People always ask me what supplements are you taking, Kris? And while it’s not exactly the same for everyone, there are certain supplements that can be of tremendous benefit. I call them “the foundationals”. So I’ve pulled together my list of basic supplements for you in this blog.
But before we move on, I want to take a moment to recommend checking with your health care practitioner before adding supplements to your life. He or she may recommend blood tests or other supplement options for unique and beautiful you.
Now, you may be wondering why I take supplements if I eat a plant-based, whole foods, green-juice-and-smoothie-packed diet. Basically, I think of them as a vitamin and nutrient insurance policy and everyday health booster. Plus, I sometimes take extra supplements for specific health challenges.
I also always take whole food vitamins because they have very few (if any) of the unidentifiable additives and synthetic compounds found in the cheaper Centrum-type brands.
Also, I recommend taking supplements with food (unless otherwise directed—as is the case with probiotics). When you have food in your tummy, you’re more likely to prevent stomach upset, plus it can increase absorption of the nutrients in the supplement. Three of my favorite supplement lines are Pure Encapsulations, Garden of Life Vitamin Code and Garden of Life mykind Organics.
Now that we’ve gone over some basics, let’s move on to my list! These are also the supplements I recommend to participants in Crazy Sexy You—my Total Wellness Program (join the waitlist for the June 2017 launch!). Over the past decade, these supplements have helped support my health and they could become a priceless part of your wellness routine, too.
Level I: Every Day (Or Every Other Day) Supplements
These are the basic supplements I’d recommend everyone check out, especially if you eat lots of fruits and veggies, a varied whole foods diet, live a healthy and active life and aren’t overdoing it with alcohol, caffeine or stress.
Get a bang for your buck with a multivitamin: While you’re likely getting most or all of the recommended vitamins and minerals in your diet, taking a multivitamin every other day can give you nutrient insurance—in case your diet hasn’t been perfectly balanced lately, or the foods weren’t as rich in nutrients (which is pretty common these days).
If you eat a completely plant-based diet, you’re likely lacking in vitamin B12, which is included in a multi, too. The natural and most readily absorbable form of B12 is methylcobalamin. Garden of Life’s mykind Organics has a whole foods multi with methylcobalamin. Most multi’s contain cyanocobalamin, like the ones from Deva, New Chapter, Only One Multivitamin and MegaFood One Daily. If you have your levels tested and realize you need extra B12, I like the B12 spray from mykind Organics and the one from Deva that dissolves under your tongue. They’re not only the more absorbable methyl form, but the spray and under-the-tongue methods skip potentially problematic absorption in your digestive tract.
Try vitamin D3 for disease prevention, energy and healthy bones: Vitamin D has been touted as the answer to everything from healthy bones and immune system to preventing diabetes and cancer. As a result, more and more people are testing their levels and discovering that they’re deficient despite their latitude and regular sun exposure. It’s a good idea to ask your health practitioner to test your levels if you’re curious. Most people don’t even know they’re deficient until they start supplementing and begin to feel more energetic (I didn’t!).
Twenty-five micrograms (1,000 IUs) daily is a good starting point if your levels are within recommended range. But, more may be needed if your levels are low, so work with your doctor to determine the right supplemental dose. Keep in mind that vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means you can potentially overdo it. However, the tolerable upper limit has been set at 4,000 IUs daily with research showing higher amounts safe for people who are low.
It’s also good to note that there are two types of vitamin D: D2 and D3. D2 is plant-based and D3 is almost always animal-based. Most research has shown that vitamin D3 is more efficiently absorbed compared with vitamin D2. Recently, Pure Encapsulations, Vitashine and Garden of Life have developed vegan forms of D3. However, I cannot vouch for their effectiveness, so please explore this personally if you choose to go this route.
Add omega-3s (EPA and DHA) for a healthier heart, brain and nervous system: Most of the omega-3 fatty acids that we get in foods, like flaxseeds or walnuts, take the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (see more in my fats blog here). Our bodies can convert some ALA to DHA and EPA, which is what’s needed for your brain and heart—but not much—so supplementation may be necessary.
DHA/EPA supplements are often derived from fish oil, but there are also plant-based varieties that are made with algae (which is where the fish get their DHA to begin with). Many health professionals now recommend supplementation of both (see my interview with integrative doc, Aviva Romm, here), including 300 milligrams of DHA daily for women who are pregnant, nursing or preparing to conceive. Rejuvenation Science and Deva make high-quality and inexpensive vegan DHA/EPA supplements.
Level II: Basic Supplement Extras
These are supplements that I believe most people benefit from because of the daily pressures and challenges of today’s world. In particular, check out the following list if you have concerns with heart health, feel overstressed, have digestive issues or just don’t feel like your diet is up to snuff.
Use probiotics when anything is “off”: Whether you’re feeling bloated, run down, have just come off a round of antibiotics or are feeling blue, a daily probiotic to help restore your good bacteria may be just the answer. The good news is, you can’t overdo it with probiotics, so I grab them pretty frequently (like every day!), even in anticipation of a busy work week. My favorites are Dr. Ohhira’s, Renew Life Ultimate Flora and Jarro-Dophilus EPS (Jarro-Dophilus and Dr. Ohhira’s are especially good for travel because they don’t have to be refrigerated). According to health practitioners, they can safely be taken long-term.
Support your heart and energy levels with CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 is an antioxidant that increases the use of oxygen in the body. It’s anti-aging, can increase energy levels and is especially important for overall heart health and people on statin drugs. Docs typically recommend 90-120 mg CoQ10 daily, taken when eating a meal that includes fat. One of my favorite brands of CoQ10 is by Pure Encapsulations, and the Deva brand makes a great one, too.
Reduce stress with magnesium: Magnesium is anti-inflammatory, which helps strengthen muscles (including the biggie, your heart!) and increases relaxation in the body—allowing you to respond to stress in a healthier way. It can help alleviate insomnia, and it also helps to lower the worst LDL cholesterol (study). Most health practitioners recommend 300-600 milligrams supplemental magnesium glycinate to be taken before bed (the glycinate version is less likely to cause diarrhea). Pure Encapsulations has one here.
Get extra stress-relieving power with adaptogenic herbs. Mother Nature has given us a powerful family of herbs that may help your body adapt to stress and prevent the damaging effects stress can have on your adrenal glands. For an extra bit of stress-relieving power, check out Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil and Licorice. I’ve gone into more detail in my blog here.