Are you confused when you walk into a health food store?
You cautiously walk down the supplement aisle and all you see when you arrive is shelves of confusion with brands promising you instant remedies and longevity. So which one do you choose?
Do you go with the bottle that has some fancy doctor’s name on the label or perhaps the one that has a photo of a family looking blissfully happy. Do you get so confused, you walk out empty handed?
Don’t worry, we’ve taken the guess-work out for you, so you can navigate through the vitamin maze with confidence. But first of all...
Do you really need to take supplements?
We ofter hear that if you eat well you shouldn’t need to supplement and in a perfect world we would not need to. Ideally we would live stress-free lives, get all the nutrients we need from our food and never be exposed to toxins! The truth is however that we no longer live like our forefathers and whilst many of us live healthy lives free from disease and illness it’s not always the case.
Supplementation is increasingly becoming an essential health-booster that can help to fill in nutritional gaps and protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up.
Through our journey of creating the films 'Food Matters' and 'Hungry For Change’, we have met with some incredible health practitioners, and wellness experts including Dr. Andrew Saul, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Ian Brighthope, and Charlotte Gerson. And they all agree on one thing - if you're searching for optimal wellness, improving your diet and developing a supplementation plan is essential. Additionally, supplementation was a critical element in helping my father recover from serious chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and anxiety.
In this article we demystify the confusion surrounding what supplements are ideal to have as an all round program and uncover the Fab Four that can help you achieve vibrant health without breaking the budget.
Why Should We Supplement?
There are enormous benefits to increasing your dietary intake of vitamins and minerals through supplementation. So when it comes to making sure you're covering all bases, quality supplements can be your daily backup for ultimate health.
As Dr Dan Rogers, MD, says, "How can you build a building that you expect to last 100 years if you put poor building materials in? Same thing with your body. How can you expect your body to last for a long and enjoyable lifetime if you don't put the proper building blocks in there?"
Nothing will replace a diet rich in vitamins and minerals from wholesome, natural foods. But life gets busy, stress levels rise, we struggle to find time to source and prepare a variety of nourishing dishes, and as a result our health and nutrition takes a back seat. Not to mention, our food just isn't the same as what it used to be. The nutrient levels are drastically decreased and toxicity levels are elevated due to modern day large-scale farming practices.
Supplementing helps to make sure we're getting the nutrition we need, each and every day, no matter what life throws at us. Watch this 8 minutes segment from 'Food Matters' the film which helps to explain how our food has changed.
Isn't Eating Well Enough?
The World Health Organization estimates that nutrition plays a role in 85 per cent of disease. Fuelling your body appropriately therefore is one of the most amazing things you can do for your body.
Unfortunately, modern farming practices, major food companies, global supply chains and heavy use of mass manufacturing has seen our food supply go from local, sustainable, and nutrient-rich, to heavily processed ‘frankenfoods’ and old produce travelling miles and miles, stripped of essential vitamins and minerals by the time they reach our plates.
These are just some of the reasons why our food is not as nutritious as it used to be:
- soil deficiencies
- environmental contamination
- extended refrigeration
- chemical alteration
In addition to this, what we do to the soil, the air and the water around us deeply affects our food.
Why Is Healthy Soil So Important?
As natural health icon Charlotte Gerson points out in the above Food Matters clip, our soil is bereft of nutrients, minerals and trace elements, with fertilizers only replacing the phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium in the earth. So, where are the rest of the vitamins and minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron etc.) that the soil needs?
They are ABSENT.
Fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows.
Over the past half century, the vitamins and minerals in our fresh produce have gradually been declining, with researchers discovering drops in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C of 43 different types of fruits and vegetables.
Infact, the average nutrient levels for calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C levels have dropped by 28% according a Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 and yet another study concluded that:
You would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.
We could be eating the healthiest foods each and every day, but there’s still a chance that we’re not getting enough of the nutrients our bodies need. When you combine this with the demands of a busy lifestyle, it’s hard for your body to keep up, let alone feel amazing and look great!
What Are The Benefits Of Increased Nutrient Intake?
There are countless studies showing that by simply increasing your vitamin and mineral intake, you can:
- Boost your immunity
- Reduce your stress levels
- Stimulate hair growth
- Improve your skin
- Promote mental clarity
- Lower your blood pressure
- Help yourself lose weight
- Reduce your cravings
- Increase your energy levels
- Improve your ability to sleep
- And regulate your digestion
Not to mention, a healthy diet and supplementation routine can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.
Given this information it is little wonder that many experts now advise that an all-round supplementation program (alongside a healthy diet) is crucial for optimal health!
What’s The Difference Between Natural & Synthetic Supplements?
Often we associate the word 'synthetic' as meaning something bad. In many cases where food is concerned, this is certainly the case! However, the trouble is that our bodies can become so deficient and depleted in key nutrients that nothing short of high dose supplementation will do the trick to make us better again.
While wholefood supplements are more 'natural', they don't always deliver the high doses that people with certain illnesses need to heal, replenish and recover. Mother Nature's vitamin and minerals are absolutely great - as long as your body is in a state of wellness. When your body is an artificial state of disease, it sometimes needs megadose of nutrients to heal. And only synthetic vitamins can provide that.
- Isolated or simulated nutrients
- Cheap to make and usually non-organic
- Can be more bioavailable (high-quality brands)
- Generally allow for higher doses
- Consumed in wholefood form
- Made with premium ingredients
- Rich in phytonutrients
- Sometimes provide lower doses
So for general daily wellness, it’s best to stick to wholefood vitamin supplements, and leave the synthetic versions for serious health conditions that require specific nutrients at high doses.
What Should I Look For When Deciding On A Supplement Program?
Every body is different, and everyone has varying needs. What your body requires to reach optimal daily health can be totally different to someone else. But there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting which supplements are the perfect fit for you.
As a general guide, we make sure to tick these 4 boxes before trying anything new:
Natural Or High-Quality Synthetic Ingredients
When it comes to choosing your day-to-day supplements, always do your best to find natural food derived options instead of those that are separated from the other life-giving nutrients.
Opt for organic where possible, and make sure to choose a reputable brand. If you’re unsure where to start, we’ve listed some options that we personally use and recommend below! Remember as stated above synthetic supplements may be important for high dose chronic conditions but for day-to-day supplementation natural wholefood forms are best.
Scientific Evidence To Support Health Claims
This usually takes a little bit of exploration on your part, but if the supplement is making outrageous claims, or promises you a miracle cure without any research behind those statements, then you should be cautious about whether or not it’s the best choice.
Check the label or the manufacturer’s website for resources including links or references to journal articles to show that you’re getting the best supplement for your health.
What You Are Looking To Treat
If you are supplementing to treat a particular condition, then it may be necessary to take very specific types of supplements and sometimes synthetic supplements, for a shorter duration of time to achieve high enough doses for the desired effect.
If you are just looking to maintain great health however, natural supplements are your best option so that they can be absorbed, metabolized and used by the body as if they had been ingested as food.
Some vitamins are higher strength than others. And whilst you may assume that the higher dose the better, your needs should dictate the levels you require.
When choosing a lower dosage, you have the flexibility to boost your intake when needed, rather than consistently take large doses, which in some cases, can cause a toxicity or interfere with other medications (even natural ones!). It's best to consult your integrative doctor or naturopath for specific doses.
The Daily Fab Four For Everyday Wellness
Over the past 8 years, we’ve connected with everyone from GPs, nutritionists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and everything in between, sourcing you the best advice across the globe to support you on your journey. During this time, four supplements continued to come up in conversation, so we’ve nicknamed these key supplements, the Daily Fab Four!
A High Quality Multivitamin To Cover The Spectrum
When considering a supplement program, the first step is choosing a high quality, high dose multivitamin. It's important as it forms a solid foundation of high level health upon which you can build and tailor the rest of your supplements. A multivitamin helps to fill the gaps of vitamins and minerals that may be missing from what you eat, so that you've got your base nutrition covered each day. The multivitamin should include the recommended daily levels of iron, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin D, chromium, magnesium, zinc, copper and selenium.
Our Top Picks:
- Premier Daily One by Premier Research Labs LEARN MORE
- Integrative Therapeutics Multi-Plex 1 with Iron LEARN MORE
A Natural Vitamin C To Look Great, Boost Your Immunity And Prevent Chronic Disease
Vitamin C specialist Dr Ian Brighthope swears by vitamin C to help cure a whole manner of diseases, from flu to cancer. A powerful building block of the immune system, vitamin C has antiviral and antibacterial properties, and is also a dynamic antioxidant, helping to prevent the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease as well as support healthy skin and collagen production. It’s incredibly important to consume enough each day as your body doesn’t actually produce it!
Our Top Picks:
- Food Matters Superfood Vitamin C LEARN MORE
- Premier Research Labs Vitamin C LEARN MORE
- Garden of Life Vitamin Code Vitamin C LEARN MORE
- Nutrigold Vitamin C Gold LEARN MORE
Essential Fatty Acids To Help Keep Your Brain Sharp And Your Body Nimble
Essential fatty acids are incredibly important to keep you, (and especially your brain, skin and joints) functioning at top performance. The three key fatty acids include ALA, EPA, and DHA.
EPA and DHA come from fish and animal products. They are the most effectively absorbed and ready to support your bodies health, whereas ALA, mainly from plant foods, needs to be converted by the body into either EPA or DHA. All three forms can be taken orally via oils or capsules.
Essential fatty acids are necessary for:
- maintaining healthy hair and skin,
- elevating your mood,
- nourishing the brain,
- supporting a healthy pregnancy,
- increasing energy,
- and helps to regulate blood sugar.
Our Top Picks:
- Premier Research Labs DHA LEARN MORE
- Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega LEARN MORE
- Garden of Life Oceans Beyond Omega-3 LEARN MORE
- Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA LEARN MORE
- Chia Co Chia Seed Oil (Vegan Option, rich in ALA but not EPA or DHA) LEARN MORE
A Multi-Strain Probiotic For Improved Digestion, Immunity And Mood
The word "probiotic" is a compound of two Greek words: "pro," to signify promotion of and "biotic," which means life. Their very definition is something that affirms life and health.
Ultimately, how we look and feel depends a lot on the nutrients that we eat, digest, and absorb.
Each of us has more than 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts, helping us to break down food and absorb nutrients, improve our immunity, reduce risk of urinary tract infections, ward off colon cancer, and may even reduce our risk of common allergies!
But when we take antibiotics -- medicine that is designed to kill destructive, illness-causing bacteria -- the drugs can also kill the healthy intestinal flora, causing our health to suffer.
A standard Western diet and poor lifestyle choices can also cause the ratio of healthy vs harmful bacteria to be thrown out of balance, resulting in a whole range of conditions.
You can purchase probiotics in many forms, including powders, tablets and capsules.
Our Top Picks:
Ultimately, how we look and feel depends a lot on the nutrients that we eat, digest, and absorb.
Whilst supplements are not a replacement for nutritious eating, taking the Daily Fab Four can help to seal the nutritional gaps that are missing in your day to day life, supporting you to be as healthy as you can be.
So if you’re looking to stay well, prevent disease, improve your energy, or simply put a little extra ‘zing’ back into your step, put a Supplement Plan in place today! Your body will thank you.
If you are looking to treat specific conditions such as depression and anxiety I would recommend these articles which has more specific food and supplement recommendations: How To Overcome Depression Naturally and How To Take Niacin Vitamin B3 For Depression And Anxiety.
And if you are interested in recommendations for candida then read more here: How To Overcome Candida Naturally.