About half of American adults take vitamins and other dietary supplements, but there are still millions who don’t. Do you really need a nutritional supplement, and if so, what kind?
Studies have shown that todayâ��s foods have fewer vitamins and minerals than even a decade ago. The American diet is full of sugary desserts and processed foods instead of more nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Most experts recommend a daily multivitamin (one with mixed tocopherols and mixed carotenoids), but what else do we need? Here are the top supplements you should consider adding to your diet.
#1 Omega-3 Fatty Acids (1,000 Ã�Â¢Ã�Â�Ã�Â� 3,000 mg per day)
The standard American diet is low in natural sources of omega-3s and high in omega-6s, leaving most people out of balance. Omega-3 fatty acids help protect the brain as well as the heart from inflammation and have benefits in treating depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. They also help our bodies adapt to stress. Signs of omega-3 deficiency can include fatigue, dry skin, brittle hair or nails, poor concentration and mood swings.
Good sources include grass-fed beef, wild game, cold-water fish, walnuts and olive oil. The most effective supplements are fish oils that contain EPA and DHA. People on blood thinners should talk to their doctor before taking omega-3 supplements.
#2 Vitamin D (1,000 IUs per day)
Vitamin D promotes bone health and immune function, boosts mood, eases muscle pain, reduces the risk of certain cancers, all while helping prevent diabetes, hypertension and other conditions. Vitamin D can be found in some fish, egg yolks as well as fortified dairy and grain products, but the main source is the sun. For most people, 15 minutes in direct sunlight without sunscreen is sufficient, though people with darker skin and those over 50 do not convert sunlight to vitamin D and may require supplementation.
Recent studies show an epidemic of low vitamin D levels. To find out if you’re deficient, talk to your doctor about a simple blood test. If your levels are below 50 to 75 ng/mL, consider taking a supplement.
#3 D-Ribose (5 grams three times per day)
Chronically low on energy? D-Ribose, a cellular compound that accelerates the body’s natural energy production, may be what you need. It also has been used to improve heart function, reduce muscle soreness, and treat chronic fatigue syndrome as well as fibromyalgia. Since the body can only produce D-Ribose at a limited rate, supplementation can help restore healthy energy levels. If you’re diabetic, don’t take D-Ribose without a doctor’s supervision.
#4 St. JohnÃ¢Â�Â�s Wort
St. John’s wort is a popular herb commonly used to treat mild to moderate depression as well as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder and seasonal affective disorder. It actually increases the feel-good brain chemical serotonin with few side effects.
#5 Tyrosine (500 mg per day)
Have a pesky coffee habit you just can’t break? You might be deficient in tyrosine, an amino acid. Tyrosine can be found in high-protein foods such as meats, beans, nuts, soy and dairy products. As a precursor to dopamine and other feel-good chemicals in the brain, tyrosine has been used in the treatment of depression, stress, premenstrual syndrome, ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome and other conditions. If you have a thyroid condition or high blood pressure, be sure to use tyrosine under a doctor’s supervision.
Eat well and supplement strategically with guidance from your physician. Your body will reward you with good physical and mental health.
Images courtesy of Balancedhormonesandhealth.com, Scientificamerican.com
Dr. Carolyn Ross is an internationally known physician, author and speaker on addictions, obesity and eating disorders. She serves as a consultant to The Ranchâ��s eating disorder treatment program in Tennessee, maintains a private practice in Denver, is the author of The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook: An Integrated Approach to Overcoming Disordered Eating as well as The Joy of Eating Well and also hosts a weekly radio show, The Vital Life.