Many people consider supplements to be ‘expensive urine’, i.e you’re paying good money for something your body doesn’t benefit from. This may be true if you buy cheaply-made, low-quality supplements, but there is plenty of positive evidence supporting the use of good-quality products.
WHY DO WE NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
We all need to take some supplements on a regular basis for several reasons:
- Our busy, stressful,l work-hard play-hard lifestyles mean our bodies have a high demand for nutrients
- We tend to eat fewer fresh unprocessed wholefoods than we used to
- The fresh produce that we do eat is lower in nutrient value than previously
The following are the top 5 supplements you should consider buying and taking on a daily basis.
- FISH OILS
In days gone by, we would have supped on lots of fresh fish several times a week. This no longer happens and, in fact, government guidelines advise against eating more than two portions of fish a week because of heavy metals and other contaminants.
However, we still need nutrients specific to fish, especially omega-3 oils. Among their many functions, omega-3 fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatories and are very important for brain health and hormone balance.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Not all fish oils are equal in terms of quality and health benefits. Read the label and make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid).
SUPPLEMENT CHEAT SHEET*
|SUPPLEMENT||RECOMMENDED DAILY DOSE||WHAT IT DOES|
|FISH OIL||180 mg EPA 120 mg DHA||Anti-inflammatory, hormone balancer|
|B VITAMINS||Varies for each individual B vitamin||Energy production, brain chemistry, hormone balance, liver function|
|MAGNESIUM||300 mg||Energy production, hormone production, brain chemistry, muscle function, bone health|
|VITAMIN D||1000 IU||Immune regulator, bone health|
|ZINC||15 mg||Immunity, skin health, hormone health|
*Assuming you have no particular health problems
- B VITAMINS
A good B vitamin complex is essential for energy production, our brain chemistry, hormone balance, liver detoxification, heart health and many other functions in the body.
Look for a good quality supplement that contains ‘activated’ forms of the B vitamins. If you can avoid synthetic versions, such as folic acid, as these are not easily metabolised by the body. Folate is the natural, more bioavailable form of folic acid.
Low magnesium is a growing problem in Australia especially among children – three out of four teenage girls are deficient.
We need this nutrient for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It is part of the energy production cycle, needed for correct muscle and brain function and hormone production.
We use up and excrete magnesium at a much higher rate when under stress so it is especially important to supplement during these times.
- VITAMIN D
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies now. We spend more time indoors and, when we are outside, we slather our skin with sun block. So our main source of this nutrient – the sun – is no longer available.
We do get vitamin D from some foods, including eggs, mushrooms and butter, but this is nowhere near enough the amount we need.
Among its many functions, vitamin D is essential for immunity and bone health. Deficiency of this nutrient has been linked with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders (Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease).
Zinc is vital for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. This mineral is a potent antioxidant and is particularly important for healthy immunity – if you get lots of coughs and colds, you’re likely to be low in zinc.
Zinc is also key for neurotransmitter production and a common but overlooked cause of depression.
WHAT ABOUT PROBIOTICS?
Up until recently, the common thinking was that we should all take probiotics daily to maintain gut health. However, while probiotics contain strains of bacteria already found in the gut, they do not directly populate your intestines.
Their main function is to create an environment which encourages your own bacteria to grow. They do this by producing natural chemicals which provide a happy home for your existing good bacteria to grow and thrive and which discourages unwanted bacteria.
Unless you are sick or have taken a lot of antibiotics, you don’t necessarily need probiotics and can create this good environment very effectively through the use of diet and fermented foods.
Lots of fibre from vegetables (both root vegetables and green leafies) provides ‘food’ for our good bacteria.
Fermented foods contain chemicals such as lactic acid, which provide the right conditions for our own good bacteria to grow.