While supplement labels may tempt you into buying purchases with big promises like “stress reduction” and “better sleep,” it’s important to be skeptical and do some preliminary research to see if a particular ingredient lives up to those promises. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve vitamins and supplements; it simply inspects manufacturing practices and steps in if a particular supplement becomes a public health concern. So some companies make questionable claims and get away with it. A recent consumer review found that 46 percent of supplements fall short of their high promises.
In short, it pays to be a skeptical Susan as you browse the drugstore supplement aisle. But for things a bit easier, we spoke with registered dietitian and supplement researcher Anne Danahy, RDN, founder of Craving Something Healthy, and Kelly LeVeque, CN, a holistic nutritionist and bestselling author, to share which supplements you should consider adding to your cart — and how. you can determine if a product is really right for you.
3 questions to ask yourself if you are considering supplementation
1. Can I get this vitamin from my diet instead of taking a supplement?
Dietitians are big fans of telling you to “eat your vitamins,” and Danahy is no exception. “[Everyone] should consider if there are any gaps in their diet that can be filled with food before transitioning to supplements,” says Danahy. “The nutrients in whole foods are present in balanced amounts and as part of a whole package that includes protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats , fiber, antioxidants, etc. All of these work synergistically in your body, so always start with a balanced diet.” Basically, most people should try increasing their intake of certain foods before resorting to a pill to make up for the difference.
That said, certain people may struggle to meet their needs just by dieting, whether due to a health condition (such as celiac disease) or their specific eating plan. Vegans, for example, have more limited sources of brain-stimulating B12, as it is most commonly found in animal foods. In such cases, supplementation can be incredibly helpful in closing nutritional gaps. Pregnant people should also take a folic acid supplement and other prenatal vitamins to support their baby’s development and reduce the risk of birth defects.
2. What sparks your interest in this particular supplement?
You may have heard that 5-HTP can help you calm down when you are mainly stress or that melatonin can support a good night’s sleep. While there’s often some evidence to support these touted benefits, making sure you’re addressing lifestyle factors that can also contribute to these issues is essential, Danahy says. For example, if your job keeps you busy around the clock, can you try stress management strategies such as exercise, meditation, gardening, or reading before seeking a supplement? If the answer is “no”, that’s totally fine, but the question is worth asking.
3. What can my family history tell me about which supplements can help me?
“Even if someone is in good health, I would recommend assessing their risk of certain health conditions because of their lifestyle or family history,” Danahy says. “For example, someone with a family history of heart disease and blood pressure that’s starting to creep may want to consider omega-3 fish oil, beet powder, or certain antioxidants.”
If this sounds like you, ask your doctor what they think about supplementation based on your personal family history. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.
The 4 Supplements You Should Take According to a Dietitian and Nutritionist
1. Vitamin D
According to Danahy, most people could benefit from vitamin D. “It’s hard to get enough from your diet unless you eat a lot of salmon, egg yolks, and fortified milk,” she says. “This is also a vitamin that most people are not deficient in, but many people have sub-optimal levels.” Vitamin D has many essential functions, including helping your body absorb calcium (which is critical for bone health), reducing inflammation and promoting mental well-being. In other words, it’s damn important — and worth thinking about.
Recommended daily intake: 600-800 IU per day (15-20 mcg).
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
If you live and breathe now, you’ve probably heard the hype surrounding omega-3s. “Omega-3 or fish oil is another one I often recommend for middle-aged plus. It can help lower blood pressure and triglycerides, but I also like it because it supports cognitive health and has anti-inflammatory effects,” says Danahy. She cautions that eating food sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and fatty fish, two to three times a week is still a better option than supplementation.
Daily Recommended Intake: 1.1 grams for women; 1.6 grams for men (for reference, a 2-ounce serving of farmed salmon contains about 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids)
“[Magnesium] is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, so it helps support everything from bones and muscles to glucose and blood pressure to DNA and RNA synthesis,” says Danahy. “You can take it anytime, but some people think it helps them relax in the evening if they take it after dinner. The mineral is also essential for heart health as it supports the health of nerves, cells and muscles. She recommends magnesium glycinate, a form of magnesium that is slightly more easily absorbed by the body. in foods such as spinach, black beans, and almonds.)
Daily Recommended Intake: 310-360 milligrams per day for women (depending on age and pregnancy), and 400-420 milligrams for men (depending on age).
4. A Multivitamin
For example, LeVeque is a big fan of the multivitamin to cover all your bases. They can be a great way to consume a variety of macro and micronutrients without paying for individual vitamins.
There’s a caveat, though: Multivitamins come in many varieties, so you should consult a doctor, dietitian, or other counselor about which mix makes sense for you based on factors such as your age, diet, current medications, and whether or not you’re pregnant. . Harvard Health recommends reading the label and choosing one that contains your daily recommended amount of the various vitamins and minerals and bears the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) hallmark on the label (an indication of the purity and strength of a particular vitamin).
Daily Recommended Intake: Varies by vitamin.
Long story short, supplements aren’t nearly as simple as they seem. So if you have any questions, please contact your GP. There’s no point in spending a lot of money at the drugstore if it doesn’t significantly impact your day-to-day health and well-being.