Top 6 Supplements for Overall Health

brain health healthy eating healthy recipes real food resilience sugarfree May 22, 2022

Do your eyes get blurry whenever you look at the array of supplements now available?

Are you unsure about which ones should you take?  Which brands?  Or if you even need them at all?

Last week I talked about what you should know before buying supplements - if you missed it, click HERE.

Today, I’m going to discuss WHICH supplements you might want to consider for the health of your brain and body.  As I've said many times, I recommend getting as many of your required nutrients from Real Food, but if that’s not possible–and it's true that conventionally grown foods today don’t contain as many nutrients as they used to, due to issues like poor soil quality–then you might want to consider supplementation.

Disclaimer!  These are general recommendations that may benefit most people, however every body (everybody) is different and not all may apply to you.  For specific recommendations for YOU, including which brands are the highest quality and worth what you pay, see your health care professional and shop at a trusted health food store.

My Top 6 Supplement Recommendations

These supplements are especially important, because unfortunately we simply don't get enough of them in our foods.  And they're absolutely critical to optimal health and wellness–especially as we age!

1. Vitamin D

While originally named a vitamin, Vitamin D is actually a hormone produced by the kidneys that helps to control the concentration of calcium in the blood and it is vital for the development of strong bones..

If you live in North America chances are you are low in vitamin D.  It's the “sunshine vitamin” and we just aren't able to hang out in shorts every day of the year. 

Vitamin D is very important for everyone but especially women over 45.  Want to know why?

Because it helps to protect our bones!

Vitamin D helps our body absorb and keep the calcium we get from our food and drinks.  And we all know that calcium is one of the main things making up our bones.

And here's something else: People who get enough vitamin D tend to fall less frequently.  Especially as we get older.  Vitamin D can help your bones stay strong and help you fall less.  Win-win!

See more about this critical nutrient HERE.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for over 300 reactions in your body.

As with vitamin D it's very common for us to simply not get enough.  Not even the 320 mg per day that's recommended.

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, low bone density, and even migraines.

Magnesium is found in many healthy whole foods like beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.  In fact, the magnesium element is central to a plant's chlorophyll – it's actually what causes green plants to be green!  But most of us just don't get enough green plants into our bodies on a regular basis.  (You know I have a recipe with leafy greens for you below, right?).

Magnesium is a very common supplement and is often added to multivitamins.

3. Omega-3s

We've all heard that we need to get more omega-3 essential fatty acids, right?  They're good for our hearts, brains, and help to reduce inflammation.

These are all good things when it comes to our health and wellness.

One way to get more Omegas is to eat fish a few times per week.  But with concerns about the health of farmed fish and mercury toxicity, is there another way?

While fish oil supplements contain the “brain healthy” fats called EPA and DHA, those two are not technically the “essential” fats.  The plant omega-3 known as ALA is essential and that is because our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA when necessary.

Omega-3 supplements can be found in forms of flax oil, algae oil, fish oil, or even fish liver oil.

Pro Tip:  Fish liver oil (e.g. cod liver oil) also contains vitamin D so check your labels and add the amounts together to know how much vitamin D you're actually getting.

4. Vitamins A, C and E

Also known as antioxidants, these are often available in combination (along with selenium and zinc), and are important to protect against the damage caused by free radicals.  Free radicals are constantly being formed in your body through the normal metabolic functions, and they are linked to multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 

We can get antioxidants in food, especially in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based, whole foods, but let’s face it, it takes a lot of effort to eat 8 - 10 daily servings of these plant powerhouses on a regular basis!

A cautionary note: Dietary intake of antioxidants is essential for optimal health, but more is not always better. Excessive intake of isolated antioxidants can have toxic effects and may even promote rather than prevent oxidative damage — a phenomenon termed the “antioxidant paradox.”

5. B Vitamins

B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folate, are important for your metabolism, supporting cellular processes, growth and energy expenditure, preventing fatigue, andboosting cognitive functions.

Deficiencies in various B vitamins can leave you feeling sluggish and moody. B vitamins help convert nutrients from the foods you eat into usable fuel for the body, so taking a B complex supplement can make sure you’re in the optimal range.

Plant-based eaters who avoid meat (vegetarians/vegans) are more likely to be low in B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, which is only found in animal foods, therefore supplementing is recommended. Even if you consume the daily B vitamins you need (from eating things like beef, poultry and eggs), you might still have trouble with proper absorption (such as of vitamin B12) due to medication use or health conditions that impair gut health.

6. Probiotics 

Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Certain strains of probiotics enhance immune function, whereas others promote health or hormone balance. Your “good gut bugs” help produce vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K; crowd out bad microbes; create enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria; and stimulate secretion of IgA and regulatory T-cells, which support immune function.

It’s best to take a probiotic that has at least 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units) and has strain diversity, including multiple bacterial strains, such as Bacillus clausii, Bacillussubtilis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

Dosage Recommendations

When buying supplements, always refer to the supplement facts panel found on the bottle/package that lists the contents, amount of active ingredients per serving, other added ingredients (like fillers, binders and flavourings) and recommended dosage.

Supplement manufacturers will suggest the serving size that is recommended for most adults, but because your needs may vary, speak with your healthcare provider.

Remember that moderation is key with supplements–just because a nutrient is considered essential doesn’t necessarily mean that taking more is always better.

And because some medications might interact with supplements, check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that your plan for supplements doesn’t interfere with your medications.

Conclusions

We still want to eat healthy, unprocessed Real Foods, to give us as many nutrients as we can get from them, but if that’s not possible, consider supplementation.

And keep reading for another nutrient-packed recipe below!

Recipe: Raw Green Smoothie

I call this “RAW” because there is no added sweetener. But you may want to ease your way in by adding just a small amount (1 tsp) of natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, or maybe 1/4 cup of blueberries, or 1/2 apple. Just until your taste buds adapt!

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ Cucumber (about 5 inches, roughly chopped)
  • 5 stalks Celery (roughly chopped)
  • 1-inch Ginger Root (sliced)
  • 1 Avocado (peeled and pitted)
  • 2 cups Baby Spinach
  • 1 cup Kale Leaves
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • Sea Salt (to taste)

Directions

  1. Place water, cucumber, celery, ginger and avocado into your blender. Blend very well until completely smooth.
  2. Add spinach, kale (or your choice of other greens), as well as lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Blend very well until completely smooth.
  3. Divide into 2 large mason jars for easy storage. Enjoy 1 today, and save the second, stored in the fridge, for tomorrow!

Notes

  • This will make about 4 - 5 cups of healthy, raw green smoothie!
  • Switch your greens for others of your choice: collards, chard, lettuce, parsley, dandelion greens, parsley, mint, etc.
  • Add your choice of spices, pepper, a 1/2-inch of fresh jalapeno pepper, more ginger, etc.
  • Add more water as needed for desired consistency.
  • More Protein: Add a scoop of protein powder or hemp seeds.
  • More Fat: Add a tablespoon of coconut oil or MCT oil.

Nutrition (per serving)

  • Calories 200
  • Fat 15 g
  • Carbs 17 g
  • Fiber 10 g
  • Sugar 4 g
  • Protein 4 g
  • Sodium 123 mg
  • Potassium 1077 mg
  • Vitamin A 3993 IU
  • Vitamin C 35 mg
  • Vitamin D 0 IU
  • Magnesium 83 mg

References

https://examine.com/supplements/Vitamin+D/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/antioxidant-supplements#risks

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics



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