Sure, you eat pretty healthy, but are you getting all the daily nutrients your body needs to function at its best? Probably not.
In a 2016 survey of American adults and children, nearly every participant fell short on some essential nutrients (like vitamin D and magnesium), suggesting that many of us need supplements to meet our needs.
Of course, which supplements you should take depends on your individual diet, nutritional needs, and overall health—but here’s a peek at the vitamins and supplements doctors take themselves. As the saying goes, doctor knows best!
1. Vitamin C
That’s right, vitamin C offers both internal and external benefits—and Goldfaden particularly loves it for healthy skin. Since vitamin C has beneficial effects on our production of collagen, it can help keep our skin firm and strong, he says.
Since we can’t produce vitamin C on our own, Goldfaden recommends loading up on C-containing foods and adding a supplement to your daily routine. (Peppers, citrus fruits, and kale are good sources of the vitamin.)
Our pick: The Vitamin Shoppe brand Vitamin C
All of the eight vitamins in the B vitamin family have unique responsibilities, explains Luiza Petre, M.D., NYC-based cardiologist and weight management specialist. However, they are all tasked with the very important job of keeping your digestive system healthy and helping the body eliminate toxins.
A few superstar Bs Petre recommends in a B-complex supplement:
- B12, which supports energy and brain function
- B7 (a.k.a. biotin), which supports healthy hair and nails
- B3 (a.k.a. niacin), which supports healthy skin, fat metabolism, and energy production
- B9 (a.k.a. folate), which produces new cells and is essential for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Our pick: plnt brand Whole Food B-Complex
3. Vitamin D
Though we’ve been taught to avoid too much sun exposure, our body needs the essential nutrient we naturally glean from the sun’s rays: vitamin D. Considering we spend most of our time indoors—and slather on sunscreen when we do go outside—it’s important to get our vitamin D in supplement form.
“Vitamin D has the ability to activate over 2,000 genes, increases the effectiveness of our immune cells, and so much more,” explains Terry Wahls, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, who takes vitamin D as needed.
Our pick: The Vitamin Shoppe brand Vitamin D3
4. Omega-3 Fish Oil
Plenty of research supports the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat found mostly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. (From eye health to brain health to immune health, the list of health perks is long.)
Since not everyone is fond of fish, supplements come in handy, says board-certified doctor of oriental medicine and acupuncture Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., D.O.M. Consuming ample omega-3s is especially important for people with immune, mood, or cardiovascular health issues.
One note: “Patients on blood thinners should consult with their physician before supplementing, as fish oil thins the blood,” Trattner says.
Our pick: Vthrive Premium Omega-3 Fish Oil with D3
Many of us are deficient in this essential mineral, which supports immune function, metabolism, and DNA synthesis. (Zinc can be tricky to get from food, since boiling or stewing foods can deplete their zinc content.)
Related: 5 Myths About Your Metabolism—Busted
That’s why Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose, N.D. takes zinc daily, especially when she’s feeling under the weather. “If I ever feel a tickle in my throat or have a head cold, zinc is one of my immune supporters,” she says.
Our pick: The Vitamin Shoppe brand Zinc
Probiotics, or the ‘good’ bacteria in our gut, benefit health in a number of ways, from digestion to immune function. According to Goldfaden, through their role in our immune system, probiotics can even support healthy skin, helping to ward off redness.
Though many people can benefit from daily probiotic supplementation, it’s especially important after a course of antibiotics, which can wipe out our gut’s good bacteria.
According to Barbara Joy Jones, D.O., a physician at Gwinnett Medical Center in Georgia, turmeric has long been used to support joint health and boost the immune system.
Our pick: plnt brand Organic Liquid Turmeric
8. Hemp Protein
“Hemp seed-derived protein is easy to digest compared to other plant sources of protein and dairy sources,” says Rose. “It contains essential amino acids and fiber, which helps promote bowel regularity.”
Rose likes using hemp protein to boost the nutrient-density of baked goods, like muffins and pancakes, as well as smoothies.
Our pick: Nutiva Organic Non-GMO Hemp Protein
Ashwagandha, which has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, has been shown to support a healthy stress response and boost mood and brain function, says Christopher Zoumalan, M.D. F.A.C.S., Beverly Hills-based oculoplastic surgeon.
“It’s one of my favorite supplements to take because it’s backed by science,” he says.
Our pick: plnt brand Ashwagandha
Technically named Sambucus nigra, this species of flower plants packs a powerful nutritional punch. “Elderberry contains potent antioxidants that not only support immune health, but also heart health,” says Rose. In fact, it’s both a traditional and modern-day go-to for anyone feeling under the weather—and may help your immune system bounce back quicker.
Rose turns to elderberry whenever she feels something coming on.