Walk into any drugstore or supercenter; find the vitamin and supplement aisle and prepare to be completely overwhelmed. I can’t tell you how many times I stood in front of the wall of supplements, mouth ajar, not even sure where to start. It’s easy to read the labels, be instantly impressed with what a supplement manufacturer tells you and walk out with a basket of plastic bottles and horse pills.
I’m not here to trash the supplement industry because there are many highly useful supplements out there. But, the fact is, there are just too many. The average person doesn’t need to take one product for his or her eyesight and one for better hearing, one for digestive regulation and another for improved memory. Unless your doctor advises you differently, you can get away with one good multivitamin and a few extras. You don’t have to blow a full day’s pay on your supplement collection.
I see supplements as a sort of nutritional insurance. Ideally we wouldn’t need to take vitamin supplements. In a perfect world we would get exactly what we need from our diets. However, this isn’t a perfect world and I have yet to meet someone who eats a perfect diet. Vitamin supplements fill in the gaps of our diets. They give us the vitamins and nutrients we miss on any given day.
The first and most important vitamin supplement is a general multivitamin. The brand of your chosen vitamin doesn’t matter. There are several good choices like Centrum and One a Day or even generic store brands that offer high-quality components for general health. Choosing the best multivitamin shouldn’t be about what name is on the front of the bottle but rather the components listed on the back of the bottle.
What you want in your vitamin depends on many factors. Your age and gender dictates several unique vitamin needs. For instance, premenopausal women want to be sure to choose a supplement that contains iron because of their continued menstruation. Most women should seek a multivitamin with added calcium to prevent osteoporosis as well.
Take a look at this tool from Oprah.com that makes great suggestions for multivitamin components. Print it off and take it with you when you go to the store. If you aren’t sure how to read the labels, ask the pharmacist for help; that’s why he is there.
In all honesty, you could stop there, with one high-quality multivitamin. However, I am going to recommend at least one additional supplement, fish oil.
Over the past several years, it has become more and more apparent the role that Omega 3 fatty acids play in our diets. These essential fats have a wide range of benefits that are still being discovered. There is evidence that they combat inflammation and mood disorders as well as work to prevent heart disease and many types of cancer. Naturally, Omega 3s can be found in foods like fish and walnuts. However, the Western diet is known to be seriously lacking in these nutritional powerhouses.
Fish-oil supplements deliver two of the three forms of Omega 3 fats, DHA and EPA. As this report from U.S. News & World Report reveals, there is still some disagreement as to the different benefits offered by the different Omega 3 strains. However, the benefits exist nonetheless. Again, there are several brand names of fish-oil supplements but the name doesn’t matter as much as the quality does.
This, of course, is my take on supplements and what works best for me. Your best bet is to discuss your supplement regimen with your physician. There are other opinions out there and I would love to hear some of them. What kind of supplements do you take and why?