While I always say that it’s better to get your nutrients from food first sometimes supplements are necessary. Unfortunately there are just some all-too-common nutrients that we simply don’t get enough of. And they’re absolutely critical to optimal health and wellness, especially as we age. Most likely your body is already telling you that you need more of this nutrient you are just unaware of the connection.
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist I get asked all the time what supplements are the best to take. Here I sifted through the supplements that are available on the market and boiled them down to four that can have the best effect for us. I will also outline where to find these the best quality of versions of each as there are quite a bit on the market (not all are created equal- I don’t want you to waste your money).
Not convinced that supplements are essential to your overall well being? I suggest you read one of my previous posts on addressing if taking supplements are a waste of money.
Supplement #1: Vitamin D.
If you live in North America chances are you are low in vitamin D. Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, we just aren’t able to hang out in shorts every day of the year especially if you live in Canada. Even if we did, we wisely latter up with sunscreen blocking their essential vitamin from penetrating our skin.
Vitamin D is very important for everyone but especially if we are over the age of 50. It helps to protect our bones! As we age we become more prone to osteoporosis (or osteopenia- the stage before officially being diagnosed with osteoporosis). Vitamin D helps our body absorb and keep the calcium we get from our food and drinks. And you are probably already familiar that calcium is one of the main things our bones are made of.
Want to know something funny about vitamin D (but it’s true, I swear)? People who get enough vitamin D tend to fall less frequently. And those who do are less likely to become victims to fractures.
Seriously! Vitamin D can help your bones stay strong and help you fall less. Win-win!
I also wrote a previous article linking a deficiency in vitamin D with poor sleep.
What to look for when purchasing vitamin D: I suggest purchasing D3 (cholecalciferol) in either capsules or drops. It’s relatively inexpensive and is best absorbed when taken with food. Vitamin D can also be found in a good quality multivitamin but you want to take at least 1000 IU per day. I recommend taking more especially during the winter months.
Supplement #2: Magnesium.
Magnesium is the most important mineral you will ever supplement your diet with. Dare I say it? Maybe even MORE important than taking the oh so popular mineral calcium. Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for over 300 reactions in your body. Yes, 300!
As with vitamin D it’s very common for us to simply not get enough. Not even the 320 mg per day that’s recommended. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, low bone density, and even migraines.
Feeling ache and sore? Take magnesium. Suffer from restless leg? Take magnesium. Have trouble relaxing and winding down before bed? Take magnesium. As a fitness instructor I swear by magnesium to reduce muscle pains and spasm. I even double or tripled my magnesium dosage during my second pregnancy because of the constant discomfort I was feeling.
Magnesium is found in so many healthy whole foods like beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. In fact, the magnesium element is central to a plant’s chlorophyll – it’s actually what causes green plants to be green! And most of us just don’t get enough green plants into our bodies on a regular basis.
It’s also found in the cacao bean, which make chocolate! If you are constant chocolate craver like me, your body maybe telling you need to supplement more with magnesium.
Magnesium is a very common supplement and is often added to multivitamins. The dosage tends to be fairly low though and it’s not always the best form of magnesium. My prefer form of magnesium is bisglycinate which is a highly absorbable form that does not cause diarrhea. Magnesium malate is ideal if you suffer from fibromyalgia, which is better at aiding pains and fatigue. Magnesium citrate is another common form to take too.
Supplement #3: Omega-3.
We’ve all heard that we need to get more omega-3 essential fatty acids, right? Omega-3s are called essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot make them and therefore rely on obtaining them through the foods and supplements we consume.
These are all good things when it comes to our health and wellness. They’re good for our hearts, brains, and help to reduce inflammation. Did you know that the human brain is almost 60% fat? Consuming these essential fats help the brain to function at it’s optimal level. Those who consume omega-3s on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from arthritis.
Omega-3 supplements can be found in forms of flax oil, algae oil, fish oil, or even fish liver oil. But not all of us are ready, willing, and able to eat fish three times per week. While fish oil supplements contain the “brain healthy” fats called EPA and DHA, those two are not technically the “essential” fats. The plant omega-3 known as ALA is essential and that is because our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA when necessary.
When it comes to purchasing omega-3 supplements this is one you may want to splurge on. There are a lot of fish oils on the market but it is essential that you purchase a good quality one that is processed properly and not damaged during production. I would stay away from fish oils from most big box stores selling them at bulk at a ridiculous low price.
Supplement #4: Probiotics.
Did you know as much as 80% of our immunity is found in our gut? The key to staying healthy is to have balance gut flora- which is the microme that make up your stomach’s bacteria. We get sick when our gut flora is out of balance and there are too many “bad guys”.
As we age, and especially if we have a history of taking antibiotics, our gut bacteria tends to weaken making us more susceptible to getting sick. Consuming probiotics, especially during cold and flu season decreases your changes of getting sick. As we age our immune systems become suppressed making it way more common to fall ill. Spend a lot of time with your school aged grand kids? Schools are a known as a breading ground for all types of germs. Don’t skip out on taking your probiotic.
The digestive system can also be supported better by consuming probiotics. As we age digestive annoyances such as constipation, diarrhea and gas can become increasingly common. It’s mostly due to the fact of the decrease of digestive enzymes excreted by the digestive system.
There is now a lot of flexibility when it comes to purchasing a probiotic. They use to only be found in the fridge but now you can find some good quality shelf-stable ones (which are great if you like to travel). They measure the amount of strains in billions and each company and/or condition cultivates their strains differently. The more strains isn’t necessarily better especially if you haven’t taken probiotics before. I suggest you ease into it by taking something 50 billion or less.
The four supplements to consider now that you’re 50 are: vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3s and probiotics.
Always read the supplement labels to see if there are warnings that would make them inappropriate for you. And, of course if you have any medical conditions or take medications or other supplements it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting anything new.