Figuring out which dietary supplements to invest in can be tricky. There are thousands of products to choose from–many of which promise amazing health benefits–so a trip to GNC or a walk down the vitamin aisle at the supermarket can be overwhelming. Supplement sales reached $11.5 billion dollars in 2012, according to a recent report published by Packaged Facts, but which ones are really worth buying?
Related link:How to Rev Up Your Metabolism
There are certain supplements that are appropriate for people based on their individual nutritional and health needs, but three main supplements can benefit almost anyone: a multivitamin, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. Here’s how they can help you (but keep in mind that everyone’s nutrition and health needs are different, so always discuss with your physician or dietitian what supplements are right for you).
Multivitamin. Eating a balanced diet daily is vital to good health, but even the healthiest eater can’t always get the right dosage of essential nutrients every day. That’s where a dietary supplement like a well-balanced multivitamin is beneficial. A multivitamin allows you to fill in the nutritional gaps, ensuring that you’re getting all the necessary daily vitamins and minerals your body needs in the right amounts for optimal health and wellness.
There are supplements on the market that provide you with mega dosages of many vitamins and minerals, but it’s important to remember that too much of a good thing can be bad. Taking too many vitamins (specifically fat soluble ones such as vitamin E and K) and minerals can cause imbalances in your body that can have a dangerous impact on your overall health.
Tip: When purchasing a multivitamin, you should always look for a product that provides about 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) in vitamins and minerals to prevent potential serious health consequences of mega dosing.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means they are necessary for good health, but cannot be manufactured by the body on its own. That’s why consuming an adequate amount daily is important for overall well being. An adequate intake of omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to protect heart health, boost brain power, and can even fight off stress. These essential fatty acids are found in dietary sources such as fish, walnuts, and flax seed. However, if you fail to eat foods such as these regularly, you may not be meeting your daily requirement. And that’s where an omega-3 fatty acid supplement can come in.
When choosing an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, make sure to look for one that has been purified to remove any mercury as well as PCBs, a toxic environmental contaminant. Choosing a supplement made from small, oily fish such as sardines or anchovies can also help to prevent the supplement containing unsafe levels of mercury and other toxins. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or high cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends choosing a supplement that provides at least one to two grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which help reduce heart disease.
Tip: Watch your dosing. You should not consume more than two to three grams of omega 3 fatty acids daily without consulting a physician due to an increased risk of bleeding.
Related link:The Best Tea for Every Moment in Life
Vitamin D. Although this vitamin is available in some foods, our main source of vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. However, if you live in the northern hemisphere, are housebound, or slather yourself in sun block before venturing outside, you could be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Since low levels of vitamin D have been attributed to everything from an increased risk of osteoporosis to depression and even obesity, it’s essential that you take in adequate amounts daily. Although the current daily intake levels range from 20 to 600 IU (international units) depending on age, many experts argue these levels are too low and we should aim for 800 to 1000 IU per day, which can be almost impossible to take in from food sources alone. For this reason, a vitamin D supplement is needed for many individuals.
Tip: When choosing a vitamin D supplement, look for the vitamin in the form of D3 (cholecalciferol), a natural form of vitamin D found in food and the form our skin makes when exposed to sun. In addition, since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, take your supplement with a meal or snack that includes a source of fat for better absorption.
About Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE.