How often have you found yourself down the ‘health’ isle of the local supermarket and seen the latest bottle of vitamin ‘something’ with all the health claims in the world on the shelf? Remembering how Janice said she takes a vitamin and you should ‘just try it’!
How do you make sense out of this unregulated market and do what’s best for your health? Hopefully we can clear the confusion!
WHAT ARE VITAMINS?
They are a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition required in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.
There are 13 vitamins that all humans require for health vitamins C, A, D, E, K and the B vitamins that ideally we would get from our diet alone, but that’s not always the case and we may need to ‘supplement’ with one or more of them.
WHAT IS A SUPPLEMENT?
Technically these can be vitamins, minerals herbals, amino acids, enzymes and more. They are taken as an addition to your diet to optimize health and support deficiencies.
The truth is that the best supplement for you will depend on factors like your gender, age, medical history, genetics, level of physical activity and diet. Adult men and women may benefit from taking different supplements, for example woman are more prone to iron deficiency whereas men may need extra potassium, vegetarians/vegans can use more of certain nutrients like vitamin B12, and a lot of us here in New Zealand (NZ) are likely to be lacking in things like Vitamin D, Zinc and Selenium. If you have malabsorption /gut issue or of your pregnant you may require extra support. WE ARE ALL UNIQUE.It’s also essential to remember that no supplement should replace a well-balanced healthy diet.
TOP 7 SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT OVERALL HEALTH
- B Vitamins, including folate – Are needed to support energy production, growth, cellular processing, cognitive function and energy expenditure. In today’s hectic fast past life a lot of us are depleting our B vitamin stores leaving us feeling drained and fatigued. Vegetarians/vegans are more likely to be low in B vitamins especially B12 supplementing can be very supportive in this case (Schagen, Zampeli, Makrantonaki, & Zouboulis, 2012).
- Vitamin D – Is needed for bone and skeletal health as well as proper brain function, mental health, immune support, hormonal balance and more. It is an extremely important nutrient, and down here in N.Z we are lacking! One in four adults in NZ have below the recommended blood levels of this vitamin. Next time you’re at your doctor ask to get yourself checked! Of course the best way to boost your vitamin D stores is to spend around 15-20 minutes outdoors most days without sunscreen on. However if you are depleted supplementation is recommended. (Make sure if you are supplementing with Vitamin D that it is paired with Vitamin K2 so calcium can be transported to the right places, the bones!) (Institute of Medicine (US), 2011).
- Omega 3 – Supports healthy inflammatory levels in the body, protecting you against unwanted aches and pains, it is also supports a healthy heart cardiovascular and nervous systems. Eating wild fish several times a week or taking a (clean) supplement at 1000mg/day is the best way to beat inflammation (Swanson, Block, & Mousa 2012).
- Zinc – Many kiwis suffer zinc deficiency. It is involved in over 100 metabolic reactions and allows for proper waste elimination. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients required for nutrient absorption, immune function, skin health hormonal heath and to create nice healthy tight gap junctions in the intestinal lining so large food particles don’t ‘leak’ through. What good is the food we eat if we are not absorbing efficiently right?! (Schlenker, Gilbert, & Williams, 2015).
- Antioxidants for eye health – Every day we are bombarded by free radicals, blue light (from our constant exposure to cell phones and computers). Free radicals damage our cells which can lead to aging and disease, ensuring you are eating an anti-oxidant rich diet is essential to good health. When it comes to food think COLOUR (and not artificialJ). Although this may not always be enough. A number of antioxidants, including vitamin A, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, can help to protect your vision and eyes as you age (McCusker, Durrani, Payette & Suchecki, 2016).
- Probiotics for Gut/Digestive Support – Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Certain strains of probiotics enhance immune function, whereas others promote health or hormone balance. (8 Your “good gut bugs” help produce vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K; crowd out bad microbes; create enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria; and stimulate secretion of IgA and regulatory T-cells, which support immune function. When buying probiotic supplements, look out for the genus, species and strain. The label should also indicate the type of CFUs (colony forming units) that are present at the time of manufacturing. It’s best to take a probiotic that has at least 50 billion CFUs and has strain diversity, including multiple bacterial strains, such as Bacillus clausii, Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bulgaricus (Kechagia et,al, 2013). **If you suspect you might have leaky gut syndrome (aka intestinal permeability) — perhaps because you have symptoms of food sensitivities, inflammatory bowel disease or skin issues like eczema then we recommend talking with a nutritionist.
- Magnesium – is one of the most important minerals for both men and women, but unfortunately it’s also one of the most common deficiencies. As an electrolyte, magnesium helps regulate calcium, potassium and sodium and is essential for over 300 different biochemical functions in the body. Studies have shown that many older people don’t eat enough magnesium-rich foods to begin with, plus they’re prone to experiencing reduced magnesium due to trouble with intestinal absorption, reduced magnesium bone stores, and excess urinary loss due to factors like stress and exercise.
Below are general recommendations for common supplements (again, do your research or ask your nutritionist if you have special needs):
- Vitamin D: 15 to 20 mcg/day (600 to 800 IU, or international units).
- Probiotics: 2–4 capsules of high-quality probiotic capsules daily.
- Folate: 400 mcg/day.
- Iron: 8 to 18 mg/day.
- Magnesium: 310 to 400 mg/day.
- Vitamin A: 700 to 900 IU/day.
- Vitamin C: 75 to 90 mg/day.
- Vitamin E: 22.4 IU/day (or 15 mg/day).
- Omega-3s: 500-1000 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.
QUALITY VS QUANTITY
When it comes to supplements, I always recommend trusted good quality brands over quantity. It is like anything, you pay for good quality. You need to make sure that what you are putting inside your body is going to benefit your health! The quality of supplements comes down to where the ingredients are sourced from, the bioavailability and the research to back their ‘health claims’. Brands that I trust and recommend are:
- Metagenics (this is a Practitioner only brand and can only be ordered through trusted Health Practitioner’s like Nutritionists, Naturopaths, GP’s, etc).
- Ethical Nutrients
- Pure Encapsulations
- Dr Wilson’s
- Designs for Health
Always ask questions about the supplements you are going to purchase so you know exactly what you are buying!
We are all unique, listen to your bodies’ ques, if you are experiencing signs of a nutrient deficiency, such as fatigue, brain fog, muscle aches, poor recovery from workouts, acne, trouble sleeping and digestive issues you may simply be lacking a very common nutrient and could easily be helped with a supplement boost.
Always try and eat a whole foods natural diet. And if you are in doubt don’t hesitate to talk to your Nutritionist about it.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. (2011, January 1). Overview of Calcium. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56060/.
- Kechagia, Maria, Basoulis, Dimitrios, Dimitra, Konstantina, & Maria, E. (2013, January 2). Health Benefits of Probiotics: A Review. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2013/481651/.
- McCusker, M. M., Durrani, K., Payette, M. J., & Suchecki, J. (2016). An eye on nutrition: The role of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants in age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and cataract. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26903189.
- Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012, July 1). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/.
- Schlenker, E. D., Gilbert, J., & Williams, S. R. (2015). Williams essentials of nutrition and diet therapy. St. Louis: Mosby.
- Swanson, D., Block, R., & Mousa, S. A. (2012, January). Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22332096.
- Vitamins: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002399.htm.
– Written by Jess Wharton, Nutritionist