To supplement or not to supplement… That is a question that many of us have found ourselves faced with over the years.
Supplements—and whether or not to take them—have been a hot topic of debate over the last century, and for good reason. But the good news is that the debaters seem to finally be coming to a consensus: most people require some form of supplement.
In a perfect world—where we eat a balanced diet, the soil our food is grown in is rich with nutrients, and where we’re not exposed to chemicals or pesticides daily—the only supplement that we would need to take is Vitamin D. But only during the winter months when we don’t get enough naturally.
I for one wish that we lived in the world, but the truth is, a growing number of us don’t. Which is the main reason why we need to add supplements to our regular diet.
But what supplements should you take, and when?
When it comes to choosing which supplements there is one key thing that you should keep in mind: different people require different supplements.
We are all unique, so just because your friend is taking (and loving) a particular supplement, doesn’t mean that that same supplement will work for you.
I like to think about it like this: Different circumstances = different nutrients.
Here are the basic supplements that I recommendation, and why
- Omega 3 – These fats are critical for brain function, mood, improving your metabolism, preventing diabetes, reducing inflammation and more; and most people are deficient in them.
- Vitamin D – Since most of us work inside, or live in a place like Vancouver where sunshine can be rare in the winer, it is essential to supplement this vitamin. Vitamin D affects your mood, energy and how your body stores calcium, so I highly recommend adding a supplement to your diet.
- Magnesium – A good number of people are magnesium deficient—primarily due to the fact that we don’t have enough greens and beans in our diet. Another reason I recommend magnesium is due to the fact that many of us also consume foods that deplete magnesium; such as overconsumption of coffee, pop and alcohol, as well as chronic stress. Low magnesium can lead to muscle cramps, headaches, constipation, palpitations, anxiety and insomnia. So if you have any of those symptoms, you should definitely consider a magnesium supplement.
Now that we’ve covered a few of my favourites, here are the supplements that the average person should take.
If you have symptoms of illness or are on any other medications, please speak to your naturopath or doctor before taking these.
- A good quality Multi-vitamin
- Omega 3’s – Recent studies suggest that you should avoid cod liver oil; as it can have high levels of toxins
- Vitamin D – Most people need 2000-4000IU daily in the winter. Or 15-minutes of direct sunlight without sunscreen will provide you with your daily dose .
- Calcium & Magnesium – Calcium & magnesium go together like peas and carrots. They are absorbed better when taken together, as well as perform at their best. **If you are taking an iron supplement, make sure that you take your calcium/magnesium at another time; as it can block iron absorption.
Selecting a Supplement
In terms of which brands you should look to when purchasing your supplements, I like Sisu, Natural Factors, Progressive and Renew Life Brands. But as long as they are good quality, and don’t include artificial dyes, flavours or have added sugars you will get the benefits that you are looking for from them.
Food for Thought
Whether you’re pro or against taking supplements, there’s one thing I think we can all agree on: when it comes right down to it, the food that you feed yourself with is crucial to your health.
Make sure that you make a conscious effort to get what your body needs from your food, before you turn to supplements. Whether that means having salmon 1 night a week, (a great source of Omega 3’s) or adding beans to your regular diet (like chickpeas) make strides to get the nutrients your body needs naturally; only adding supplements to your diet as you need them.
When I’m feeling stressed I look to my diet to get extra B vitamins before I turn to a B complex supplement, or load-up on vitamin C rich food and garlic when I’m feeling rundown.
As their name suggests, supplements are supplements. So when you’re body is not getting what it needs naturally, consider taking them. But before you do, look to your diet first. If you’re feeling rundown, stressed or have headaches and are not eating a balanced diet, there’s a good chance that’s the reason why. If you are, supplement as needed.
Happy eating and healthy living!