Lately I’ve been trying to feel better so I’ve been eating a lot of vitamins… do you know how many vitamins you have to eat before you feel full?… the colour of my urine is amazing…” – Steven Wright
I have to admit, I’m skeptical – some would say jaded over the hundreds of thousands of “miracles in a bottle” being foisted on us with exaggerated, misleading and flat-out false claims.
There are, however a few exceptions – some diamonds in the rough that are worth looking in to. Bear in mind that supplementation is highly individual and that “supplement” should imply that you are adding to an already healthy and varied diet. With this in mind, here are some supplements to consider:
- Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are the superfood of this decade. The research has been very promising when it comes to this essential fat found in fatty, cold-water fish such as; salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring. The problem is, most people don’t eat enough fish to get the coveted EPA and DHA (components of omega-3’s) found in these fish and responsible for a healthier brain, heart and joints.
- A multivitamin/mineral
A good bet for just about anyone who wants to ensure that nutritional gaps are covered. I recommend looking for a multi with 100% RDI in most vitamins (calcium is an exception – the pill would be HUGE). Don’t worry too much about bells & whistles here – the most expensive isn’t necessarily the best. Also, make sure there isn’t too much vitamin A (more than 10,000 IU) and folic acid (more than .5g).
- Whey protein powder
Very versatile and easy way to get a useable protein into your body. Protein smoothies are excellent pre/peri/post workout and can easily be turned into a meal-on-the-go. Isolate is a purer form than concentrate when it comes to whey protein.
- Vitamin D
If one supplement can overtake fish oil this decade, it might just be vitamin D. The literature has been a buzz with the vitamin/hormone and it’s positive impact on human health. In addition to fighting breast and pancreatic cancer, it has also been shown to lower diabetes risk and It has even been shown to lengthen life. If you live anywhere north of L.A./Atlanta, you can’t possibly get enough vitamin D. Researchers now consider 1000 IU’s a safe dose for most people.
Especially important for women, this mineral is one that many fall short on. 500mg will help jumpstart you towards reaching your daily target of around 1200mg. If you can find a supplement with vitamin D and Calcium (and maybe magnesium) in one, all the better.
These supplements I consider to be “on the fence” (more research needed) and/or have more specific uses.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: ALA is an antioxidant with the unique ability to function in both water and fat. It has been used to boost brain function and improve age-related conditions by protecting nerve cells.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid: See discussion here.
Creatine Monohydrate: This is still the short-term performance and muscle building supplement of choice. No bodybuilding supplement has been able to match it.
Probiotics: Healthy bacteria such as Acidophilus have shown some promise in keeping the gut healthy. Preliminary research has shown the possibility of certain strains of the good beasties can prevent peptic ulcers, infections and even reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Proceed with Caution
While the supplement industry is working very hard to convince us that we must have supplement X, Y and Z to attain (fill in the blank) health benefit, we mustn’t ignore the pharmaceutical-like properties of real food. I believe certain supplements can be beneficial, but before considering them, look at your diet first.