I’m often asked the question, “What are the basic vitamins or supplements should I take?” While each person is unique and will have their own specific requirements, here are some general guidelines.
However, before I even discuss supplements it is essential to understand that the diet is still most important. It is the majority of what we are putting into our bodies and we all know the saying, “you are what you eat.” I tell my clients that they can take all the supplements in the world, but it will not make up for a poor diet. Most people eating the typical “Standard American Diet (SAD)” come up short in three areas:
Fruits and vegetables – an important source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Most people simply do not eat enough. You should have fruits and vegetables throughout the day with at least two meals a day and for snacks. Vegetables should be eaten both raw and cooked, depending on the vegetable. Raw foods contain active enzymes which help digest our food. These natural food enzymes are destroyed by heating. Eat all the colors of the rainbow, as they all have different nutrient contents.
Healthy fats – by this I mean foods containing Vitamins A, D, and K from animal sources such as yogurt, kefir, and butter, as well as olive oil and coconut oil. Yogurt and kefir have the added advantage of providing probiotics (good bacteria) to aid digestion.
Foods that aid digestion – from over use of antibiotics and our generally sterile environment, many of us lack the bacteria that help digest our food. These are found in lacto-fermented foods such as the previously mentioned yogurt and kefir, but also in vegetables and pickles (that have not been pasteurized) such as raw cabbage, raw sauerkraut, or kim chi.
For a healthier diet I encourage people to avoid margarine and artificial sweeteners and to cut back on the processed and refined foods and the sugar based foods.
As far as supplements go, I suggest they are whole, real foods and that synthetic vitamins be avoided. While we are told they are the same molecular structure, this does not translate into how they are processed in the body. Vitamins appear in nature as a complex, not as an isolated molecule. Most people will benefit from supplements in three areas:
A multi-vitamin – to make up for the overall shortfall of nutrients in our food supply. This would contain a cross section of the important vitamins. My favorite is Catalyn by Standard Process.
Cod liver oil – contains the healthy fats of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. Well respected brands are Green Pasture and Carlson’s. I prefer this to fish oil since it has the additional vitamins in addition to the Omega 3’s.
Antioxidant – since most of us are not eating enough fruits and vegetables this is a way to get these nutrients. It can be in the form of a green or red powder, grape seed extract, OPC, reservatrol. These are all different forms of antioxidants. I am not a big fan of the fancy juices. Yes, they are antioxidants, but they are expensive – in order to support the multi-level marketing.
In addition to the above supplements there are recommendations for middle aged and aging men and women:
For men – a common problem is an enlarged prostate. Zinc (a mineral) and saw palmetto (an herb) can help.
For women – a common problem is hormonal imbalances. Wild Yam (an herb) can help, although it is best to consult with a specialist to address these issues.
Supplements are meant to be that, a supplement to the diet, to make up for nutrients that we are not getting from food. Each individual’s needs are different, so it is best to consult with a professional to best understand your needs. There is a lot of marketing hype as well concerning nutritional supplements. Another reason to consult a trusted source that can help you cut through the hype. The above information serves as a general guideline and starting point.