In my last post, I shared that I get asked about supplements ALL the time. And supplements are a tricky topic. There is so much good out there... and just as much not-so-good. They can be extremely beneficial to improving our overall health and in reaching our fitness goals, but it's important that we tread lightly, do our research and supplement with care (for supplement do's and don'ts-- check out the previous post). I always, always recommend starting with a good diet, FIRST, before supplementing. But that being said... we don't live in a perfect world. Most of us could use the help of a few key supplements that we're likely lacking. In fact, there are five supplements I recommend for ALL my clients, friends and women in the Healthy Mama Life Community. Read on to find out the top five supplements you should be taking (and why).
Before I begin- and this should go without saying- I am not a doctor. This information is provided as general advice only and should not be taken as a replacement for professional medical advice. Therefore any choices you make regarding your health or any changes in medical conditions should be discussed explicitly with your doctor.
Supplement #1: Fish Oil Why it's important: By now you should know the benefits of those essential Omega 3 fats; on our cardiovascular system, immune system and neurological system, as well as the fact that our ratio of Omega 3: Omega 6 is incredibly skewed in our modern diets. Therefore, supplementation is recommended to maintain a healthier balanced of Omega 3 to Omega 6 and reap the benefits of this important nutrient.
Who it's good for: All adults who do not consume fish or algae on a daily basis; especially important for vegetarians (ALA in plant foods does not efficiently make DHA and EPA), those on a lower calorie diet and pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What to look for: A minimum of 900mg EPA/DHA is recommended for adults; we generally only get around 300mg (1/3). Look for an algae, krill or fish source- and look for smaller fish as in mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies as opposed to larger fish (which may be higher in toxins and lower in omega 3s). Liquid is preferred; capsule is fine as well.
Supplement #2: Vitamin D
Why it's important: Nearly every single tissue in your body has a receptor for vitamin D. The reason being, Vitamin D is not a true vitamin at all- it's actually a hormone, in it's active form, produced within the body from the sun's rays. Without vitamin D, dietary calcium can not be absorbed- leading to brittle bones, poor brain cell signaling, and dental issues. In addition, deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to low immunity, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and loss of muscle mass. Who it's good for: If we get it from the sun, why would we need to supplement? In reality, we don't get enough from the sun in our modern society. Sunscreen, clothing, even glass-- all protect us from those UVB rays that are so necessary for vitamin D production. For anyone who spends any of their day inside, wearing clothes outside or wearing sunscreen-- you're likely not getting enough. Especially in Northern Climates- that is, anything north of Atlanta, Georgia, there is little to no vitamin D production in our bodies from November-March, and we only store a few weeks' worth in our bodies, which is clearly not enough to last us through the long winters of the Northern Hemisphere. What to look for: There are two forms of Vitamin D- Vitamin D2 and D3, both of which have been shown to have benefits on serum vitamin D levels within the body, though D3, the animal source is most often recommended due to pure bioavailability. Most adults do well supplementing 1,000mcg a day, however in cases of deficiency, 3,000-5,000 may be necessary to restore levels- talk to your doctor for proper dosing.
Supplement #3: Probiotics Why it's important: Probiotics are not a vitamin or mineral; but rather the host of beneficial bacteria that live in our guts. Probiotics are important for digesting food as well as absorbing nutrients, for immune function and more. We have 10x the amount of cells in our body in bacteria alone; we want that bacteria to be the good kind!
Who it's good for: All adults; especially those who have been on antibiotics recently or frequently, those with digestive disturbances or those who have had problems absorbing nutrients.
What to look for: At least 3-5 billion is a good starting dose; a live form is preferred, though any probiotic is better than no probiotic- and a mix of different strains is always recommended. In addition, increasing the dietary intake of probiotic rich foods is essential; these can be found in fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, buttermilk, kefir and raw cheeses; sauerkraut, fresh pickles, kimchi and kombucha (fermented tea). 1-2 servings a day (at least) is recommended for good health.
Supplement #4: Collagen Peptides Why it's important: Collagen is THE most abundant proteins in our bodies-- and it's vital to our health! However, we begin to lose collagen as we age-- and many lifestyle factors can cause a decrease in collagen production in our bodies. You can get collagen from animal foods, but we rarely eat the part of animal that contains the most collagen (i.e. bones, feet-- you get the gist). Collagen is rich in the amino acid glycine, which is involved in building healthy DNA. In addition, it is incredibly important for gut health- it actually helps increase stomach acid production, something many of us are low on and can contribute to a slew of digestive-related conditions including Acid Reflux, IBS and Leaky Gut. In addition, collagen is necessary for optimal skin, hair and nail health as well as muscle synthesis.
Who it's good for: Adults over the age of 25 (though kids can take it, too!). We lose collagen every year! Athletes, especially, those with any sort of digestive problems and those seeking increased immunity should be supplementing with collagen. What to look for: As collagen does come from animals (usually bovine) sources, it is essential you choose a reputable brand, preferably grass-fed and pastured with minimal processing. My favorite brand is Vital Proteins. It mixes into water with no clumpiness and has virtually no taste. I like to add it to smoothies, tea, soups and more. A scoop or two a day is ideal. Supplement #5: Magnesium Why it's important: Magnesium is a largely under appreciated but incredibly beneficial mineral that, when deficient, can interrupts sleep, cause muscle spasms and cramps, neurological problems and even chronic pain. It is estimated that up to 80% of adult Americans are deficient; so many adults can benefit from supplementation as a calming agent throughout the day, during bouts of muscle cramps, for exercise recovery and for a natural sleep aid.
Who it's good for: All adults; especially those who have sleep troubles, experience difficult recovery from exercise, muscle cramping, anxiety, or stress.
What to look for: There are various forms of Magnesium available. It’s believed that magnesium in citrate, chelate and chloride forms are absorbed better than magnesium supplements in oxide and magnesium sulfate form. I prefer a simple magnesium powder, like Natural Calm (get 15% off at Thrive Market with our link: http://thrv.me/healthymamalife). Start small-- too much magnesium can relax us... sometimes a little too much.
I hope this helped you become a little more informed on some supplements that are nearly universally beneficial in improving our overall health, energy and lives. Questions? Post in the comments section below! For more tips on healthy living, follow along in Instagram, or join us in the Healthy Mama Life Community for daily tips, motivation, monthly workouts, meal plans, exclusive recipes and more!