It feels like you have to take a Rosetta Stone course in order to go shopping for supplements.
Have you been so daunted by the choices that you walked away, empty-handed, figuring you’d just eat better and you would be fine? Or is your multivitamin the easy route out?
You shouldn’t need a degree in food science to get the information you require. With these basics, you’ll feel confident strutting away from the supplement counter and be on the road to more energy, vitality and peace of mind.
The first question we need to answer is…
Do We Even Need Supplements?
Many scary statistics have been reported when it comes to the nutrient value in our foods. Sources report an 11-84% loss in certain nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin C and magnesium. Due to many factors, including hybridization and soil depletion, it’s becoming more and more evident that supplementing is not just for the health-nut, but also for the vast majority of people (although we certainly don’t judge those health-nuts, being guilty as charged).
It’s even more important to supplement if you’re a woman, athlete, have a high-stress lifestyle or chronic illness.
Before you run off and grab the first multivitamin you see (“It says it will give me shiny hair!”), take a second to read what you need to know before choosing a supplement.
Know Where Your Money Is Going
- Grabbing the no-name brand of a multivitamin won’t do you any good. Look for a mid-range price in a store in a dedicated supplement store (not Shopper’s Drug Mart). Make sure to pay attention to how much is in each capsule: this is a case when too much can be a very bad thing.
- Ask someone in the store if they have a background in nutrition and if they do, pick their brain for the brands they trust. Otherwise, a Naturopath, Chiropractor or other Health Care Provider may have access to professional-only brands that are better quality than what is available in retail stores (often for a comparable or even better price).
Vitamins Should Be As Regular As Flossing (Yeah, About That…)
- Most supplements and multivitamins should be taken with food, but always read the label!
- Taking your supplements regularly is important so your body can use and build up the extra available nutrients. This often takes some time so if you forget to take your supplements for a while you’ll be starting back from the beginning.
Supplementation 101 – The Coles Notes Version
- Over 50% (and some doctors quote 85%) of the adult population in North America is deficient in the essential mineral. Magnesium keeps us calm, improves sleep and may improve chronic pain or fibromyalgia, headaches, muscle soreness and increases recovery after exercise
Who should consider it? Women (regardless of age), athletes, those dealing with anxiety, chronic pain or sleep disturbances as well as anyone under stress.
- Many health professionals believe the recommended intake for Vitamin D is dangerously low. Blame the whole “Canada” thing.
- Vitamin D acts more like a hormone in the body having many positive health benefits and giving your immune system and mood a boost.
- Tip: Look for a tincture of Vitamin “D3” for best absorption
Who should consider it? Those affected by seasonal low mood, who live in higher latitudes or athletes. In short, mostly everyone.
- Great if you’re stressed out. The body flushes out B vitamins under times of stress so adding these back in can help with mood & energy.
- Always choose a B-complex over a single B vitamin as they all work synergistically in the body.
Who should consider it? Those that live high-stress lifestyles or have higher than normal stress levels. If vino is your drug of choice, B-complex can be a more balancing medium.
- Otherwise known as Essential Fatty Acids, Omega 3 is a crucial fat that we must consume since our body cannot produce it. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and also helps with energy, mental clarity and mood along with metabolism and weight loss.
- Liquid form is better as it’s easier for our body to absorb (don’t worry: it doesn’t taste like fish!).
Who should consider it? Everyone! For general health, for mental wellness and cardiovascular health along with any sort of inflammatory imbalance such as arthritis.
- Our digestive system is populated by trillions of bacteria. No need to “Ew” – Jimmy Fallon style – the health of this flora is a huge indicator of our overall health.
- Healthy gut flora boosts the immune system (did you know 90% of your immune system is in your digestive tract?), reduces the risk of allergies and so much more
- When the flora is unhealthy, it affects our whole body causing a wide variety of symptoms and imbalances. Some examples are digestive complaints, sugar cravings and a lowered immune system.
- It’s best if you can talk to your Chiropractor, Naturopath or another practitioner for the professional-only brands, as they are higher quality and often cheaper. Otherwise, look for a powdered form that’s kept in the fridge and take it with food.
Who should consider it? Anyone with digestive complaints (like bloating, indigestion, constipation), if you get sick often, or have taken antibiotics in the past or have travelled out of the country in the last 2 years probiotics are a great idea.
Feel better? Know more? We hope so.
With this info tucked in your magnificent Omega-3 rich brain, you can walk into your neighbourhood supplement store ready to pump your health up a notch.
And your fists too.
PS – Of course, this information is provided for educational purposes only. Before changing your diet or supplementation it’s recommended to consult with a qualified Health Care Practitioner.