You hear a lot these days about supplements. But do they work, and should people take them?
Most nutrition experts agree that the best way to get your recommended daily nutrients is by eating healthy, whole foods. Whole foods are lean meats, seafood and poultry, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruits and complex carbohydrates.
Whole foods contain most of the vitamins, minerals and the nutrients your body needs in order to sustain itself, to heal and be active. Whole foods also contain phytochemicals, which are protective substances that help fight-off disease; and natural fiber, which is vital to cleansing out toxins and wastes from the body.
However, there are still reasons to take supplements. First, many of us do not eat a healthy whole food diet! Additionally, as we age, our bodies do not absorb certain nutrients as well. Other reasons to supplement include a nutrient specific deficiency in the diet (vegetarian or someone who doesn’t eat enough fish); and medication, disease or exposure to environmental toxins (may lessen absorption of key nutrients).
Here are 7 popular – and effective - supplements that may make sense for you.
Vitamin D builds strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium. It is essential to nerve and thyroid function, muscle growth and a healthy immune system. There is some research showing it may also offer protection against colorectal and other cancers.
Many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. Sun exposure provides Vitamin D, but with more people using sunscreen, fewer people are getting their Vitamin D from the sun. Older people and dark-skinned people also can’t easily make Vitamin D from the sun.
Foods that provide Vitamin D are fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) and fortified milk and cereals. Small amounts can be found in beef liver, egg yolks and cheese.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
The American diet is low in Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Omega-3 fatty acid research has shown it to be an excellent inflammatory agent and important to brain and heart health. It lowers the risk for stroke and heart disease, can reduce joint soreness caused by rheumatoid arthritis, and may help prevent cognitive decline. It also can lower levels of depression.
Top food sources are cold-water fatty fish (salmon, herring, cod), nuts and seeds (flaxseed).
Zinc is in every cell of the body and supports a healthy immune system, helps maintain strong bones, provides you with a good sense of smell and taste, and promotes collagen production. Zinc has also been credited with helping with testosterone production and supporting a healthier libido for both men and women.
Food sources include pumpkin seeds, oysters, beans, red meat, seafood, poultry, ginger root, almonds and walnuts.
Vegetarians in particular may need to consider supplementation as Zinc is best absorbed from animal food sources.
Also referred to as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is an antioxidant (protects cells from damage), supports the immune system (may fight off cold viruses), helps with the absorption of iron and supports the skin, cartilage, bone and teeth.
The body can’t make or store Vitamin C, so you must take in a daily dose.
Sources are vegetables, citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, baked potato and fortified foods. Note that lengthy storage and cooking can reduce Vitamin C content.
Supplements may be combined with other anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as Quercetin. Don’t take too much Vitamin C as it can cause loose stools.
Deficiencies of B12 are thought to impact mood, causeing depression and memory decline. Vitamin B12 keeps nerves and blood cells healthy and may promote heart health.
As we age, the level of an amino acid called Homocysteine increases; this amino acid has been associated with the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as stroke and heart disease. Vitamin B12 reduces the production of Homocysteine.
Vitamin B12 is found in meat, poultry, wild-caught fish and eggs. It is not found in plant-based foods. Vegetarians and people over 50 tend to have B12 deficiencies.
Most Americans do not get enough Magnesium in their diet, but in particular, older people, and those with type 2 diabetes or gastrointestinal disease, may have deficiencies. Magnesium is important to bone health (increases bone mineral density), and can help control blood sugar. Studies have shown that people who consume higher levels of magnesium are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Magnesium helps the body break down sugars and may reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is seen in diabetes.
Food sources are green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, milk products and fortified products such as cereals.
Your digestive system has good bacteria and bad bacteria, and sometimes the bad overtake the good. You might be taking antibiotics (which kill off everything), have a poor diet (high in sugar and processed foods!), be stressed out…there are many things that can create an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the “gut”.
A good probiotic can improve your digestive health as well as boost your immune system. Find a high quality product from a reputable vendor, preferably a product with multiple microbe strains. Remember, probiotics contain live bacteria, so should be shipped and stored in temperature-controlled climates (refrigerator).
Probiotics are also found naturally in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and pickles.
The right supplementation, on top of healthy food choices, can make you feel better and prevent future health issues. Talk to your doctor about the best dosage level (how much and how often throughout the day) for you. Your doctor may want to do a blood test to check your levels before and even after taking a supplement.
Diane Blum is a freelance writer and the publicist for Mosaic Weighted Blankets. You can reach her firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Please visithttps://dianeblum.com/and www.ObsoletedSoccerMom.com.