You try to be healthy every day by eating right, getting exercise, and getting the right amount of sleep. Most people, though, simply assume that by eating healthy, they are getting the nutrients the body needs to remain strong and functioning at optimal levels. Although eating well and minimizing simple carbohydrates, fried and processed foods is a decent start, most of us are still deficient in key nutrients, especially if we stick to a more Westernized diet.
Even with incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our daily diets, nutrients can still be lacking. Agricultural changes with genetically modified organisms, pesticides, depletion of nutrients in soil, and climate change have lessened the availability of vitamins and minerals in our food. That why eating organic is a start, but it’s not the complete picture of wellness.
It might be time to find a supplement.
Introducing the Big Five
There’s a supplement out there for every vitamin and mineral known to humankind. Some are more beneficial to you than others. For instance, you might be more depleted in B12 than someone else, and they might have less iron than you. Vitamin deficiency is highly dependent on your genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, and current health condition, after all.
But, with that in mind, what are the five supplements that anyone can take? Here they are:
- Vitamin D
Now, for a cautionary tale: Beware of the brand. Not all brands make quality supplements. Others will glut the supplement with vitamins and minerals, and this can be dangerous if you use it every day. Just as nutrients can be good for you with proper dosages, going overboard can be toxic. Therefore, invest in top-quality supplements with no added fillers.
There are two types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. The first set can dissolve within water, meaning they are present in our blood and other places where water exists. These are all the B vitamins and vitamin C. However, because they are water soluble, they can’t be stored in the body. Fat soluble vitamins, on the other hand, need fat to dissolve into the body and are vitamins A, D, E, and K. That is why people who have low percentages of body fat often have deficiencies in these four vitamins.
Vitamins are unfortunately vulnerable to chemical agents, heat, light, and processing, meaning that it is hard to preserve the integrity of vitamins through food alone. Be sure to take a multivitamin that contains the full spectrum of fat and water soluble vitamins with percentages of 100% of the RDA. That way, you can take the supplement daily without worrying about overdosing.
There are three types of omega fatty acids, or triglycerides, found in food—omega-3, 6, and 9, which are named by the chemical chains they form. Unlike omega-6s and omega-9s that are abundant in the North American diet of animal proteins, people tend to lack omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6s, when eaten in high amounts, will cause inflammation, heart disease, and high LDL cholesterol. By limiting food high in saturated fat, you can cut down on omega-6 intake, but you would still need to up your omega-3s.
The reason you want omega-3s over the others is for the following reasons:
Are you one of the many people who think that your 15 minutes in the sun is really enough to get you the vitamin D you need? When then do statistics show that 85% of North Americans are deficient in vitamin D? Sun exposure alone is not enough, especially during the winter months. You need adequate levels of vitamin D throughout life, because it helps support calcium absorption and a number of other processes, such as hormone production, neurotransmitter release, and immune function.
Supplementation is important during the winter months. Aim for at least 600-1,000 IU per day to get the recommended daily allowance. Consider having your vitamin D levels tested to ensure the exact amount you need to avoid deficiency.
Bodybuilders and athletes aren’t the only ones who need protein throughout the day. Protein is less important for energy and more for building and repairing tissues, supporting the immune system, enzyme production, cellular transmission and more. Although the recommended amount is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, most people need a little more. The problem is that quality protein can be really filling, especially if you are eating nuts, seeds, legumes, and other food sources throughout the day.
The good news is that quality protein supplements are rich in protein without adding too many calories or making you feel bloated. You can choose whey protein or egg white protein (animal-based) or soy, hemp, pea, or rice for plant-based protein powder.
Yogurt’s not enough. If you are experiencing digestive discomfort, low levels of energy, or even feel moody and grumpy, your gut’s microbiome could be to blame. 50% of the human body is made up of bacteria, and most of the healthy and beneficial bacteria is in your GI tract. You need to keep that microbiome healthy, or else absorption of nutrients, regulation of allergens, and neurotransmitter production gets messed up.
By taking a probiotic supplement, you benefit from the following:
- Healthier digestion
- Increased nutrient absorption
- Lowered bad cholesterol
- Heightened immune system
- Better liver detoxification
- More efficient waste removal
- Increased serotonin production (80% of it is produced in the GI tract)
In short, if you want to be healthier, you should add the big five supplements to your daily regimen. By covering the holes in your nutrition, you can better you internal functions and thus feel happier, healthier, and more energized throughout the day.