What Supplements Should I Take for Optimal Health?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide some supplement recommendations for certain groups of people, including those over the age of 50, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, adolescent females, pregnant women, older adults, people with dark skin, and people who have insufficient exposure to sunlight. Even if you do not fall best dietary supplements to takeinto one of these categories, you may be considering taking supplements, but you may not know which ones to take or how much. While some nutritional needs are met by eating a variety of foods, vitamin and mineral supplements may provide nutrients that are lacking in your diet.

No matter the reason for you to take supplements, there are some supplement recommendations that you may want to keep in mind. For example, it is important to keep in mind that vitamin and mineral supplements are not a substitution for a healthy diet and that it is best to talk with a doctor before determining which mineral supplements or vitamins you should take to optimize your health without the risk of potential interactions with other medications you’re taking.

Facts About Supplements

The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements reports that “the majority of adults in the United States take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally.” There are many products that fall into the broad category of dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many others. Dietary supplements are available as traditional tablets, capsules, powders, drinks, and energy bars. Some of the most popular supplements are vitamins D and E, minerals such as calcium and iron, herbs like echinacea and garlic, and specialty products like glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils.

Probiotic Supplements and Other Supplements for Immune System Benefits 

Probiotics are supplements containing live, good bacteria and yeasts that improve health. While probiotics are most commonly associated with digestive health, Dr. Ronald Hoffman explains that they also “help achieve and support optimal immune function.” You may not realize that 70% of our immune system lies within the GI tract, and probiotics best supplements to take for your healthready the intestinal immune system for normal resistance. In fact, studies show that taking probiotic supplements reduces the severity and frequency of upper respiratory infections. General immune system supplements can help to restore your body’s balance, add essential nutrients, and help you to ward off illness.

Key Supplements for Health

It is possible to overdo supplements, as taking any more than five different supplements per day could pose a health risk due to pill interactions. The best rule of thumb is to take only key supplements for health after discussing the supplements you would like to begin taking with your doctor or pharmacist.

Dr. Oz recommends taking a multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium with magnesium. The amount of supplements you take should be based on your gender, age, and health goals.

Multivitamins ensure that you ingest the most essential vitamins and minerals each day, even if you eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. Multivitamins typically contain 10 vitamins, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, and minerals, including potassium and zinc. Multivitamins also should contain iodine because it is important for heart, thyroid, brain, and other vital organ health. It is best to purchase multivitamins labeled 100% Daily Value (DV), and to split your multivitamin into two doses by taking half in the morning and half in the evening.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids/Fish Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats “that boost your brain, protect your heart and arteries, fight wrinkles, lubricate your joints, and more.” When choosing an omega-3 or fish oil supplement, it is important to purchase one that contains 600mg of DHA, and keep in mind that you may need to take more than one pill to get a dose that high. For best results, take the omega-3 fatty acid/fish oil supplement at breakfast time. It’s also a good idea to keep fish oil in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.

Calcium with Magnesium – Our bodies need calcium, and if we don’t get enough, they will take it from our bones. To avoid weak bones, you should take a calcium supplement combined with magnesium to support your bones and help your teeth and muscles stay healthy. A supplement that contains 600mg of calcium and 400mg of magnesium once a day, taken with a full glass of water, is suitable for most people. It’s important not to take calcium with magnesium within one to two hours of taking your multivitamin, because calcium may prevent the body from absorbing other nutrients.

From boosting your immune system to filling in the gaps in your diet, supplements can help you lead a healthier life. Determine which are best suited to your nutritional and health needs and discuss your supplements with a doctor or pharmacist, and you’ll most likely notice a positive change to your health in no time.

Images via Flickr by HealthGauge and Army Medicine