Walking through the supplement aisles in a health store, it’s easy to understand why people feel so overwhelmed by supplements in general, and why I always get asked, “which supplements are actually healthy?”
The answer is like most things in health: “it depends.” I’ll get to that in a minute.
Can’t we get what we need from food?
First, let’s take a step back and address whether we need supplements at all. In an ideal world, those who eat a very balanced diet, have well-functioning bodies, and are in good overall health, should not need any supplements at all. Our ancestors hundreds of years ago weren’t walking around popping pills (although botanical supplements have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine!). But many things make it virtually impossible to achieve optimal health without any supplements today:
- We eat processed and packaged foods, containing chemicals and preservatives that interfere with our bodies’ ability to absorb our nutrients fully.
- Even if we’re eating a “super healthy” diet, our soil has been depleted of nutrients. Vegetables today have dramatically lower quantities of several critical nutrients compared to the vegetables eaten in 1950. So even if you are getting the 8-12 servings per day that I recommend, you may not be getting the nutrient quantity that you need.
- Stress dramatically increases our bodies’ nutrient requirements. If you live in the modern world, you’re probably experiencing some type of stress (want to reduce it? This is my #1 way, and this is a scientifically-proven part of that!).
- And if you’re reading this blog, you’re hopefully doing some form of exercise. This increases your body’s need for nutrients, often above the level we can intake from diet alone.
- Sad but true: life in our grandparents’ grandparents’ time just wasn’t as stressful as it is today, and our food was a lot healthier … for many people, and that means we may need supplements.
If you want more on why we need supplements in addition to food, check out this article from Ben Greenfield.
OK, so which supplements are actually healthy?
So now that you know you may need some supplements, which supplements are actually healthy for you? The key to that question is the last two words: for you. Supplement needs are highly individualized, and that is the reason I’ve been putting off writing this post for months, despite your requests. I don’t want you to see the 10 supplements I’m taking and automatically assume you need those exact 10, because some of my needs may be different than yours (and, in fact, I’m taking a few more supplements that I know are not relevant to the majority, that I haven’t even listed here).
In my one-to-one health coaching programs, I can counsel people on supplements that may make them feel their best, based on their individual health history, lifestyle, symptoms, and more. And in my Revitalize Health Accelerator, Pillar 9 of the program breaks down 40 (!!!) supplements with specific guidance on how to know if it’s right for you, as well as tips for how to choose supplements, when to take them (with or without food? morning or evening? pre- or post-workout?), and my specific brand recommendations for each product. But here, all I can do is share what works for me, right now (note: I change supplements all the time! And recommend you do, too!)
If you’re looking for supplements that I recommend for almost everyone, check out the video below, and if you’re looking for what I personally take right now, read on!
10 Supplements I Currently Take
- Apple Cider Vinegar: I start each day with apple cider vinegar mixed with cold water. Here’s why.
- Probiotic: see this video for why I recommend almost everyone take a probiotic, even if you’re not feeling digestive symptoms. I recommend rotating through probiotics to expose your body to different strains, and a few I generally recommend to start are Garden of Life, Ancient Nutrition, and RenewLife.
- Collagen: I love putting collagen in my coffee or tea, and here’s why. That post will share a comparison of various brands, but if you’re just looking for a recommendation, try this one.
- Vitamin D: About 75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, and deficiency has been linked to low energy, reduced immune system for all types of viruses (ahem…), and lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. It’s easy to test your vitamin D levels in a standard blood test, and if you’re low, the one I recommend is this one.
- Juice Plus+: Even though I average 11 servings of vegetables per day, I want to do everything possible to reduce my risk of chronic disease and boost my energy, and Juice Plus+ does that for me. For more on why I recommend it, see this post, and to buy it, go here.
- Omega-3 supplement: You can see why I recommend this at 4:04-5:25 of this video, and here is one I recommend.
- Vitamin B complex: For many people who seek more energy during the day, vitamin B provides a natural boost. Many people take vitamin B12 only (which tends to be especially deficient in vegans and vegetarians, as most of our natural intake comes from animal products), but I recommend taking a complex of B vitamins, since your body can better utilize them when taken together (I talk about Vitamin B in the video, too, at 7:42-8:17. This is the one I recommend.
- Turmeric: Turmeric (which may also be called curcumin, the name of its active component) is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents on the planet. In fact, this study showed that aspirin and ibuprofen were among the least potent of the 18 anti-inflammatories studied, while turmeric (curcumin) was one of the most potent! I take this to reduce inflammation from my regular workouts, and this is the one I take.
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is also an anti-inflammatory (and has shown great benefits for those with arthritis and other conditions), but the main reason I take it is to help manage my anxiety and stress levels. As an adaptogen, it works to regulate various stressors and imbalances in the body, including cortisol, one of our stress hormones. This video talks about the benefits of ashwagandha, and here’s one I recommend (use code Megan for 15% off!). I recommend cycling adaptogens, so I also enjoy Tulsi (code Megan), CBD, and other herbal remedies for stress and anxiety.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is critical to help my mind relax and help me sleep through the night, and also helps for those dealing with cramping or constipation. I explain the benefits of magnesium more fully at 5:25-7:25 of this video. The one I personally take is this one, but talk to your practitioner (or join Revitalize!) to learn more about which format is best for your particular concerns, as some formats are more targeted towards digestion, muscle recovery, sleep, etc..
Now it’s your turn … Do you take any supplements? Which ones are your favorites?