The Dish on Supplements


It's very important to eat the right foods to make sure our body is getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to run. But sometimes, it can be tricky to get everything just from your diet. That's where supplements can come in handy. Supplements are great not only to fill in gaps in your nutrition, but also just to boost your overall health profile. I get a lot of questions about supplements because people are often skeptical about them, so this week, I'm answering some of the most frequently asked questions.

How do you shop for supplements?

Look for brands that are recommended or verified by a credible third party, such as the NSF Public Health & Safety Organization. One of the brands I recommend is New Chapter because they are NSF GMP Registered, made with certified organic herbs and vegetables and are gentle enough to take on an empty stomach. 

What's the story with Vitamin B12? Is it really helpful pre-workout? 

Energy drinks such as Rockstar, and Gatorade are high in Vitamin B12, making people ask if there is such a thing as too much of this vitamin. We need Vitamin B12 to synthesize new cells and maintain their functioning. There hasn't been evidence showing that consuming excess Vitamin B12 is harmful, but it can have side effects such as diarrhea and inflammation and complicate health conditions for people with certain diseases. Consuming excess amounts of this vitamin is not toxic, but the body cannot absorb high doses of it.

What about fish oil?

Recent research on fish oil is conflicting, so the jury is still out on this one. However, in healthy people, it has been thought that fish oil supports heart health, boosts the immune system and promotes healthy brain functions. I do recommend eating at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week and I don't stop clients from taking fish oil, since it doesn't have any major side effects. A minimally processed, whole fish oil derived from sustainably sourced fish can be a welcome addition to a supplement regimen. 

And probiotics?

There is growing evidence that you can treat and prevent some illnesses (such as IBS) with probiotics. They are safe because they are already in our digestive system, but there is a theoretical risk for people with immune functioning problems. Most probiotics, however, do not undergo testing and an approval process, so there’s no guarantee that the claims on the label are true.

There's a lot of chatter about Vitamin D supplements. How and when should it be taken?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is present in few foods and can be obtained from the sun. It's important because it promotes calcium absorption and is necessary for bone growth. Taking Vitamin D supplements may be helpful, but may not completely replace the value of the vitamin absorbed through food or the sun. Overall, Vitamin D supplements are important if you have a deficiency or live in a place where you don’t get enough sun.

Should we be taking calcium as well?

Calcium should be supplemented if not enough is obtained in your diet. If you eat a vegan diet or are lactose intolerant, it may be a good idea to consider a calcium vitamin to make sure you are meeting the recommendations. If you are between 19 and 50, you should be getting 1,000mg a day. Women over 50 should be getting 1,200mg a day, but it is absorbed better when taken in amounts of 500mg or less at a time. Check the dosage, and you can always split the pill in half if necessary. If your calcium supplement contains calcium citrate, you can take it without food, but if it contains calcium carbonate, make sure to take it with a meal because stomach acid that is produced while eating helps with the absorption of calcium carbonate. Check the label for this information. Calcium supplements won't be absorbed as well if its taken at the same time as iron, zinc, or magnesium, so if you take a multivitamin, make sure you take it at a different time than your calcium supplement.

If you remember to "eat the rainbow" and take the right supplements to boost your health profile, you'll get all the necessary vitamins and minerals to fuel your body right! 

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN


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