I first posted this article over at Uniquely Healthy a good few months ago and thought it was time for an update! I know that the world of supplements can be very confusing, and many health professionals have differing opinions. This is my take on what basic supplements you could start with. Of course, depending on your own body you could benefit from some different ones to this, perhaps see this as a starter for ten as I’ll be posting more about supplementation in the coming months. Please consider if your personal situation means you would benefit from a discussion with a medical professional before experimenting with supplements and always listen to your own body.
First things first, I believe that certain supplements are a good idea for most people. Unfortunately the quality of our food is so diminished due to nutrient depleted soils, transportation, storage and cooking methods that even the healthiest eater may be missing some nutrients. There is also evidence that the standard recommended daily allowance of some vitamins and minerals is not enough to reach an optimal level of health.
At the same time, supplements should not be a replacement for a balanced healthy diet – they should work together in a culminate effect towards better health.
A good place to start with supplements is a high quality all round multivitamin. This should cover most of your nutritional bases and is handy for making sure that you get everything you need even if you have a less than stellar week of eating. You can see a range of multivitamins on the Nature’s Best site.
Next up, especially if you are living in the UK or other countries further away from the equator, is Vitamin D. You can get some vitamin D from foods like eggs, oily fish and fortified foods (remember that most fortified foods are highly processed though!) but it is also made from sunlight on your skin. As most of us don’t get enough sun or wear sunscreen it makes sense to ensure we have sufficient vitamin D by taking a supplement. A good basic amount is 1000ius a day. Check your multivitamin to see how much vitamin D it contains (most I’ve checked do not have this amount) if it doesn’t have 1000ius then it’s worth taking an additional vitamin D supplement.
Another supplement that makes good sense to include is Fish Oil or Flax oil for vegetarians and vegans. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that the body does not produce itself so we must get from our diet. You might think that you get plenty of omega fats from nuts and other sources, but the issue is not getting omega fats – usually Omega 6 is quite easy to get in a healthy wholefoods diet. The issue is the balance of Omega 3 to 6. The problem we face today is that for most of us our Omega 3 / 6 balance is off in favour of Omega 6 due to the amount of vegetable fats in foods. This can create an inflammatory environment in our bodies leading to depressed immunity, allergies and even more serious illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes. In some research studies high level intake of Omega 3 has shown significant health improvements including improved heart health. So why can we not just eat more oily fish? Well we certainly can, and two portions of oily fish a week is recommended, however to get the best benefits capsules are more economical and practical. I highly recommend these High Strength Purified Fish Oil Capsules from Nature’s Best. If you are vegetarian or vegan then look for flax oil, ground flax and walnuts, but be aware, the fats in these just aren’t anywhere near the ratios you get in fish oil unfortunately.
For vegetarians and vegans the one other base line supplement I’d recommend taking is B12. Vitamin B12 is generally only available from animal sources so its especially important that veggies and vegans ensure they are getting an adequate intake. It may be that your multi vitamin is giving you B12 and sometimes its a good choice to look for a specific vegan multivitamin, however you can still get B12 as a supplement on its own to be sure.
After these vitamins its then all about your own unique needs as to what to start looking for…more on that to come!
So as a base I take a multi vitamin, vitamin D and my fish oil. Right now I’m actually taking a slightly different set of supplements based on some health issues things I’m working on and supporting, but more on that soon!
Do you take a multivitamin? What are your thoughts on also including vitamin D and a source of Omega 3? What further information on supplements would you find useful?