Best supplements for optimal health
When it comes to getting all the nutrients you need, few diets provide adequate amounts of every single vitamin, mineral and antioxidant necessary for optimal health. Even if your diet is so-called “perfect,” many other factors contribute to the absorption of these vital nutrients. That is why, despite all the debate, supplements are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet.
Bioavailability and absorption are two important factors when it comes to sufficient intake of micronutrients. For example, oxalates are a chemical found in tea. While herbal teas are good for you, this chemical can limit the bioavailability of several nutrients, like iron and calcium. Tea has become as much a staple in many diets as coffee or water – meaning your body may not be benefiting from your “perfect” diet.
Another common example is consuming milk with a meal containing eggs – it is highly unlikely you will absorb much of the calcium in the milk. Iron, found in eggs, binds calcium in the intestines, limiting absorption. Ideally, these two micronutrients should be consumed three hours apart, but do you really have time for that much planning and fretting?
For this reason, supplements are essential and, if you plan appropriately – taking the more sensitive vitamins and minerals in the evening before bed and the fat-soluble vitamins with a meal – you will find you have a sort of “insurance policy” on your micronutrient absorption.
With stress levels rising and people looking for ways to boost their immunity levels and get proper nutrition, wellness experts say this could be an ideal time for you to start a supplements routine. Adding a couple of easy-to-take supplements to your daily food intake and exercise regimen could go a long way towards keeping you healthy — and sane — during these unprecedented times.
- Vitamin C
Everyone knows that the best way to get vitamin C is through fresh fruits and vegetables, but as grocery stores continue to face shortages, that’s easier said than done. And while a number of meal delivery services have stepped up to deliver fresh produce to your door, you can’t beat the convenience of a vitamin supplement.
This vitamin is very important for your health as it acts as a powerful antioxidant, which helps to fight free radical damage caused by the environment, processed foods, and stress, which eventually causes cellular damage. Vitamin C acts to neutralize these free radicals preventing this inflammation.
Need more proof of its benefits: As a result of vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory activity, Wuhan University in China started clinical trials in February to assess high-dose vitamin C infusion as treatment against severe acute respiratory illnesses associated with the coronavirus.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is hard to come by in food and while you can get it from sunshine — which activates your body to make it — most of us don’t get sufficient, unexposed sun time. These days, there are several popular light therapy lamps that can mimic the appearance of sunshine, but they won’t have the additional health benefits of vitamin D.
Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system and supplementation has been shown to protect against respiratory infections.
There has been some controversy over the amount of vitamin D needed for healthy functioning. Recent research indicates that you need more vitamin D than was once thought. Normal blood serum levels range from 50 to 100 micrograms per deciliter. Depending on your blood level, you may need more vitamin D.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reports new recommendations based on international units (IUs) per day. IUs are a standard type of measurement for drugs and vitamins. IUs help experts determine recommended dose, toxicity, and deficiency levels for each person.
One IU is not the same for each type of vitamin. An IU is determined by how much of a substance produces an effect in your body. The recommended IUs for vitamin D are:
- children and teens: 600 IU
- adults up to age 70: 600 IU
- adults over age 70: 800 IU
- pregnant or breastfeeding women: 600 IU
A number of studies have found that when using zinc lozenges during a cold, the duration of the cold was reduced by one day. Whilst its specific mechanism is unknown, theories include that it prevents the [cold] virus from entering cells and/or that it decreases the inflammatory cytokines in the blood.
Zinc is well known for its role in blood sugar control and insulin secretion. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your tissues.
Some research suggests that zinc may help keep blood sugar levels steady and improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin. One review reported that zinc supplements were effective at enhancing both short-term and long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes
Other research shows that zinc may help reduce insulin resistance, which can improve your body’s ability to use insulin efficiently to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Zinc supplements are often used to promote skin health and treat common skin conditions like acne. Zinc sulfate has been shown to be especially useful for decreasing symptoms of severe acne. A 3-month study in 332 people found that taking 30 mg of elemental zinc — a term that refers to the actual amount of zinc found in a supplement — was effective at treating inflammatory acne. Zinc supplements are also often favored over other treatment methods as they’re inexpensive, effective, and associated with far fewer side effects.
How much zinc you should take per day depends on the type, as each supplement contains a different amount of elemental zinc.
For example, zinc sulfate consists of about 23% elemental zinc, so 220 mg of zinc sulfate would equate to about 50 mg of zinc. This amount is usually listed on the label of your supplement, making it easy to determine how much you should take to meet your daily needs. For adults, the recommended daily dosage is typically 15–30 mg of elemental zinc
Higher doses have been used for treating certain conditions, including acne, diarrhea, and respiratory infections.
However, due to the potential side effects associated with excess zinc consumption, it’s best not to exceed the upper limit of 40 mg per day — unless under medical supervision.
If you just need to calm down a little bit, you’ll want to keep some magnesium in your medicine cabinet. Magnesium is a relaxation mineral and it helps counter the effects of stress in your body and supports a healthy sleep cycle, so it’s especially relevant right now. It’s also involved in your immune response.
Though magnesium is found in common pantry items, like whole grains, beans and nuts, studies have shown that up to 80% of Australians have a magnesium deficiency.
It is recommended to take magnesium in powder form (mixed with water) as it is a larger mineral so pills are hard to swallow. The flavored packets from OMG! Nutrition are highly-absorbable, and make it easier to get your daily dose of magnesium, while being easier on your stomach. The most common form of magnesium pills — magnesium citrate — can cause stomach discomfort and a laxative effect.
A diet high in magnesium includes healthy whole foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Though it’s possible to get the daily recommended amount of the mineral — 400–420 mg for men and 320–360 mg for women — through diet alone, most modern diets are low in magnesium-rich foods. If you can’t get enough magnesium through your diet and if it’s safe for you to do so, you may want to take a supplement.
Your gut hosts the majority of your immune functioning, so it’s important to maintain the integrity of your GI tract, and that takes a multi-pronged approach that involves eating a diverse, high-fiber diet, including colorful foods that are rich in polyphenols, and enjoying fermented foods, like yogurt, regularly. This strategy makes sure that you’re feeding the beneficial bacteria as well as consuming foods that supply them.
Still, probiotic supplements can come in handy, both if you don’t have access to fermented foods easily, or if you want to add an extra boost to your gut health and digestive health.
If you’re shopping for a probiotic, look for one that has strains that have been clinically shown to produce the response you’re looking for.
Types of Probiotics
Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups. Ask your healthcare professional about which might best help you.
- Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
- Bifidobacterium. You can find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
- Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.