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Toss it or take it? How to be “supplement smart”

To toss it or take it? That is the question when it comes to supplements, that is.

Unfortunately, if you look online to find your answer, you will find a multitude of responses that contradict one another… and are probably doing a really great job of confusing you too.

So we’re here to set the record straight.

Let’s start with what should become your new mantra:


Supplement, don’t substitute.

This is a really simple way to look at it. Because, the truth is, we should only be using supplements to do what their name implies. They should supplement a nutritious diet, and not substitute nutrients you aren’t getting through your everyday food. (But sure, like any rule, there are exceptions. More on this later!)

 

What supplements do I need?
Thanks to things associated with modern life, like fast foods replacing real foods, polluted air and deficient soil, and the pesticides that live in our fruit & veggies, it can be tough to get the nutrient profile we need through foods alone.

So, if your diet is lacking in variety specifically when it comes to fruits and vegetables or if you don’t eat fatty fish like salmon regularly or AT ALL, you’ll want to be sure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs for optimal health. This means you may want to consider supplementing with one (or all) of the supplements below:

 

Fish oil

  • Known as: a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Recommended for: boosting mood; reducing joint pain; overall health
  • Pro Tip! Fish oil can be a dirty business. Choose wisely.

Find a full list of benefits here.

 

Magnesium

  • Known as: a mineral that keeps your brain healthy and calm
  • Recommended for: migraine and chronic pain; reducing anxiety; minimizing your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes
  • Pro Tip! Here’s how to determine the best form of magnesium for you.

For more information on the benefits of magnesium, click here.

 

Vitamin D

  • Known as: “the sunshine vitamin”
  • Recommended for: boosting mood; maintaining bone health; avoiding cognitive decline
  • Pro Tip! Vitamin D is often combined with K2 to slow arterial calcification, which can help minimize your risk of heart disease and stroke.

More on why we’re probably all Vitamin D-deficient here.

 

A good multivitamin

  • Known as: a supplement that packs it all into one little pill*
  • Recommended for: women during their childbearing years (folic acid); those who don’t get enough sunlight (vitamin D); vegetarians (vitamin B12); older people who are concerned about developing macular degeneration
  • Pro Tip! Ensure you are buying a high-quality multivitamin, as many contain fillers, like sugar, synthetic color and additives.

 

*While recent studies have discovered there are no added benefits  for those who eat a well-balanced diet (likely because multivitamins don’t have sufficient amounts of each vitamin and nutrient they contain), there’s still one good argument for taking one. Mainly, if you don’t eat a whole-foods based diet (or if you do eat a diet high in processed foods) and you’re worried about not getting enough vitamins and minerals, you may want to consider “topping up” with a good multivitamin.

 

What if your diet is lacking certain nutrients for reasons beyond your control?

For some of us, lifestyle choices, dietary restrictions, age and health conditions can negatively impact our nutritional intake. In these cases, additional supplements (like the ones noted below) may be beneficial.

 

B12

  • Known as: the nutrient you get from “animal foods” (only!)
  • Recommended for: vegans & vegetarians  

Calcium

  • Known as: the “healthy teeth, healthy bones” mineral
  • Recommended for: women (as they age)

Iron

  • Known as: the mineral we lose when we bleed
  • Recommended for: anyone suffering from anemia

Zinc

  • Known as: having a role in the production of testosterone
  • Recommended for: athletes (especially if they sweat excessively)

If you’re on prescription medication(s), your body may not be absorbing nutrients as it should, and you may very well be deficient in one more nutrients no matter how well you eat. That said, speak with your doctor before taking supplements in case of contraindication or otherwise.

No matter what your health status, always review your diet, exercise regimen, and other habits, and be sure to speak with your doctor or naturopath before deciding on which supplements might be right for you.

 

Want to learn more? Find a good source of evidenced-based information on supplements here.

 

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