Whether you’ve been taking them since the days of Flintstones chewable multivitamins or only recently started dabbling with supplementation, chances are you’re no stranger to the vast variety of pills, powders, tinctures, and gummies that can support your health and wellness. In fact, research shows that just shy of 58 percent of American adults have taken a supplement at some point in the last month—and that more people are taking supplements now than in decades past.
Of course, what you take depends on your specific health status, lifestyle, and goals. With so many options out there, it’s easy to customize your routine to support your athletic performance or build muscle, promote healthy skin from the inside out, feel more focused and energized throughout the day, the list goes on.
The Most Popular Supplements
That said, there are a few supplements in particular that prove popular across the board, finding their way into the regimens of adults of all ages. According to recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, which the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)—part of the CDC—regularly collects from people across the country, multivitamins, vitamin D, and omega-3 supplements are the most popular of all the options out there, among everyone from young adults to those who are over the hill.
Could You Benefit From A Multivitamin?
If there’s one supplement you probably already take, it’s a multivitamin—and there’s good reason for that. “Everyone can benefit from a multivitamin,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N. “Nobody eats a perfect diet, so a multivitamin fills in the gaps of your diet by providing you with the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals to support the proper functioning of your body.”
Because our body uses vitamins and minerals for such a wide variety of different processes, falling short on them can affect everything from focus and mood to energy levels, Schnell says. Some of these nutrients also fight against free radicals that contribute to a wide of health concerns related to heart health, metabolic health, cognition, and more.
Given that, it’s definitely not a bad idea to incorporate a multivitamin into your routine to ensure you meet your daily needs for key vitamins and minerals. Think of it as an insurance policy for your nutrition.
One thing Schnell recommends keeping in mind: Look for a multivitamin that also contains some minerals (like calcium, magnesium, and potassium), since they’re sometimes left out of formulas.
Would A Vitamin D Supplement Do You Good?
Vitamin D is gaining a lot of attention these days, with up to 42 percent of American adults estimated to be deficient. Considering all of the important roles vitamin D plays in our health—from immune function to mood support to bone health—that’s a pretty big problem. According to Schnell, there are a number of factors that contribute to deficiency being so widespread:
- Many people spend most of their time indoors
- Many people live in areas that don’t get sun year round
- elderly people have thinner skin, which makes it difficult to absorb vitamin D from the sun
- people with darker skin tones have higher levels of melanin in their skin, which means less vitamin D is absorbed
- many people wear sunscreen, which blocks their ability to absorb vitamin D from the sun
Since these factors increase your risk for vitamin D deficiency, they also increase the importance of getting vitamin D from food sources and/or supplements, Schnell says. And since the standard American diet often lacks natural food sources of vitamin D, such as fatty fish, eggs, and beef, it’s no wonder vitamin D has become one of the most popular supplements.
If you’re concerned about your vitamin D status, talk to a healthcare provider about testing your levels. From there, you can create a plan for boosting them, which will likely involve mindful sun exposure, nutritional tweaks, and supplementation.
Should You Supplement With Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids have long gotten credit for their heart and brain health benefits—and they’re also important for joint, mood, and eye health, as well, says Schnell. Unfortunately, loads of people don’t get ample omega-3s, which are found most prominently in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. Not only do we eat too little of these foods but we also consume too many omega-6s (pro-inflammatory fats found in many processed foods), throwing the ideal ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s way out of balance, she explains. This can contribute to heart, immune, and other health issues.
Though many healthcare providers do not test regularly for omega-3 deficiency, some signs that you’re not getting enough of these important fats include dry and irritated skin, thinning hair or hair loss, dry eyes, joint complaints, and low mood, Schnell says. If you suspect you may not be meeting your omega-3 needs, Schnell recommends cutting back on processed foods, eating more of those omega-3-rich foods, and considering an omega-3 supplement.
The Bottom Line
Clearly, there’s a reason that multivitamins, vitamin D, and omega-3s rank as the top three most popular supplements in America—and amongst people of all ages. It never hurts to check in with a qualified healthcare professional to get a sense of how you’re doing with meeting your different nutrient needs and discuss whether adding certain supplements to your routine can benefit your health and wellbeing. (Not sure where to start? Learn more about The Vitamin Shoppe’s free nutrition coaching here.)