Confused about vitamins? Not surprising, given the overwhelming choice on the shelves. So, we asked Naturopathic Physician and teacher Dr. Shelby Entner for her take on what most of us need, and how to make the right choice.
How do we know which vitamins we need?
Are you active or sedentary? Do you smoke? Are you postmenopausal, pregnant, or planning a family? Are you stressed or dealing with a particular health issue? On medication?
I always look at the individual first: at age, activity level, stress levels, family and medical histories, and nutrition. A 20-year-old athlete will have different needs than a 65-year-old who’s retired and dealing with heart disease. I just saw a 17-year-old who is living off Lucky Charms and pop. It’s so varied.
Don’t we get what we need in our food?
Eating well is helpful—and hopefully you are! But it’s really hard to fully get what you need from food today.
Sadly, the average person’s diet is calorically dense, but not nutrient dense, especially if it’s high in fat, sugar, and salt. And even those who think their diet is healthy have their vices!
Finally, it’s important to consider long-term prevention—especially if you have, for example, a family history of heart disease.
Given that, what vitamin supplements benefit most people?
I always recommend that people see a professional to make sure their individual needs are met, but I find that most people benefit from these vitamins:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish- and plant-based)
Brain- and heart-boosting, and anti-inflammatory. Across the board, for all ages, most people need more in their diet.
- Vitamin D
Essential for bone health because it helps the body to absorb calcium. In North America, vitamin D levels are quite low, regardless of age, all year round. Even in summer, the average Canadian is not lying on the beach. They are either working or avoiding the sun for skin health and anti-aging. It’s better to be tested to determine your need.
Take a good, broad-spectrum multivitamin to keep it simple.
- Vitamin B
Each of the eight B vitamins are essential for different functions—like making red blood cells, regulating sleep cycles, and metabolism—so it’s essential to take a B complex supplement. Most people need more than a multivitamin provides, depending on stress levels, energy needs, or medications that may interfere with synthesis. And if you are vegetarian, or not methylating properly (see sidebar) you should be tested. Note: It’s best to take B12 sublingually (under your tongue) for best absorption.
Essential for more than 300 different chemical reactions, magnesium is particularly important for people who experience sleep disruption, anxiety, and muscle pain. It’s a ‘smooth relaxer’ everywhere—head and body. Be careful—too much will loosen everything, including your bowels!
Are all vitamins created equal?
No. People look for savings, but it really does pay to look for quality ingredients and manufacturing processes. We’ll spend more money on good gas for our car, or good wine, but not another $5 on vitamins! Inexpensive brands cut corners, and use more synthetic ingredients. I avoid ingredients I can’t pronounce, and fillers and binding agents, which means the nutrients themselves aren’t as accessible. Always choose a good quality brand.
Article was published in The Good Life Magazine.