For some people, a well balanced diet alone cannot guarantee their body will get all the daily nutrients it needs to function at its best. This is where supplements come in. Dietary supplements are big business. A business that generates about $30 billion every year in the United States. For a long time there has been debate about the effectiveness of supplements. Adding to the complexity is that recommendations can be found everywhere from social media to friends and family.
So which ones are right for me? Which supplements you should take depends on your individual nutritional needs and overall health, but here are 8 supplements every adult should know about.
1. Vitamin D
Yes, while it is true that over exposure to the sun can be damaging to our skin, we do need the sun's rays for Vitamin D formation in our bodies. These days, we spend most of our time indoors so it's important to get vitamin D in supplement form.
Vitamin D functions to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both of which are critical for building and maintaining bone. Also, studies have shown that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation. The recommended daily intake, or RDI, for vitamin D at 600 international units (IU) daily for young adults and 800 IU daily for adults older than 70.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning we need it fromoutside sources since our bodies cannot produce it. It’s water-soluble and found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach. The RDI for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.
Vitamin C plays a role in boosting immunity, treating colds, reducing stroke risk, decreasing blood pressure, increasing bone density, and promoting collagen production in skin.
There are eight vitamins in the B vitamin family each responsible for different things. They work collectively however to maintain digestive health and eliminate toxins from the body. Here are some of individual B vitamins and their function.
- B12- supports energy and brain function
- B7 (biotin)- healthy hair, skin, and nails
- B3 (niacin)- healthy skin and fat metabolism
- B9 (folate)- promotes cellular production and is essential for pregnant and breastfeeding women
My recommendation would be a B-complex vitamin which contains all the B’s you’ll need.
Zinc deficiency is one of the more common deficiencies because the way we cook most of our food strips it away. It supports our immune systems and metabolism. Next time you feel a tickle in your throat or cold coming on, fortify yourself with some zinc.
Bacteria get a bad rap so the idea of taking them intentionally in capsule form sounds like a bad idea. As humans we have both good and bad bacteria in our bodies. Probiotics are made of good live bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally occur in our bodies. When infections and inflammation occur, the bad bacteria dominate, upsetting the balance of the system. Taking probiotics, or good bacteria, helps to eliminate extra bad bacteria and return the body to equilibrium.
Probiotic supplement dosage is measured in colony forming units, or CFUs. A probiotic supplement should offer at least 1 billion CFUs per dose for adults. Remember this is a marathon not a sprint. The key is to take probiotics consistently to maintain gut health.
6. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The two main types of fatty acids are saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Saturated fats are the “unhealthy” fats because they increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) are considered or “healthy” fats because they support heart health when used in moderation. Unsaturated fat further breaks down into polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.
Omega-3s fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat and they are essential nutrients, meaning they can’t be produced by the body and need to come from the diet. The benefits are numerous but in a nutshell they have been shown to enhance eyesight, optimize skin health, boost brain function, fight inflammation, improve sleep, alleviate autommine flares associated with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, helps and eczema, and they even play a protective role against cancer.
There 4 kidns of Omega-3s
- Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)- green leafy veggies, flaxseeds, chia seeds
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)- fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, shellfish, and herring
- Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA)- fatty fish as above
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)- fatty fish as above
Most health organizations recommend 250-500mg of EPA and DHA daily. Those with medical conditions like heart disease and high cholesterol can benefit from up to 4,000 mg daily.
In recent years it seems like turmeric has popped up everywhere. But turmeric is more than the newest trend. It is a plant native to Southeast Asia, where it has a centuries long history of use for upper respiratory infections, skin conditions, arthritis and joint pain, digestion, improving memory, detoxification, and more. The root of the turmeric plant contains most of its medicinal properties and it is dried and made into the capsules we find in stores today. The World Health Organization found that 1.4 mg of turmeric per pound of body weight is suitable for daily intake.
8. Folic Acid
If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or simply a woman of childbearing age, folic acid should be in your medicine cabinet. Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body uses to manufacture DNA. DNA is required for cell division and organ and tissue formation. It makes sense that this vitamin becomes even more important in pregnancy. 400 mcg daily is the recommendation and taking it prevents major birth defects of a baby’s brain and spine known as neural tube defects.
The decision to take supplements should be made with caution. Not all supplements are created equal and there can be dangers of taking too much of a good thing. At Elam Health and Wellness Dr. Stephanie Opusunju is a skilled internist who is happy to guide you in that decision making based on your body's unique needs.