Supplements: What to take, what’s a waste of money and what could potentially do you harm – it’s a ridiculously competitive market with so much choice, extreme price points and a mind-bogglingly complex range of options from multies, powders, capsules, pressed tablets, chelated, food state, etc.
I have been through phases of taking loads of different supplements on a daily basis, spending hours researching, trying to discern not only what is required to boost an already healthy diet, but in what form. Should my magnesium be citrate, definitely not oxide right? But what about glycinate, aspartate and orotate? It’s my job to know about this stuff and it takes a lot of reading, researching and sifting through all the marketing hype to make any kind of sense of it all, and it’s still confusing!
However, I am now looking at supplements differently. Rather than trying to replace what is apparently missing in today’s produce due to our depleted soils and dubious farming methods, I am plumping for eating the freshest, local, organic produce I can find, hoping that it is sufficiently nutrient rich. When it comes to supplements, I am focusing instead on a few really well-researched supps which, rather than providing specific vitamins and minerals, offer incredible properties to enhance my biological functioning. This way, my body will be able to absorb and utilise the nutrients in my food in the best way possible.
So, my few current must-haves:
Omega 3 fatty acids – just too hard to get enough from food – oily fish being the best source; 5 portions a week for adequate intake of these incredible oils, and I am certainly not managing that, largely because sourcing really fresh oily fish, sustainably sourced is very tricky. I have blogged about the many amazing properties of omega 3, so to briefly sum up, it’s massively anti-inflammatory; immune boosting; hormone stabilising; brain fueling; skin and hair nourishing; helps to keep blood vessels flexible and blood fats well balanced. So, a must have. Remember, plant sources like flax seeds, grasses, nuts etc. are not in the form that the body can use, so to get the EPA and DHA your body can use, the best sources are oily fish or fish oil supplements, krill oil supplements (yes, I did see Hugh’s depressing tv show on the harvesting of krill – I’m still struggling with this but the health benefits to humans, are outstanding) and for vegetarians, there is an algae that contains the EPA and DHA. When it comes to fish oils which supplements, go for high potency, sustainably sourced, stable, in dark bottles, which have been screened for heavy metasl and other pollutants. Look for the EPA and DHA content – this is what’s key, not the overall fish oil content.
Curcumin – so much research has come out recently confirming the many health benefits of the spice turmeric. We have known for a long time that it is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is also showing very promising signs of offering protection and support to neurological functions as well as significant cancer protection. It is a real nutritional super-hero and can be taken in capsule form or simply use the spice in cooking as much as possible. As I don’t use it in my cooking I take a supplement that also contains ginger and pepper to enhance the properties of curcumin. I was told by a client recently that she was given turmeric powder in a glass of milk at night time when she was a child, and she loved it – so that’s an option too.
Vitamin D3 – well, this is a fairly standard supplement but one that works more like a hormone in the body and is so hard to get enough naturally due to our appalling weather, I think it is essential to supplement. For bone health, mood support, boosting immunity and protection from many cancers, it is now widely accepted that most people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D so need to be taking it in pill form. D3 rather than D2 is the form to take.
NAC – OK, last one I promise! I have been reading a lot about an amazingly powerful antioxidant called glutathione. We make it in all our cells to protect from free radical damage (the precursor to many diseases). As we age we produce less glutathione. Add in stress, caffeine, other toxins, medications, poorly functioning digestion and an overwhelmed liver and chances are you’re producing very little of this super-charged anti-oxidant. Taking it as a supplement is a TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY as it will not survive the digestive process. But you can take a supplement containing one of the key ingredients to help your body make more of it. N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is readily available in capsule form and can seriously enhance your liver function and cellular protection.
The only other thing I take, but not all the time, is some really good quality, high strength, multi-strain probiotics, but only now and again. Our gut flora is always under attack so topping up with some probiotics every few months for 5 – 7 days is a good idea. Unless of course you’ve taken antibiotics or are particularly under stress and/or run down. Then you definitely need to take probiotics for at least 30 days using probiotics containing at least 20 billion per capsule.
So, I hope that helps. It certainly will help your pocket as I sincerely believe many supplements are a waste of money -best case scenario they are so poorly absorbed they do nothing and worse case scenario they burden the liver and throw out the delicate balance of nutrients in the body. Of course, for specific ailments, certain, careful supplementation as recommended by someone who knows what they’re talking about can make a big difference, but it’s really not worth spending the time and money trying to work out what you need without some professional guidance. Good luck! 😉