Let’s get some clarity around the issue of supplements.
Out of all the confusing points of contention in the health and fitness world, supplements are right up there. There are a lot of products with big promises, some of them very expensive and with significant marketing budgets and brand ambassadors driving their commercial success.
Today we are giving you an evidence-based, simplified guide to the best baseline supplements to add to your daily routine. I can confidently say that the three supplements I recommend to everyone will help boost and protect your health and are solidly backed by scientific research.
If your supplement strategy up until now has been by random selection, please read on. Without some guidance on the basics, you may be at best wasting your money, and at worst hurting yourself.
Food first, supplements second
The most important thing you can do to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs is to eat a high quality diet of vegetables and whole foods that you mostly prepare yourself. A diet regularly featuring dark green vegetables, nuts, oily fish, extra virgin olive oil and organic grass-fed meat will come pretty close to ticking all the boxes.
There are however some basics that I can confidently recommend all of us should be taking.
The three supplements that make the most difference and what to look for when shopping
Everyone can benefit from the Omega-3 fats found in fish or krill oil. Unless you are eating a lot of fish, you are probably not getting enough omega-3s for optimal functioning.
The long chain Omega-3 derivatives EPA and DHA found in fish oil:
- are anti-inflammatory
- are essential for heart health
- boost brain function in people of all ages
- help regulate blood sugar levels
- increase lipolysis so you burn more fat
- help manage depression and anxiety
- are linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease
- siginficantly reduce triglycerides
- help lower blood pressure
What to look for in a fish oil supplement
This is somewhere to spend a bit more as quality is really important. Your supplement must meet international standards for purity regarding mercury, PCBs and dioxins. A high quality supplement will make statements regarding these factors on the label.
Look at the ratio of EPA to DHA. DHA is particularly important so look for a high potency of this particular fatty acid. The packaging must be opaque and the supplements stored away from direct sunlight to avoid oxidation of the Omega-3 oils.
Many of us are Vitamin D deficient or insufficient. Our body’s primary method of producing Vitamin D is via sun exposure, and most of us don’t get enough of it. Of course we are also concerned with skin damage from UV rays, and if you are deficient in Vitamin D you are unlikely to boost your levels sufficiently with sun exposure alone. Only about 10% of our Vitamin D comes from diet so that’s where supplementation becomes valuable.
Vitamin D is essential for many functions in the body, and its deficiency is linked to many conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome and diabetes
- Heart disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
What to look for in a Vitamin D supplement
Your supplement should contain Vitamin D3 in the form of cholecalciferol. This is the active form of Vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is a vegan source of Vitamin D but is not as effective.
Probiotics are right up there with the essentials for good health, behind sleep, filling half your plate with veggies and moving your body. Research continues to show us that the health of our gut is critical to our overall functioning. Along with those obvious gastrointestinal issues like bloating and constipation, our gut health is also linked to diabetes, autoimmune disorders and a range of other serious conditions. And if you want to really support your immune system this winter and reduce sick days away from work and the gym, one of the best things you can do is supplement with a probiotic.
What to look for in a probiotic supplement
Look for a multi-strain probiotic. The more strains of bacteria in your supplement the better. It must include at the minimum the Lactobacillus and Bifidobactereum species.It should contain billions not millions CFUs (colony-forming units).
Probiotics are living organisms so how they are stored and packaged is relevant to their effectiveness. Supplements should either be refrigerated OR kept in thick, opaque bottles with a freshness pouch inside OR a form of packaging that protects the supplement from too much heat, light or moisture. Finally, the packaging must show an expiration date.
If you add these three supplements to your daily routine, you will really be supporting your body as you work towards optimal health. Let me know how you go!