The supplement industry is a billion dollar industry with products that can be found almost anywhere food is found these days. Does the average person need to take supplements? If you are in optimal health and eating a diet with plenty of lean meats, fats, fruits, and vegetables then you probably don’t need to take any supplements at all. Through the years I have witnessed firsthand many people overloading on a million different vitamins just for it to end up being a total waste of money. What nutrients a person needs is very individual however, and the only real way to know what your missing is by a simple blood panel. With that being said, there are 2 supplements I have found that a large majority of those eating healthy are missing from their diet and they are vitamin D and fish oil.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in certain foods, as well as from proper sun exposure. The different foods that contain vitamin D are – salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, margarine, yogurt, tuna, shiitake mushrooms, cereal, certain cheese, as well as orange juice. As you can see from this list it isn’t a big one, and unless your eating certain fish on a daily basis than your most likely deficit from this key vitamin. The other sources are fortified with vitamin D (which isn’t natural) and most people I find eat only egg whites and hardly any egg yolks at all (scared of fat isn’t good!) The biggest reason most of us are in a vitamin D deficit is lack of sun exposure. The average person only gets enough sunshine going from building to building or car to building, etc. so this isn’t helping either! Why is vitamin D so important anyway? The numerous health benefits of vitamin D are- bone health, blood sugar control, immunity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, dementia, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis. So with all the hype about getting enough Vitamin D then what is the solution? Solution number 1 is to get outside more. Not only does getting outside help convert vitamin D in your body, but last time I checked we are supposed to be outside! You don’t need to be outside all day to get the necessary exposure either. Most of us can benefit from just 15-30 minutes a day to reap its benefits (dark skinned people need more sun exposure due to having more melanin in their skin.) The other solution for getting enough vitamin D is by supplementation. First you must get your blood checked to get a baseline on where you are, otherwise don’t assume based on diet and sun exposure alone.
The second nutrient most of us aren’t getting enough of are the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA is found in oily fish like herring, salmon, menhaden, cod liver oil, and mackerel. Some of the benefits of EPA include depression, psoriasis, and triglyceride levels. DHA is found in cold water fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout, eggs, and algal oil. Some of the diseases that DHA has shown to help with are increased metabolism, decreased risk of neurodegenerative disease, cancer, heart disease, inflammation, telomere length, ADHD, and memory. Much like vitamin D, unless you are eating an abundance of seafood, then chances are you are getting nowhere near the amount of these critical oils in your body. The answer for getting enough is through supplementation depending on your own specific needs and your levels. To find out how much omega 3 you need, starts with comparing it to how much omega 6 you have in your diet. Omega 6 fatty acids like vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and margarine are very high in the average persons diet. Our ancestors most likely ate a diet that had a ratio of 1:1 comparing omega 6 to omega 3. Most people today are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20:1, which puts way too many omega 6 fatty acids in your body and can significantly increase your chances of disease. A ratio of 5:1(omega 6 to omega 3) is an optimal ratio to shoot for to provide a balance of these 2 fatty acids. So you have learned your omega 3 consumption is extremely low, so how much omega 3 should I supplement with? Depending on your specific needs and current health I recommend a fish oil supplement that has 300 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA. This is on the high side, but most people are well below the limit. If you are taking a blood thinner you will want to consult with your physician due to interactions with your ability to clot.