These days the internet and shows like Dr. Oz love to bombard us with new “cutting edge” research and studies that tell you to take this or that.
Just a few years ago Resveratrol for instance was all the rage, and yet today I hardly hear anything about it.
Luckily for us there are a small handful of supplements that have survived the tests of time and are widely considered the most beneficial supplements out there.
They might not be new and “sexy” like grapeseed extract or green coffee bean, but these supplements are sure to stick around for years to come as staples in the supplement world.
The research behind the effectiveness of multivitamins is mixed (Here in an NPR article the case for taking multi-vitamins is made strongly, but here in an article by WEBMD experts tell us no to waste our money) but there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that you do absorb at least a portion of the vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin.
Vitamins and minerals are required for every function in your body, so while they aren’t used directly for energy (they aren’t actually fuel), they are used in countless processes from muscle contraction all the way to maintaining water balance. Therefore, it is vital that we take in at least the minimum of our daily requirements for vitamins and minerals.
Fortification of foods like cereal have drastically increased intake levels of certain nutrients like folate, calcium, and iron over the years, but many nutrients like magnesium, vitamin c, and phosphorous are still low in many people’s diets. Taking a multivitamin has been shown- at least in some studies- to increase blood levels of these and other important vitamins and minerals, also keep in mind that multi-vitamins are still prescribed for by MDs and that insurance will pay for these pills as medically needed in some circumstances.
Almost all of the studies agree that if you are going to take a multivitamin: one a day formulas are the most ineffective (try to pick a MV with 2-3 capsules per day); capsules, powders, and liquids are more effective that most tablets.
The takeaway is this: while the effectiveness of multi-vitamins is still highly debated, it is reasonable to assume that there may at least some benefit to some people. At usually just a few cents per day, a multivitamin is a cheap way to ensure that you get the right amount of nutrients that your body needs.
2) Fish oil.
Fish oil has received a lot of acclaim over the years; as time goes on more and more studies are showing the positive effects of fish oil on our health.
Some of the potential benefits of fish oil include: anti-inflammatory, cancer prevention, healthy skin, positive mood effects, healthy brain function, joint health, and lower cholesterol.
The research so strongly supports the value of fish-oil to our health (namely for lowering cholesterol), that there is even a Dr. prescribed version called Lovaza.
One of the only strikes against fish oil is the risk of increased exposure to mercury and heavy metals that accumulate in large ocean fish; this issue can be negated by making sure to buy fish oil that is either sourced from small ocean fish (anchovy and sardine), or by picking up fish oil that is distilled and tested for purity.
Aim to take around 1000mg of EPA and DHA (the two beneficial forms of Omega 3) combined daily, or read the dosing instructions provided to you by your MD.
3) Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is getting a lot more attention than it used to. A recent study found that people who supplemented with Vit. D had significantly lower levels of cancer compared to a control group.
Though Vit. D was never traditionally thought of as a vitamin that played a role in the immune system, more studies have been showing a link between Vit. D and immune strength.
Very few foods have a measurable amount of vitamin D, but a few of them are: fish, eggs, liver, and milk. The best way to get your Vit. D is to make it yourself. Your body creates vitamin D every time your skin comes in contact with sunlight.
When making your own vitamin D remember that you NEVER want to burn your skin- if you burn your skin you have damaged it and it increases your odds of getting cancer.Start out with low amounts of sunlight- to as much skin as possible- and slowly increase your time of exposure.
If you can’t get out into the sun for your Vit. D, then you can also opt to take soft gels or tablets. Though the recommended dose is around 600IU per day, studies on toxicity levels all indicate that toxicity occurs only when intake surpasses 4,000IU per day.
If you are really concerned about Vit. D levels you can and should speak with your Doctor and request a simple blood test that will measure your levels: this is the best way to ensure that you are at the optimal blood level of Vitamin D.
Magnesium is present in every cell within the human body, it is required for over 300 enzymes within the body, and it is even required for the use and production of ATP (the substance that gives us energy at a cellular level).
Not getting enough magnesium can cause: cramps, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, migraines, and a whole other set of symptoms and effects.
Magnesium is widely known as the “relaxation” mineral and it has the ability to help muscles relax and aid in sleep- especially in people who are restless and toss and turn during the night.
Natural sources include chocolate, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.
Magnesium is water soluble and is easily destroyed during cooking and it is not usually consumed in significant amounts through the body alone.
Levels of magnesium are incredibly difficult to test for because blood tests do not indicate the levels of magnesium present in the tissues where they are required, but it is widely believed that up to 70% of the US population is deficient in this crucial mineral.
You can speak with your MD, but it seems that doses of 200mg-600mg daily can be helpful in raising magnesium levels to adequate amounts within the body.
The best 4 supplements for everyone are: 1) Multivitamin 2-3 per day formula, 2) Fish oil around 1000mg daily, 3) Vitamin D preferably through sun exposure or 400 IU up to 4000 IU per day (speak with your MD about specific doses), 4) Magnesium 200-800mg daily either before bed, or in two divided doses in morning and at night.
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