keep your gut (which is full of healthy bacteria) flourishing. And a healthy gut is a healthy life.
So let’s delve a little further – while there are tons of supplements to talk about, I’m going to share with you the most common supplements that people take or that I get the most questions about.
Disclaimer: The clickable links are affiliate links which means that I may get a small percentage if you buy something. This is at no extra cost to you and the money goes towards keeping my website alive. The recommendations and opinions are completely my own and not sponsored in any way.
Generally speaking, I believe that if you are following a well balanced diet with at least 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables (combined) daily then you most likely don’t need to take a multivitamin.
However, there are some populations that could benefit from taking a multivitamin: women during preconception and pregnancy. Taking a Prenatal vitamin to take daily to make sure that you are meeting all of your nutrient needs for you and your growing baby.
Not everyone needs ALL the vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin, so it’s important to check in with a Dietitian to have your diet evaluated and see if a supplement is right for you. Remember, more is NOT better and some vitamins can potentially be harmful in large doses.
Magnesium is used in at least 300 enzyme systems in the human body. So yea, it’s important. Magnesium deficiency is common in people with diabetes, but also alcoholics and anyone with Celiac disease and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. High levels of insulin can cause the body to dump magnesium into the urine which is needed in order to produce serotonin. Without high enough levels of serotonin we can feel depressed and are subject to food cravings (refined carbohydrates make tryptophan more available for the body to utilize which is a precursor of serotonin).
Having said that, I believe most people are deficient in magnesium. Read my article HERE on magnesium and why you most likely need it.
Healthy magnesium levels help with insulin sensitivity, thyroid function, mental health and most importantly help us get a good nights rest.
Foods rich in magnesium:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Iron is a very important mineral in our bodies. It is responsible for carrying oxygen into our red blood cells and transmitting nerve communications. Not having enough iron in the body can be known as anemia and can make you feel very fatigued (among many other symptoms). Women can be at an increased risk for anemia because of monthly menstruation, but there are also some other reasons why you might be iron deficient:
- peptic ulcer disease
- excessive exercise
- chronic kidney disease
- excessive blood loss from trauma or blood donation
- gastrointestinal bleeding from prolonged use of medications like aspirin and ibuprofen
Women also need more iron when they are pregnant. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended dietary allowance of iron for pregnant women is 27 milligrams per day.
The amount of iron you need each day is measured in milligrams (mg). The general recommendations for healthy people are:
- Women (ages 19-50 years): 18 mg iron per day
- Women (ages 19-50 years): 27 mg if pregnant; 9 mg if breastfeeding
- Men (ages 19 years and older): 8 mg iron per day
- Older women (ages 51 years and older): 8 mg iron per day
Iron from red meat, fish, and poultry (heme iron) is better absorbed than iron from plants (non-heme iron). Make sure to include foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, melons, dark green leafy vegetables, and red/yellow/orange bell peppers with your meals to help your body absorb more iron. You can also cook foods in a cast-iron skillet.
Important note: limit coffee and tea at meal times so as not to decrease iron absorption.
Iron-rich foods include:
- Cooked Beef
- Chicken Liver
- Clams and Mussels
- Canned sardines, canned in oil
- Cooked Turkey
- Halibut, Salmon or Tuna
- Cooked beans, red kidney beans or chickpeas
- Pumpkin seeds
- Baked potato
- Wheat germ
- Dried raisins
- Brown or enriched rice
Some cereals contain 18 mg iron per serving (such as Total, 100% bran flakes, Grapenuts, and Product 19). Having ¾ cup of your preference will ensure your daily iron intake — making sure to always pay attention to the total amount of carbs per serving.
You can overdose on iron supplements so it is SUPER important that you talk to your healthcare provider about taking an iron supplement and make sure to ask how long you should take it for. Do not overdose – be smart!
If you are needing to be on an iron supplement I always recommend a whole food based supplement like —> THIS ONE <—
Yes, yes and yes! I’m sure whatever question you have about probiotics my answer would be yes. I think everyone across the board needs probiotics in their diet. You don’t necessarily need to take a supplement, but you should definitely include probiotic-rich foods in your diet on a regular basis.
If you are interested in taking a supplement shop carefully as not all probiotics are the same. More specific strains are helpful for specific nutrition needs (i.e. bloating vs diarrhea vs constipation…etc). It’s important to know which one is right for you – I would recommend going to a specialty food store and speaking with a supplement professional.
Including probiotic-rich foods in your diet is a must. Here are some healthy food options:
- Active-cultured yogurt
- Kombucha. Check out my post HERE to learn how to make your own Kombucha!
- Tempeh (fermented soy)
- Pickled vegetables
- Miso soup
- Microalgea (spirulina and cholrella)
- Sourdough bread (remember 1 slice = 15 grams carbs)
And please don’t forget about PREBIOTICS! This is the fiber that feeds our good bacteria to give them energy and help them multiply. They also keep our digestion in balance. Food options include:
- Raw asparagus
- Dandelion Greens
- Wheat bran
Although I do suggest talking with a supplement professional, I will tell you that I like this WHOLE FOOD based probiotic supplement.
This is a particularly important mineral when you are pregnant, however I also find it helpful during preconception and for other reasons.
Choline is a nutrient that’s important for normal brain development, liver function, nerve function, muscle movement and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Choline is present in the form of phosphatidycholine, which makes up the structural component of fat, and thus can be found in different types of foods that naturally contain certain fats.
According to this study nearly 90% of adults don’t get enough choline in their diets. There actually isn’t an official Daily Value Recommendation for Choline established by the USDA. Most professionals agree that the amounts listed below are sufficient for producing optimal benefits without causing any harm:
- Infants and babies: 125- 150 mg
- Children ages 1-8: 150- 250 mg
- Teens ages 8-13: 250- 375 mg
- Women above age 14: 425- 550 mg
- Men above age 14: 550 mg
- Pregnant women: 450-550 mg
- Women who are breastfeeding: 550 mg
Choline can be found naturally in foods including:
- Eggs —> In fact, eggs are sometimes called “brain fuel” because they contain high amounts of choline
- Chicken breast
- Navy beans
- Wheat germ
- Brussels sprouts.
Per my research, this is a well trusted –> choline supplement <– and one that I take daily.
Omega-3 (EPA and DHA)
Fish is the main food source of the omega-3s DHA and EPA. I’m sure most of you have heard that we should all be eating fish twice weekly and the recommended amount is 3.5 ounces. However, most of us don’t eat fish twice weekly and if we do it’s not consistent from week to week. Therefore, taking a supplement can be beneficial.
Go for one with EPA + DHA. Studies have shown that Omega-3 from fish oil is correlated with reduced inflammation, decreased blood pressure, increased HDL (good) cholesterol and reduced risk for heart attacks and stroke. Since being overweight and diabetes are directly linked with heart disease – it may be a good idea to include fish in your diet.
I suggest a supplement that contains 1,000 to 2,000 mg of omega-3 fats per serving (should contain a ratio of approximately 300/200 mg of EPA/DHA) and please talk to your doctor about how much is right for you.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It is responsible for the yellow color in Indian curry and yellow mustard. Curcumin is the most active constituent of turmeric, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
I frequently recommend turmeric supplements for inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, tendonitis, and autoimmune conditions. It is recommended to take 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric extracts three times per day or as directed on the product label.
It’s important to note that neither curcumin nor turmeric taken orally is well absorbed unless taken with black pepper or piperine, a constituent of black pepper responsible for its pungency. When shopping for supplements, make sure that the one you choose contains black pepper extract or piperine.
Also, if you’re cooking with turmeric, be sure to add some black pepper to the food – this will assure the proper absorption of your supplement. Make sire to be patient when taking turmeric supplements: the full benefits may not be apparent for eight weeks.
Shop smart when it comes to buying a Turmeric supplement. I like –> THIS ONE <– and recommend it often.
I would suggest getting Vitamin D from food and sunlight first. Only if you are deficient, meaning <30, would I recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which means that it is best absorbed when eaten (or taken) with fat.
Vitamin D superfoods include:
- Egg yolks
- Salmon (especially wild-caught)
- Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D
- Tuna (canned in water)
- Cod liver oil
- Dairy products fortified with Vitamin D
- Mackerel (especially wild-caught and low in mercury)
If you do take a Vitamin D supplement, make sure you take the correct type: Vitamin D3, cholecalciferol – not D2. Doses are in international units (IU) and are typically prescribed as 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day. High dose Vitamin D3 is available ranging from 5,000 – 50,000 IU but this should definitely be discussed with your doctor. Do not take high doses of Vitamin D if you don’t need it.
I recommend this brand for Vitamin D3 OR this one for Vitamin D3 + calcium + K2
Vitamin E is actually a blanket term for eight different naturally occurring nutrients—four different tocopherols and four different tocotrienols.Each type is a fat-soluble antioxidant.
The most famous of the vitamin E group is alpha-tocopherol. Both with respect to diet and high-dose supplementation, it is among the most intensely studied of nutrients. This is because its ability to help prevent free radical damage is so powerful.
Vitamin E-rich Foods:
- Sunflower seeds (1/4th cup meets 82% daily recommended intake [DRI])
- Almonds (1/4th cup meets 40% DRI)
- Spinach (1 cup, raw meets 25% DRI)
- Swiss Chard
- Olives and olive oil
- Green beans
- Turnip Greens
- Beet Greens
- Mustard Greens
Surprisingly, Vitamin E is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States. Your best bet is to have sunflower seeds or other Vitamin E-rich foods in your diet daily.
DRIs for vitamin E are as follows:
- 0-6 months: 4 mg
- 6-12 months: 5 mg
- 1-3 years: 6 mg
- 4-8 years: 7 mg
- 9-13 years: 11 mg
- 14+ years: 15 mg
- Pregnant women: 15 mg
- Lactating women: 19 mg
The DRI recommendations also included a Tolerable Upper Intake Limit (UL) for adults of 1000 mg per day.
I think Vitamin C is one of those supplements that a lot of people abuse. The more vitamin C supplements I take the better, right? No.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin meaning that your body will excrete (via urine) out what it doesn’t need. In other words, your body can only absorb so much vitamin C and whatever it doesn’t need it will get rid of. Mega-dosing with Vitamin C hasn’t been shown to have any positive benefits. Plus, taking more than what your body can handle will cause diarrhea.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is abundant in fruits and vegetables and I will always recommend food first when it comes to this nutrient. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps to repair and regenerate tissues, protect against heart disease, aid in the absorption of iron (see above) and decrease triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and most importantly prevent scurvy (a rare, but potentially severe illness).
Vitamin C Super-Foods:
- Red and green bell peppers
- Chili peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
The eight B vitamins—B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin)—are known collectively as B-complex vitamins. This “super” pill seems like a no brainer, but I don’t really think it’s necessary for everyone.
The B vitamins are known to help your body convert food into fuel for energy, increasing your alertness, maintaining your healthy metabolism, promoting healthy skin and hair, and more. Much to everyone’s surprise, B vitamins are everywhere! You’ll find them in fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. And to this day there is no documented evidence of taking additional Vitamin B-supplements in healthy individuals. Obviously, if you are deficient that is a different story.
It’s important to note that certain B vitamins have an upper limit and if you take too much it can create problems. For example, taking too much Vitamin B6 can cause nerve toxicity and too much B3 can cause nausea and elevated liver enzymes.
Note: Individuals who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may benefit from a B12 supplement since B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs.
For B12 supplementation –> THIS ONE is well trusted <–
Things you should know:
- Dietary supplements are not well standardized, meaning what the package says and what the product actually contains can be different. Shop smart.
- Dietary supplements are not well regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
- Supplements can be sold in any market without any proof that they work or that they are safe for anyone and everyone.
- “Natural” does not mean safe. Don’t be a fool!
- Supplements may be filled with additives, colors, fillers, and allergens. Again, shop smart!
I hope this blog post provides you with more information on some common supplements. While many people do need additional supplements, it’s important to know which ones are right for you.
I will never stop saying that the best “supplement” is a good diet that includes frequent meals with quality carbohydrates, lean protein, heart-healthy fats, probiotic-rich foods and adequate fluids.
Are you still concerned about your diet and wondering if you need supplements? Consider working with me and allowing me to evaluate your diet. Send me an email with any questions you may have: email@example.com