While supplement labels may entice you to buy with big promises like “stress reduction” and “better sleep,” it’s important to be skeptical and do some preliminary research to see if a particular ingredient delivers on those promises. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve of vitamins and supplements; it simply inspects manufacturing practices and takes steps if a particular supplement becomes a public health concern. So some companies make dubious claims and get away with it. One recent consumer review found that it was 46 percent of supplements do not keep their high promises.
Basically, it pays to be a Skeptical Susan when you are looking in the supplement aisle of the drugstore. But for things that bit easier, we spoke to a registered dietitian and supplement researcher Anne Danahy, RDNfounder Craving Something Healthyand “Kelly LeVeque, holistic health coach and NOW Wellness Expert,” spilled the beans on which supplements you should consider adding to your cart—and how to determine if the product is really right for you.
3 questions to ask yourself when considering a supplement
1. Could I get this vitamin from my diet instead of taking a supplement?
Dietitians are big fans of telling you to “eat your vitamins,” and Danahy is no exception. “[Everyone] assess whether there are gaps in their diet that can be filled with food before turning to supplements,” says Danahy. “The nutrients in whole foods are present in balanced amounts and as part of a complete package with protein, carbs , healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, etc. All of these work synergistically in your body, so always start with a well-balanced diet.” Basically, most people should try to increase their intake of certain foods before going into trust a pill to make up the difference.
That said, whether it’s due to a medical condition (such as Celiac disease) or their particular eating plan. Vegans, for example, yes more limited brain-boosting sources of B12 since it is commonly found in animal foods. In cases like these, supplementation can be extremely helpful in closing nutritional gaps. Pregnant people should also take it folic acid supplementation and other prenatal vitamins to support their child’s development and reduce the risk of birth defects.
2. What sparked the interest in this particular supplement?
You may have heard that 5-HTP can help you calm the heck down when you are to a great extent emphasis or that melatonin can promote a good night’s sleep. While there is often some evidence to support these touted benefits, it’s important to make sure you’re addressing lifestyle factors that may also be contributing to these issues, says Danahy. If work keeps you busy every day, for example, can you try stress management strategies such as exercise, meditation, gardening, or read before you reach for a supplement? If the answer is “no” that’s fine – but it’s worth asking the question.
3. What can my family history tell me about supplements that might benefit me?
“Even if someone is in good health, I recommend assessing their risk for certain health conditions because of their lifestyle or family history,” says Danahy. “For example, someone with a family history of heart disease and blood pressure that is starting to creep up might want to consider omega-3 fish oil, beetroot powder, or certain antioxidants.”
If this sounds like you, ask your doctor what they think about supplementation based on your personal family history. This is not a one size fits all situation.
The 4 supplements to take, according to a dietitian and nutritionist
1. Vitamin D
According to Danahy, most people could benefit from vitamin D. “It’s pretty hard to get from your diet if you don’t eat a lot of salmon, egg yolks, and fortified milk,” a she says. “This is also a vitamin that most people are not deficient in, but many people have suboptimal levels.” Vitamin D has many essential functions, including helping your body absorb calcium (which is critical for bone health), reduce inflammation, and promote mental well-being. In other words, it’s pretty important—and worth thinking about.
Recommended daily intake: 600-800 IUs per day (15-20 mcg).
If you’re living and breathing right now, you’ve probably heard the hype surrounding omega-3s. “Omega-3 or fish oil is another one that I often recommend for middle-aged plus. It can help reduce blood pressure and triglyceridesbut I also like it because it supports cognitive health and has anti-inflammatory effects” said Danahy. She causes that eating food sources of omega-3s—like salmon, sardines, and fatty fish two to three times a week — will still be a better choice than a supplement.
“[Magnesium] It’s involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, so it helps support everything from bones and muscles to glucose and blood pressure to DNA and RNA synthesis,” says Danahy. “You can to take at any time, but some people feel it it helps them relax in the evening if they take it after dinner.” The mineral is also essential for heart health because it supports nerve, cell, and muscle health. She recommends magnesium glycinate, a form of magnesium that is a little easier for the body to absorb. (FYI, magnesium appears in foods including spinach, black beans, and almonds.)
Recommended daily intake: 310-360 milligrams per day for women (depending on age and pregnancy), and 400-420 milligrams for men (depending on age).
4. A multivitamin
LeVeque, for one, is a big fan of the multivitamin to cover all your bases. They can be a good way to eat a variety of macro and micronutrients without paying for individual vitamins.
There’s a caveat, though: Multivitamins come in many varieties, so you’ll need to consult a doctor, nutritionist, or other trusted health professional about which blend makes sense for you based on factors like your age. , diet, current medications, and whether or not. you are not pregnant. Harvard Health recommends reading the label and choosing one that contains your recommended daily allowance of its various vitamins and minerals and the label bears the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) seal of approval (an indication of the purity and strength of a particular vitamin).
Recommended daily intake: Varies by vitamin.
Long story short: Supplements are not nearly as simple as they seem. So if you have lingering questions, be sure to check in with your primary care physician. There’s no point in spending big at the drugstore if it doesn’t have a significant impact on your daily health and well-being.