With so many vitamins, supplements and minerals out there, which ones are essential?
Let’s talk about supplements. Are you confused when you see walls of pill bottles with various letters of the alphabet on the outside from A to Zinc? If so, then a good comprehensive breakdown on what you need to take and why is a great starting point. Of course, you may have specific needs that will require personal attention but for now let’s concentrate on the basics for you, as a human, living in Alberta, Canada.
I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to all things health and wellness. As such, I read everything I can get my hands on concerning the topic. I keep up with the latest medical journals, practically keep inventory at the local supplement stores and even use my own body as a testing ground for the newest Dr. Oz secrets revealed. Despite years of research, I still become overwhelmed. I can only imagine what it must be like for the non-fanatical shopper to go supplement shopping without being armed with information.
“Despite years of research, I still become overwhelmed.”
Stores that specialize in supplements are staffed with people who are very helpful and knowledgeable. If, however, you shop at your local drug store or supermarket that sells vitamins and minerals alongside products made by Toshiba, Maybelline, Cuisinart, and Chef Boyardee, you will want to go in prepared with a shopping list.
Do you need a multivitamin? That depends. Let’s take a look at your diet. Are you eating a wide variety of at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day? That would certainly be preferable, which is why I advocate incorporating smoothies into your routine, however, I digress. Anyway, that is not always possible, so it is a good idea to keep a multivitamin on hand for less than perfect eating days.
There are many options from which to choose. Some brands even have specific blends for different age groups and genders. According to my personal experience, liquid multivitamins are best. They are easy to take and are readily absorbed. I can tell the efficacy by the strength of my fingernails.
On the down side, liquid vitamins are a pain when travelling or to take to work, as they need to be refrigerated. A fantastic option is an oral spray vitamin, especially if you hate swallowing pills or tend to get an upset stomach from them. Spray vitamins do not require food to be broken down and absorbed, whereas most other supplements need to be taken with meals.
Now for the must-have supplements in your arsenal. You will need a good daily dose of omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA). It is considered essential because your body does not produce it on its own. You need to consume it. You can do this either in a plant based form such as algae, which is how fish obtain it, or in a fish oil supplement. Natural sources come from nuts, flaxseed, olive oil and fatty fish such as salmon. Even if you eat these nutritious foods, you are likely not getting enough and the importance of omega-3 in your diet cannot be overstated.
It reduces inflammation, helps prevent heart disease, boosts good cholesterol to help clear your arteries, helps metabolize fat, protects your eyesight, improves brain function, reduces depression, controls acne, reduces wrinkles, strengthens bones and preserves lean muscle. Take your omega-3 supplement as directed on the bottle.
“Even in the summer you are likely blocking vitamin D producing rays with your sunscreen.”
Finally, you will want to pick up some vitamin D. Though vitamin D is present in small amounts in some foods such as sardines, beef liver and egg yolks, it is not enough. Your greatest source of vitamin D comes from sun exposure, which, as an Albertan, can be tricky most of the year. Even in the summer you are likely blocking vitamin D producing rays with your sunscreen. Milk, orange juice and ready-to-eat cereals are generally fortified with vitamin D, but again, not enough.
This sunny vitamin is best known for developing and keeping bones strong. It is also boosts your immune system, improves muscle function, enhances lung function, controls appetite to help with weight management, and helps lower blood pressure. You will want to go for at least 600 IU per day. Again, I favour the liquid types for ease of taking and best absorption.
To easily incorporate taking your vitamins into your daily routine, attach the habit to another daily habit such as drinking your morning coffee or walking your dog. Situate your bottles next to your Keurig or Fluffy’s leash so you don’t forget. Soon it will become automatic, especially after you start seeing and feeling the benefits. You can expect a difference within a couple of weeks.
Supplement shopping list:
Multivitamin: Look for a liquid or spray version for ease of taking and best absorption.
Omega-3: Take in a plant based form or in a fish oil supplement.
Vitamin D: Take between 600-1000 IU per day