Vitamins and minerals (i.e micronutrients) play a wide-reaching role in different processes of the body. But the question is, do we need to supplement vitamins and minerals? Simple answer, not really.
In the past, vitamins and mineral supplements were used to cure deficiency diseases. Supplementation nowadays are primarily used with the aim of reducing the risk of chronic diseases and increasing overall health and longevity. Although deficiencies are still prevalent, inadequate nutrient absorption is marked by an overconsumption of bad quality foods resulting in chronic inflammation. The matter of which this originates is more complex than previous years, but the level of importance is equivalent. Contrary to popular belief within the United States and other developed countries nutrient deficiencies aren’t as common as you think. The biggest issue is the lack of importance on lifestyle changes and quality nutrition.
Primarily our focus should be seeking the majority of our nutrients through a well-varied diet, low in anti-inflammatory properties, then seek supplementation for areas that may be lacking. Even then, supplementation might be tertiary dependent on the individuals lifestyle.
I see a lot of people talking about specific supplements and the benefits they provide. That is all good and well, however, our nutrient needs change throughout our lives and we need to constantly readjust these needs to the current state we are in. In order for our bodies to obtain the benefits of these supplements we shouldn’t assume factors outside of that are good and well. An overall shift in lifestyle behaviors and emphasis on nutrition alone will allow us reach optimal health potential. This starts with building a nutritional foundation and focusing on nutrient-dense foods. Consistent with this, reducing stress, adequate water intake, movement and time in nature are of equal value. Our society has steered away from these simple things our body needs to reach optimal health potential. It is all in the name of inspiring better habits and understanding how outside sources are impacting us first. Healthy living has gotten a little overcomplicated, the reality is if you are living a moderately healthy lifestyle chances are you’re getting sufficient nutrients. The thing is, you do not need excess amounts in order to reach optimal health, you simply need enough. However, this is not to be confused with lack of attention on nutrient contents. A required dedication to your lifestyle and nutrient needs is necessary and does require some time and energy.
I consider myself a pretty active person, that being said, my sole use for taking vitamin and mineral supplements is to ensure all my bases are covered. I can’t afford any gaps in between my career workload and activity level that could interfere with my recovery, performance and overall stamina. If I am not able to reap the benefits of my nutritional intake I take supplements solely as a precautionary method. Although some research suggests high activity levels in active individuals may increase their vitamin needs, there is still no official guidelines for vitamin recommendations. I simply want to make sure no stone is unturned and use them as a tertiary method by simply supporting and maintaining my intake.
In some cases there may be specific needs and requirements dependent on outside factors (dietary preference, genetics, age). Even then, creating better nutritional habits should be our primary focus. What each individual requires is different but there is a general guideline of what the majority of us are lacking in our modern world. These are the supplements I currently take:
Vitamin C – May be self explanatory but Vitamin C doesn’t just aid in increasing/maintaining immunity. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body and is beneficial for tissue formation. If your highly active, Vitamin C can help repair from your workouts and can help stabilize your cortisol levels.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is the perfect example of a nutrient the majority of us are lacking (up to 80% of people are Vitamin D deficient). Vitamin D is a necessary supplement because first off, it is not present in most foods we eat. Aside from that factors like pollution, climate and even sunscreen (which is good!) it makes it harder for the body to receive via sunlight. It is absolutely crucial in keeping your bones strong, your immunity function high, and essential for growth and development.
Magnesium Glycinate – Not only does Magnesium assist in the absorption of calcium but its a key supplement in bone maintenance and development. Above that, magnesium helps in cell division and muscle health. On a chemical level, it can aid by activating the parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for getting you calm and relaxed.
Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin deficiency (Vitamin B12 deficiency) is more common than one might realize (up to 40%, but more so in elderly) Vitamin B12 is another vitamin (like vitamin d) where its possible you are not able to get enough from your diet or absorbs enough from your diet. Vitamin B12 is essential to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA and carry out other essential functions. Again, your body does not make Vitamin B12, therefore its important to ingest foods that are high in Vitamin B12.
Primrose Oil – One of the benefits of taking Primrose Oil is the decrease in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, more specifically, mastalgia (breast pain & hormone changes during menstruation). Arguably, Primrose Oil is a “fluff” vitamin and may or may be necessary, depending on the person. There hasn’t been enough scientific studies done to show any significant evidence. But, one of the largest studies conducted on Primrose Oil was specifically looking at mastalgia which showed an average of 35% reduction in breast pain after the consumption of primrose oil. Personally, I have really bad mastalgia and was suggested by my OB/GYN physician to take it to see if it made a difference in my symptoms. Another thing to keep in mind, evening primrose oil contains a high proportion of essential fatty acids and is valued for this specific reason. The benefits may coincide with the same benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, that being said it may be used for the same reasons – skin, heart health, and specific inflammatory diseases.
Omega-3 – Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in health and again, are often under-consumed. Beyond supporting brain health, it supports heart health and vision. Most commonly found in fish, but fish actually accumulate those Omega-3s from microalgae. Meaning the original source is also vegan friendly. So when choosing your Omega-3s be on the lookout for Omega-3s that are sourced directly from micro algae.
Turmeric & Curcumin – If your not taking turmeric, what are you even doing? Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. Numerous high-quality studies show it has major benefits on your body and brain. Turmeric contains bioactive compounds with medicinal properties, which has extremely powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and antioxidant properties. A lot of chronic inflammation contributes to many western diseases, so suppression of inflammation is important. Aside from it being a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant it may also benefit towards increased brain function, and even changes on a molecular level towards cancer prevention.
Folate – Folate is responsible for cell reproduction. It is most commonly prescribed for prenatal woman as it is extremely important during periods of rapid growth during pregnancy and essential to prevent against neural tube defects. Aside from that, folate is essential for the the maintenance of healthy cells and also helps regulate the concentration of an amino acid called homocysteine.