Along any personal health and wellness journey—whether you’re learning to live more mindfully, training for a fitness competition, or simply nourishing your body with more fruits and veggies—supplements can help push you closer towards your goals.
Individual goals vary, of course, but there are some supplements we can all benefit from from taking. These three foundational health essentials make a worthy addition to any daily routine.
In a perfect world, our diets would provide all of the essential nutrients our bodies need. The reality, though, is that “a significant percentage of Americans don’t meet their daily requirements for most essential nutrients,” says Brian Tanzer, M.S., C.N.S., manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe. In fact, almost all Americans fall short on vitamin D and vitamin E, half miss the mark on vitamin C, and a third need more vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium.
That’s where a multivitamin comes in. “A multivitamin can help you fill in any gaps in your diet and ensure you get all of your essential vitamins and minerals on a daily basis,” says Tanzer. With a multi in your routine, you’ll cover your basic nutritional bases, even on the days you skimp on your regular veggies.
The typical American lifestyle doesn’t just sabotage our nutrient intake, but our gut health, too. “Poor diet, chemicals in food, prescription drugs, and stress can all affect gut flora, the bacteria that live in our digestive system,” says Tanzer. When our gut flora (collectively known as our microbiome) fall out of balance, digestive issues, immune issues, and more can ensue.
While a supplement can’t negate the gut damage inflicted by a poor diet, taking a probiotic provides healthy gut bacteria that support overall digestive health, nutrient absorption, and the immune system (about 60 percent of which resides in the gut), says Tanzer.
“The gut is often the entry-way for pathogens to get into our bloodstream, so it’s important to make sure its defenses are strong,” he explains.
Since there are some subtle differences in the benefits different bacteria provide and where they reside in the gut, Tanzer recommends looking for a probiotic supplement that contains a combination of various lactobacillus and bifido bacteria strains.
While potencies higher than 100 billion CFU per serving may be necessary for those who need to replenish good bacteria after taking antibiotics, a 3-billion-CFU supplement will do the trick for everyday maintenance.
Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA play a number of important roles in the body, most notably for cardiovascular, brain, and eye health. Issue is, most Americans don’t consume enough of them because we typically eat little fish (the best source of omega-3s) and can produce very little omega-3s from the fatty acids found in plant-based sources, Tanzer explains.
Many of us also consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids (found in the vegetable oils used to make many processed foods), which disrupts our body’s preferred balance of omega-6s and omega-3s. (While an ideal ratio is about 4:1 omega-6s to omega-3s, the average American eats a ratio of about 20:1.)
That’s why Tanzer recommends taking a fish oil supplement that contains at least 500 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA every day. Only buy from reputable brands (like The Vitamin Shoppe brand) that test for heavy metals, such as mercury, and other impurities that can be found in fish oil.
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