The nutrition world can be a confusing place, there are so many trends and fads and different opinions on what's "right" and "wrong". What one influencer or nutritionist may say is beneficial another might say should be avoided entirely - it's a lot to take in! Things get even more confusing when you add supplements into the mix, there are thousands of different kinds of supplements available, there is quite literally a supplement for everything these days. So how do you know what's a scam, what's legit and what's actually right for your lifestyle and your body?
Supplements are meant to do exactly what the name suggests - supplement any gaps in your diet. In other words, you can't eat like crap but pop a multivitamin and assume everything is going to balance itself out - it just doesn't work like that. Supplements are also meant to prevent nutrient deficiencies, which is something that is becoming more and more common as the standard western diet shifts towards processed, fast foods and away from nutrient dense, whole foods. Nutrient deficiencies are hard on your body, cause damage to DNA and RNA, cause quicker aging, contribute to chronic disease, cause fatigue and if severe enough can even lead to premature death.. crazy right?
Nutrients from food are more bioavailable, meaning that our body is able to digest, absorb and use them better than the synthetic version that comes from a pill. The majority of the nutrients that your body needs can and should come from food, but there are certain times where even the healthiest of diets might not be providing every single nutrient that our body's need..
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU NEED TO SUPPLEMENT?
- If you eat a "western" diet (aka processed, packaged, fried and fast foods) with minimal fresh fruit or vegetables - most of these foods are full of unhealthy fats, conventional dairy, toxins, pesticides, hormones and chemicals, all of which are inflammatory and cause oxidative damage in the body.
- If you rarely buy organic produce - conventional produce is commonly grown in depleted soil and with depleted water with pesticides and fertilizers, making it low in vitamins, minerals and nutrients and high in toxic chemicals.
- If you eat a "low-calorie" diet - 9 out of 10 times low calorie means low nutrient, when you restrict your energy intake you are also restricting yourself of key micronutrients that your body needs which leads to malnourishment.
- If you exercise regularly - when you exercise you are using energy which creates an increased demand for nutrients to keep up with energy production during and after exercise and to help speed up recovery.
- If you are above the age of 35 - as we age our hydrochloric acid and digestive enzyme production declines which makes it difficult for the body to break down and absorb nutrients from food.
- If you eat grain or soy fed, non organic meat, farmed fish and conventional dairy - grain/soy fed meat is low in antioxidants, micronutrients, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins, farmed fish is high in mercury and generally accumulates the wrong kinds of fatty acids and conventional dairy is high in aflatoxin and other mycotoxins as well as synthetic hormones and even blood and puss from the cows.
- If you work somewhere that uses toxic chemicals (even cleaning chemicals) - nutrients and antioxidants fight free radical damage caused by toxins so when you are exposed to toxins on a daily basis your body naturally requires more nutrients to help fight damage.
- If you are recovering from an operation or illness - during recovery your body is using all of its available nutrients and energy to support the healing process so your body requires increased amounts of most nutrients.
- If you have recently taken antibiotics or synthetic birth control pills - synthetic pills like these deplete nutrients.
WHICH NUTRIENTS TO SUPPLEMENT & WHY
Okay this is the part that most people get confused by because there are so many options so what the heck should you be taking? Before I jump into it I want to first say that before you run out and buy all of these or start any new supplements in general please please PLEASE do your own research first and make sure that you know what you are taking and why you are taking it.
I've put together a list of the top nutrients that are most often deficient in the common western diet and are also the most important to overall health. I'm in no way saying that you need to be supplementing all or any of these but if you feel like your diet or lifestyle might be leaving you deficient in one or more nutrients or are looking for more information this is a good place to start!
- Vitamin A - is an important cofactor for so many metabolic reactions and bodily functions and is also a powerful antioxidant which help protect against free radical damage and helps maintain brain function, skin, heart, kidneys, lungs, vision, and immune system health.
- Vitamin C - (the most rapidly used and excreted nutrient in the body) produces glutathione which is the most powerful antioxidant in the body and helps protect against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease and is also needed for collagen and connective tissue formation.
- Vitamin D - acts on over 1,000 different genes and serves as a substrate for sex hormones it also helps maintain healthy bones and teeth and protects against cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
- Vitamin K2 - protects the arteries from calcification by promoting calcium metabolism which reduces the risk of bone loss and cardiovascular disease.
- Calcium - needed to help build and maintain strong bones and works in synergy with Vitamin D to protect against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. (should be taken with Magnesium to prevent a deficiency)
- Magnesium - used in over 300 enzymatic processes, including all of those involved in ATP energy production and is also necessary for proper transcription of DNA and RNA. (should be taken with Calcium to prevent a deficiency)
- Iodine - important for proper thyroid function and metabolism, helps convert thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), enhances immune function and prevents brain damage.
- Copper - supports cardiovascular function (should be taken with zinc to prevent a deficiency)
- Zinc - supports healthy immune function, energy production and mood (should be taken with copper to prevent a deficiency)
- Omega 3/EPA & DHA - reduces inflammation, improves brain function, supports healing
- Probiotics - feeds good gut bacteria and supports healthy gut flora and digestion.
- B Complex - the B vitamins are needed in over 1000 different bodily processes!
- Folate - supports heart health and the nervous system and decrease risk of birth defects. (should be taken with B12 to prevent a deficiency)
- B12 - (is one of the most commonly deficient nutrients) protects against dementia, increases immune function, maintains nerves, regenerates cells, lowers homocysteine, protects against atherosclerosis and reduces the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease. (should be taken with Folate to prevent a deficiency)
WHAT I TAKE AND WHY
Before I tell you everything that I take on a daily basis, I want to make it clear that these are what work for MY BODY, MY CURRENT HEALTH CONCERNS, MY GOALS AND MY LIFESTYLE and that you do not need to take all or any of these to be healthy! I also want to reinforce that unless you have done your research and know that something will work for your body please don't run to your nearest health food store and pick up my entire supplement regime.
That being said I ave educated myself through my schooling and my own research on exactly which forms, brands and types and have carefully selected and testes each of these supplements to make sure they are the highest quality, easiest to take, most bioavailable to the body and also don't completely break the bank. I have included a Canadian amazon affiliate link to each supplement for you guys so if you do think that one may be right for you you can easily order it!
- Probiotic - I take a probiotic specifically for women with 50 billion live strains of bacteria for optimal gut health and digestion - I take this one
- Vitamin C 1000mg - I take a high dose vitamin c that also has rose hip extract which is also very high in vitamin c and good for fighting colds - I take this one
- Calcium Magnesium & D3 - I take a combination supplement for all three of these minerals as they need to be supplemented together and this is the easiest and most absorbable form one I have found - I take this one
- B Complex - I take a Megafood's food grade B Complex because all B vitamins come from plant based foods and taking a food grade supplement is the most bioavailable way to take it to ensure that the body absorbs and uses all of it - I take this one
- Iron - This helps maintain healthy red blood cells and iron levels in the blood - I take this one
- Fish oil - I take a liquid fish oil that contains 1000mg of EPA & 500mg of DHA which is the perfect ratio to consume of essential fatty acids - I take this one
- Vitex - also known as Chasteberry, I take this to help regulate my menstrual cycle which if you have followed me for a while you know is non existent - I take this one
- Adrenal Support - I take Megafood's Adrenal Strength to help support my adrenals because they are VERY fatigued. This supplement is food grade to it is easily absorbed and used by the body and contains the adaptogens Ashwagandha, Schizandra Berry, Holy Basil, Cultivated American Ginseng, and Astragalus Root - I take this one or this Lorna Vanderhaeghe one which is also really good quality but is not food grade.
- B12 - I take B12 once a week because the only animal products I consume are wild fish, pasture raised eggs and collagen peptides - I take this one
- Digestive Enzymes - I take these with every meal when I'm on vacation, out at a restaurant or when I feel like my digestion needs a little bit of extra help - I take this one
- Fermented Vegan Protein Powder - I take a fermented vegan protein because it is easier to digest, does not bloat me and is more bioavailable to the body because of the fermentation - I take this one
- Fermented Vegan BCAA's - I take these when I am doing a heavier strength training day in the gym to promote muscle repair, reduce muscle soreness and increase muscle synthesis - I take this one
- Fermented Vegan L-Glutamine - I take this every day to help strengthen my gut lining and improve digestion - I take this one
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides - I wrote an entire blog post on why I take collagen every day (read it all here) - I take this one
- VegeGreens Powder - I‘ve been starting every morning with a scoop of these vegegreens to help support my liver detoxification to help balance my hormone levels, it makes it so easy to get so many different greens, antioxidants and phytonutrients in all at once - I take this one
- Megafood Daily Purify - I have taking this first thing every morning (20 minutes before my scoop of vegegreens because bitters need to be taken on their own) to further help support my liver detoxification in an effort to balance my hormones - I take this one
WHY YOU SHOULDN'T CHEAP OUT ON SUPPLEMENTS
Remember when I said that you can't out supplement a crappy diet - well you also can't buy cheap, crappy supplements and expect them to give you the benefits I just listed above either! I know that you're all smart people and most of you probably don't put crappy nutrient depleted food into your body on a daily basis (I hope) because you know it won't serve you. And just like you prioritize the food you eat, you also want to make sure that you're prioritizing your supplements so that you're not pumping your body full of crap!
One of the best pieces of advice that I can give you when it comes to choosing supplements is to always aim for FOOD GRADE when possible! Food grade means that everything in the supplement comes from plant based food sources, our bodies favour nutrients from food over synthetic or processed nutrients that are found in most supplements so food grade supplements are the most bioavailable and easiest for the body to digest and absorb. MegaFood is one of my favourite food grade supplement companies, all of their products are amazing and I 100% trust that what they say you are getting on the package is actually what you're getting.
Okay I know that I have probably just totally overwhelmed you with a TON of information but I wanted to give you one last key piece of advice before I let you get on with your day. If you eat a balanced diet, with lots of whole plant foods, quality animal products and minimal processed and packaged food then you most likely do not need to supplement. The exception to that is of course if you have been told by a health care practitioner that you are deficient in a nutrient or that your body needs more of something, then supplementation is probably necessary but don't worry, it won't be forever. Most nutrient deficiencies usually reverse themselves in a few weeks to months with proper diet and supplementation.
Every nutrient that our body's need can be found in real whole foods and is readily absorbed by the body - always remember that diet comes first and supplements come second.
xo - LU