Taking supplements is a controversial topic. You can easily find arguments on both sides of the pharmacy counter, from articles boasting the benefits of antioxidant supplements to reports that Vitamin D isn’t really doing you any favors. You can drive yourself batty trying to keep up with what research says is good for you today, harmful tomorrow, and pointless either way on day three. This isn’t a blog about why you should or shouldn’t take supplements—that’s a decision that can (and should) only be made by you and your healthcare team. This is simply a blog on which supplements I take and why.
Before we dive in, I’d like to point out that I take the definition of “supplement” very literally. It’s defined as “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” This can be vitamins, minerals, spices and whey powder. Technically, it can even be exercise to supplement a healthy lifestyle, but I’m sticking with the tangible type of supplements you take in pill, liquid or powder form for this shakedown.
Ready? Here we go:
- Turmeric (800mg/day). I love, love, love turmeric. It’s a natural spice very prevalent in Indian cooking. It’s also supposed to boost your immune system, and that’s exactly what it seems to do for me. I don’t care if it’s “real” or a placebo, but my entire life (until I was in my thirties) I fell ill at least every three months. I caught every cold, flu and sniffle that came along. I’ve been taking my turmeric religiously for over four years, and I’ve been ill just once. And I was asking for it. I was in the United Arab Emirates and shared a hookah with a friend who was deathly ill, but I figured the experience was worth it. (Ahem, it wasn’t).
- Floradix iron. I’ve also been anemic my entire life. I’ve never been able to donate blood and no amount of an iron-rich diet or other iron supplements have made a dent in my stubborn iron deficiency. It wasn’t until my naturopathic doctor recommended the Floradix brand that I finally got to normal iron levels. It’s more expensive than some, yes. However, when doctors have told you you’re entire life, “I don’t know how you don’t feel like you’re exhausted all the time,” that bump in price is worth it. It’s available in pill and a delicious (seriously) liquid form.
- Flaxseed oil (1200 mg/day). This is the vegetarian/vegan alternative to fish oil. These are by far the two most potent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which has been linked to everything from a “better brain” to inflammation control. Is it helping? No clue. All I know is that I certainly don’t eat a lot of oily fish and flaxseed on a daily basis, so I’m covering my bases.
- Calcium (600 mg/day). I don’t get a lot of calcium from my normal diet, largely because my diet is vegan 95 percent of the time. (No moral high horse here, just preference and how my meal planning pans out). Dairy doesn’t show up much in my daily intake. Many women are recommended to start taking calcium later in life after their bones are already showing signs of weakening. Why not start now—especially if you’re a woman, and especially if you don’t eat much dairy?
- Magnesium (500 mg/day). Calcium needs help getting digested in your body, and magnesium is the lubricant that helps that happen. It’s also linked to increased energy, helping with muscle aches and heart health. If you’re taking calcium, you may as well make sure it’s doing its job!
- Regular multi-vitamin. Perhaps the most controversial one of all, I do take a regular daily multi-vitamin. It’s not fancy. I actually go with what’s regularly the top-ranked pick by nutritionists and doctors, which is Centrum. You’ll get a myriad of nutrients with these and can even go with a gummy if you don’t like pills!
- Vitamin K (100 mcg/day). I take Vitamin K because after a lot of personal research, I found that it helps with genetic undereye circles, which I’ve suffered from my entire life. Around the age of 30, they started getting really terrible (and my pale skin doesn’t help). I took a before photo, added it to my regimen, and it does make a world of difference. From what I’ve found, there usually aren’t any risks to taking it, either.
- Biotin (10,000 mcg/day). With hair that grows notoriously slow and nails that are weak, biotin has worked wonders in helping both. My hair is the longest it’s ever been and my nails are in tough (for me) shape (although that probably has more to do with the shellac manicures!).
- BCAA (one scoop per workout). I prefer the BSN brand because it tastes good, it’s zero calorie and zero carb. Beloved by bodybuilders, returning these branch amino acids to your body (which is depleted during workouts and especially strength training) can help prevent some muscle soreness. It naturally occurs in your body, and this brand is delicious.
- Whey powder (an option for 50 g protein after strength training). When you don’t have time to take enough grams of protein from whole foods, Isopure is amazing. Two scoops is 210 calories, 50 grams of protein and zero carbs. It’s great for when you’re traveling. I like to mix it with cashew milk, some stevia, and a drop of coffee syrup then freeze it for the next day (it tastes somewhat like a Wendy’s frosty—if, you know, you haven’t had a Wendy’s Frosty since you were five paired with a terrible memory).
- Green tea. I drink this daily and the health benefits are allegedly many. It’s an alternative to coffee, and you can even wean yourself a little off your caffeine habit by having it first (if you still want coffee afterwards, that’s your call!). I personally started it as a New Year’s revolution five years ago and have stuck with it. This might largely be because I’m terrified of dementia and some reports say it can help ward it off.
There’s no substitute for whole foods and a healthy diet, but I strongly believe it’s nearly impossible to get all the nutrients you need from food alone. That would require a severely regimented diet plan and perhaps way more calories than you’re comfortable consuming. I do recommend getting a full panel screening for deficiencies every year to see where you stand—and to see if you’re overdoing it on some. My husband’s doctor recommended that he take a high dosage of Vitamin D, which he was deficient in. It’s common for Portlanders. I figured what the heck and took it, too. One year later, my screening showed “near toxic levels of Vitamin D.” I have to be the only Portlander to ever get that diagnosis.
Something as minor as changing your diet a little or adding a natural supplement can make a world of difference to how you feel (and even look).
(Photo from iStock)