11 Jun Your Guide to 10 Common Supplements – Which Should You Be Taking?
Dr. Laura Belus | Naturopathic Doctor
With a ton of supplements out there in the market today, where do you start? How do you know which ones are right for you and, more importantly, how to find a quality formula that will actually make a difference?
Look no further. We’ve compiled the top 10 supplements to consider for overall health, who can benefit, and how to pick out the most effective ones.
These essential fatty acids are vital for many functions within the body. Omega-3s are needed for brain, heart and skin health, not to mention helpful to reduce inflammation and pain. Most omega-3 supplements come in the form of fish oil, but you can now find vegetarian sources from algae on the market as well.
Who can benefit: Anyone with heart disease (incl. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history), children for brain development, those with dry skin conditions
How to select the best one: Look at the back label for the actual omega-3 content, referred to as EPA and DHA. For children and heart health, relatively more DHA is usually preferred while for skin and brain function, a balanced formula (or one with more EPA) is the way to go.
Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ since we make it from exposure to the sun, it’s used to help the body build strong bones and maintain healthy hormonal and immune systems, and can improve low mood. However, in Canada (even in the summer), we don’t get enough sunshine to make adequate amounts of this important nutrient on our own. Testing your vitamin D levels with your doctor is encouraged, as those with very low levels can benefit from higher dosing. To maintain adequate levels, it is suggested that adults take 1000IU and children take 400IU each day.
Who can benefit: Almost everyone (unless your blood test shows excess levels)
How to select the best one: Vitamin D should always be taken in the form that is better absorbed by the body—vitamin D3. Also, since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, a liquid formula is preferred over a hard-pressed pill.
These are known as the friendly bacteria for our gut and immune health. Although you can find smaller amounts in foods like yogurt and kombucha, taking it in supplement form will ensure you are getting the proper dosage.
Who can benefit: Anyone who has recently been on antibiotics
What else can it help with: Recurrent sinus infections, gas or bloating
How to select the best one: Probiotics can be overwhelming since there are many types and dosages available. I recommend working with your naturopath or functional medicine doctor to get a personalized suggestion. However, in general, choosing a dairy-free, low dose (5-10 billion) formula is often well tolerated by most people
This is generally a combination of all 8 B-vitamins at higher doses than a multivitamin. B vitamins are vital for energy and metabolism, as well as nerve function and detoxification.
Who can benefit: Vegetarians & vegans
What else can it help with: Lower energy levels, supporting a healthy stress response
How to select the best one: B vitamins are not all created equal. Look for the words active or methylated on the product label for better absorption and greater effects.
This mineral is used in over 300 processes within the body. Although naturally occurring in soil and our environment, levels have diminished over the years and our dietary intake has declined significantly.
Who can benefit: Anyone under high stress
What else can it help with: Anxiety or a tendency to feel nervous, muscle aches & cramps
How to select the best one: When looking at the label, always check to see what type of magnesium you’re getting. Magnesium is bound to another molecule in order to be stable and absorbed, so the specific type does make a difference. For most people, magnesium (bis)glycinate is the best tolerated and excellent for helping to relax and de-stress the body.
Curcumin comes from the spice turmeric and has been made famous for its anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects. It is a fat-soluble nutrient so it should be taken with food.
Who can benefit: Anyone with joint pain or inflammation
What else can it help with: Improving cognitive function, overall health as an antioxidant
How to select the best one: Quality is everything when it comes to curcumin. Since this ingredient is difficult for the body to absorb, formulas that are bound to fat or lipid molecules tend to perform best.
Whether you eat a healthy diet or not, a multivitamin is an excellent way to make sure you take in regular amounts of hard-to-get nutrients like zinc, iron and copper.
Who can benefit:
- Pregnant women or women thinking of becoming pregnant
- Anyone over the age of 50
- Picky eaters
- Vegetarians & vegans
How to select the best one: Multivitamins include all common vitamins and minerals. However, there is only a limited about of ‘real estate’ inside each capsule, so look for formulas that require at least 2 capsules per day for the most comprehensive product. Also, ingredients sourced from whole food extracts have been shown to be well absorbed and easily digested.
It’s not just from oranges! This vitamin is plentiful in leafy green vegetables, peppers, and kiwis, but sometimes we need a bit of an extra boost to help support the body. This vitamin plays an important role in immune system heath (when taken regularly) and collagen formation in the skin, joints and gums, plus it helps to better absorb iron!
Who can benefit: Those with frequent colds/flus, anyone taking an iron supplement
What else can it help with: Anti-aging support for the skin
How to select the best one: I often suggest a powered version to get higher dosages (1000mg or more per serving) in a tasty drink when mixed with water. Vitamin C is best when taken at lower dosages 2-3x per day so keeping a chewable form on hand is also a great idea.
This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood minerals out there! Calcium is known to be the magic ingredient for strong bones but in truth, this is only one of its functions. It helps nerve function, muscle cramps, as well as a healthy blood pressure.
Who can benefit: Anyone over age 40, those with osteoporosis, anyone who limits dairy products or calcium-fortified foods
How to select the best one: Less is more when it comes to this mineral. Over-supplementing calcium can increase your risk of heart disease and kidney stones so aim for less than 400mg at one time, and less than 1000mg per day is often enough for most.
Our bodies naturally release molecules to help us break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins that we get from food. However, with stress, rushed eating or simply aging, our bodies produce less of these digestive enzymes. If our food is improperly broken down, we cannot fully absorb its nutrients, and larger undigested food particles can cause digestive upset.
Who can benefit: Anyone with indigestion, those without a gallbladder, anyone over the age of 60
What else can it help with: Gas or bloating with meals
How to select the best one: First, make sure you don’t have any other reason for your indigestion (ulcer, infection or celiac disease). Selecting a full spectrum digestive enzyme will help to break down fats, proteins and carbs with ease.
Did we miss any of your top supplements on this list? Feel free to comment below with any questions on which core nutrients you feel can help improve your health!
Dr. Laura Belus is a naturopathic doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.