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 overwhelming shelves filled 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? Or do you get so confused, you walk out empty handed?
Well don't you worry, we've taken the guess-work out, so you can navigate through the supplement maze with confidence. But first of all...
Do you really need to take supplements?
We often hear that if you eat well you shouldn’t need to supplement, and in a perfect world, we wouldn't 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 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-around program and uncover the Fab Five 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 have 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 minute segment from 'Food Matters' the film which helps to explain how our food has changed.
Isn't Eating Good Enough?
The World Health Organization estimates that nutrition plays a role in 85 percent of disease. Therefore, fuelling your body appropriately 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.
In fact, the average nutrient levels for calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C have dropped by 28% according to 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 true! 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 whole food 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 vitamins and minerals are absolutely great - as long as your body is in a state of wellness. When your body is in an artificial state of disease, it sometimes needs a 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 whole food form
- Made with premium ingredients
- Rich in phytonutrients
- Sometimes provide lower doses
So for general daily wellness, it’s best to stick to whole food 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?
Everybody 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 6 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.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, check that the supplement also is, even the capsules used for certain supplements can be animal based. So it’s best to mention this to your practitioner or look out for any indications on the packaging and ingredients list that it is free from animal products.
Plus, some vitamins are higher strength than others. And whilst you may assume that the higher the 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 taking large doses, which in some cases, can cause a toxicity or interfere with other medications (even natural ones!).
Any Drug Nutrient Interactions?
As we stated above some supplements, particularly herbals ones or high doses of nutrients, may have different drug-nutrient interactions with certain medication. It may mean that you need to avoid a certain supplement or need to plan what times you take them to avoid any negative interactions. In fact, it’s best to consult your integrative doctor or naturopath for specific doses and recommendations prior to trying the supplement.
The ingredients list is very important and should never be overlooked, it holds the information as to whether or not this product is suitable for you. This is where you can determine if the product is natural or synthetic, animal or plant-based, what form of vitamin or mineral you are getting, the dose per individual tablet, and info on any added ingredients that you might or might not need.
The Daily Fab Five 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, five supplements continued to come up in conversation, so we’ve nicknamed these key supplements, the Daily Fab Five!
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:
- Quantum Nutrition Labs Quantum Daily Multi LEARN MORE
- 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:
- Quantum Nutrition Labs Vitamin C LEARN MORE
- Premier Research Labs 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:
- Quantum Nutrition Labs EPA/DHA LEARN MORE
- Quantum Nutrition Labs Plant DHA LEARN MORE
- Premier Research Labs DHA 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.
Look out for a multi-strain probiotic, the more strains the bigger variety of bacteria and more likely you are going to target your health concern. This is important because different strains of probiotic bacteria have their own roles in the gut and target different parts of the digestive system. We also recommend picking one with a higher dose of bacteria. Essentially once inside of you, the probiotics are designed to grow and multiply but the more you get to begin with can help boost this step along.
Our Top Picks:
- Quantum Nutrition Labs Probiotic Support LEARN MORE
- Premier Labs Probiotic Complex LEARN MORE
Other Important Supplements
Just because we think the ‘daily fab 5’ are great, it doesn’t mean we don’t think there are any other supplements that are important. For some people, there are some supplements that are essential in their daily regime for different health concerns and conditions and this is completely dependent on the individual and their circumstances.
Speaking with your health professional about what supplements are going to benefit you the most is important, rather than just taking a whole lot of different things because everyone else is. They might require you to take blood tests or a hair analysis test to find out if there are any nutrients you are particularly low in.
We commonly get asked about Vitamin D, B12, and Iron supplements, some of the common nutrients that people around the world are struggling to get enough of or are suffering from deficiencies. Follow these links to articles that provide info about Iron, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D. We highly recommend having a blood test first before taking any of these supplements to determine if there are any nutrients that you are particularly low or high in.
Brands We Love
If you are one of our lucky readers from the states, there is a great brand called Quantum Nutrition Labs that we highly recommend checking out. We have a partnership with these guys because they make premium supplements that we know and trust, they also have a handy page where you can navigate certain conditions and the nutritional supplements they recommend. For those viewers reading from the land down under we also love Fusion Health for the very same reasons!
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 Five 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 have 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.