A good quality multivitamin is one of the most important supplements for optimal health. According to the CDC, the vast majority of Americans are not able to meet their nutrient needs by diet alone. A 2013 CDC study showed that only 13.1% of the US population met sufficient fruit intake and only 8.9% met sufficient vegetable intake. Other studies have demonstrated that the produce we eat today contains lower levels of essential vitamins and minerals than the produce we consumed decades ago, likely due to soil depletion. Another CDC report estimated that 90 million Americans are deficient in vitamin D, 30 million in vitamin B12, 18 million in vitamin B6, and 16 million in vitamin C. A study of adults over age 50 showed that less than 50% of them had adequate levels of vitamin E, folic acid, and magnesium from diet alone. Supporting a nutritious diet with a high quality multivitamin helps to ensure that we are giving our bodies what they need to function optimally.
2. Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements provide the body with essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for regulating inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to our health for countless reasons, and they can only be obtained through diet and supplementation. Adequate omega-3 levels are necessary for proper cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, and musculoskeletal health. They have been shown to regulate blood pressure, maintain healthy body weight, regulate immune function, support a positive mood, and promote muscle and joint health. A 2006 study by Maroon and Bost found that fish oil supplementation was as effective as most over the counter medications in reducing neck and low back pain. Typically individuals need to supplement with 500-900mg of omega-3 fatty acids to meet optimal levels. Additionally it’s recommended that individuals consume 3 servings of oily fish (like salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel) per week.
Magnesium is another one of the most important supplements for optimal health because it is required for more than 600 enzyme reactions in the body. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 75% of American adults don’t meet the FDA’s Recommended Daily Intake. Individuals who are most at risk of magnesium deficiency include those who consume diets high in processed foods, have blood sugar abnormalities or diabetes, drink large amounts of alcohol, take diuretics or proton pump inhibitors, have gastrointestinal conditions, have been on long-term antibiotics, or suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Low magnesium levels can lead to issues with vitamin D metabolism, weakening of the bones, heartbeat irregularities and irregular blood pressure, blood sugar issues, irritability and anxiety, muscle cramps and twitches, and fatigue.
4. Vitamin D
It is estimated that 88% of the population receives less than optimal levels of vitamin D. Although the body naturally produces vitamin D through sun exposure, the sun is often not strong enough to meet the body’s needs. There are many factors that limit the body’s ability to convert sunlight to vitamin D, including limited sun exposure during winter months, older age, darker skin pigmentation, and use of sunscreen and clothes that shade the skin from the sun. Vitamin D is necessary for maintaining proper bone integrity, proper neuromuscular function, normal inflammatory response, muscle strength, proper calcium absorption, healthy immune response, and normal blood pressure. Studies have shown that adequate vitamin D levels are linked to decreased stress fractures, decreased injuries in athletes, and decreased rates of upper respiratory tract infections. Supplementing with vitamin D has also been shown to improve headache and migraine symptoms.
Probiotics are important for maintaining gut health, which makes them important supplements for optimal health because we digest and absorb nutrients through the gut. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help the gut function properly. The gut also contains bad bacteria and pathogens that can decrease gut function and cause illness and disease. Maintaining a good balance between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria in the gut is important for overall health. Bacterial imbalances in the gut can lead to nutrient deficiencies even if we are are consuming a balanced diet and supplementing with vitamins and other nutrients. Research shows that supplementation with probiotics supports healthy immune function, inflammation regulation, proper brain health, and weight management. It also helps to counteract some of the harmful side effects of taking common medications, like NSAIDs and antibiotics.