Which dietary supplements and vitamins do I really need for optimal health, achieving and maintaining a fit body?
This is a question I get on a daily basis and unfortunately, there is a lot of false information on the internet. Even some doctors prescribe their patients pills they don’t need.
I have tried most of the following supplements in the past 6 years and there was a time when I was taking a lot of supplements. Granted, I was not as healthy as I am today.
In the following article, I will share some general information about the different vitamins, in which foods you can find them and give you some tips to find out if you need to take them. After all, every body is different and you need to decide on your own if you can achieve health by healthy eating only or if you might lack some micronutrients.
Disclaimer: Everyone’s needs for vitamins / supplements is different. The following is just a basic guide. If you would like to get your custom nutrition plan with recommended supplements for YOUR body, I will be offering that at the end of october. You can let me know about your interest in working with me now by signing up here, so you will be the first on my list!
Why should I supplement?
As today’s produce, no matter if it says “organic” or not, is not as fresh and unprocessed as it was maybe 50 to 100 years ago, we cannot even be sure if we actually absorb all the micronutrients from fruits and vegetables we eat.
In addition to that, many people struggle to get in enough fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources and complex carbohydrates and choose quicker but unhealthier options. This is due to our hectic lifestyle, leaving us no choice (at least that is how we feel) than to decide between success in our job or health.
We seem to think that we are immortal and diseases like cancer or autoimmune diseases cannot be foreseen anyways, so why care about it now? It is only when we get sick that we fully grasp the meaning of health and that one day, we might not be on this planet anymore. Who cares about job finances then?
This is why some dietary supplements are important to help us boost our immune system, balance our hormones and live a healthier lifestyle.
On the other hand, many people interested in their wellbeing and trying to live healthy make the mistake to take a daily “cocktail” of supplements, sometimes without even knowing how many grams they need and what the effects of those vitamins are.
It has been scientifically proven that so-called “multivitamins” actually have nearly no effect on our wellbeing. Many of the different vitamins bind to each other when taken in a row. This inhibits absorption in our intestines and none of those vitamins actually has an effect on your body!
Too much of anything is bad
Excessive use of supplements and vitamins are potentially dangerous. Before starting taking supplements, you need to observe your nutrition by letting your doctor take a blood test. Only if you are deficient in certain vitamins, it makes sense to supplement them. Your primary goal should always be to get in enough nutrients with a healthy diet, not swallowing pills.
The following is not a complete guide by all means.
I only listed supplements that you could benefit from. You will not fight weight loss pills or steroids on this list. I do not recommend using supplements whose effects have not been researched enough to claim if they harm our health or not.
Before starting taking any of these supplements, consult your doctor first. Yes, I am a soon-to-be-doctor myself and nutritional medicine might be my speciality, but I don’t know about your past illnesses, medication you are or have been taking. While none of these supplements could harm your health, they might lead to different reactions in every body. I do not take on responsibility for your actions and this guide is written for informational purposes only.
The science of vitamins
I will keep this part fairly short but I think a general understanding of the different kinds of vitamins is crucial to decide how many grams you need to take of them.
Vitamins can be classified as either fat soluble (E, D, K, A) or water soluble (such as Vitamin C and B). This describes the way these vitamins are absorbed and show their effects in our body.
Fat soluble vitamins
Fat soluble vitamins are usually absorbed along with fats (lipids), forming little “fat bubbles”. The fats help transport the vitamins to the membranes of our intestine, where this fat-vitamin bond is released again, so that the vitamins can be absorbed into our blood system.
Thus, if you are dieting or otherwise not eating enough dietary fats, especially healthy fats, you will not be able to get in enough fat soluble vitamins with proper nutrition. This is one of the many reasons why so many people lack vitamin D nowadays!
The body, especially our liver, uses what it needs of these fat soluble vitamins and then stores them in our tissue. For example, there are many different forms of Vitamin A. Some of it is stored in our liver, while another chemical form is stored in our eyes to repair cells in our retina.
Water soluble vitamins
In contrast to that, water soluble vitamins are absorbed quite easily in our intestines. The membranes of our intestines have many little transporters, some of them are suited for water. Some vitamins, especially Vitamin C and B, simply follow water while being transported into our blood system. Others, such as zinc and iron, have their own transporters (think of them as VIP).
However, just as a side note, iron needs to be converted into a different chemical form first. The vitamin that does this is Vitamin C. This is why most iron supplements contain vitamin C as well, so that absorption can be increased.
Now, in contrast to the fat soluble vitamins, the water soluble vitamins are not stored in our tissue. Our body uses as much as it needs of them. This means that it is not as easy to overdose water soluble vitamins. If you take vitamin C in excess, your kidneys will just have to work a little bit harder but none of it gets stored in your body.
However, an overdose of Vitamin A, K, D (which is hard, as everyone seems to lack this vitamin anyways) and E has been scientifically proven to cause cancer.
Yes, you read that right. The same vitamins that are actually beneficial for our body to boost immune system, strengthen our heart, repair our cells and bind toxic free radicals (that could damage our DNA) could lead to cancer development, diabetes, strokes and many more diseases.
There is an old saying that “Too much of a good thing can hurt” and this applies especially to vitamins and supplements.
The most important dietary supplements for health
- Vitamin C: 300-500mg/d
- Zinc: 10-15mg/d
- Omega 3 Fish oil: 1000-1500mg/d
- Vitamin D: Blood test! normal levels: 50-70ng/ml
- Calcium: >20/25 years: 500mg/d; >60 years: 1000-1500mg/d for women
- Magnesium, Potassium: 300mg Magnesium & 300-400mg Potassium
- Vitamin K2: 100mcg/d
Who needs these?
Everyone. These are the most basic supplements and crucial for a healthy immune system, nervous system, as well as heart health.
I recommend taking Vitamin C and Zinc together, as Vitamin C improves absorption of Zinc in our small intestines. You don’t have to take Selenium but if you are getting sick often or have/ are fighting cancer, it is a very strong antioxidant.
Omega 3 fatty acids are hard to find in foods and to reach our daily requirements you would have to eat a LOT of salmon and nuts. You would probably end up gaining weight … .
I recommend magnesium and potassium for anyone who works out frequently or lives in a hot environment. Also, if you are taking cortisol (as therapy for an autoimmune disease), this is crucial for heart and kidney health.
Please check your blood test for your vitamin D level. Most people are lacking Vitamin D. If you are taking calcium supplements for bone and joint health but are Vitamin D deficient, your body will not use that calcium to build your bones. It could actually accumulate in and around your other organs. Thus, healthy Vitamin D levels are crucial to prevent osteoporosis and balance hormones, especially Insulin, thyroid and sexual hormones.
By the way, there is a HUGE discussion on the actual benefits of calcium for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Matter of fact is that is you take high doses of calcium alone, your body will not know what to do with it (explain the science behind this another time). Thus, vitamin D and K2 are crucial to help your bone absorb the calcium, as well as regular exercise. If you watch these points (Calcium + D + K2, Exercise), you are very unlikely to overdose calcium and will prevent and heal your osteoporosis very quickly.
Did you know that 80% of the fractures of people over 60 happen at the femur (thigh bones) due to low bone density?
Foods containing these vitamins
- Vitamin C: Apples, red pepper, oranges, lemon juice, berries, canatloupe, kiwi, red cabbage, tomatoes
- Zinc: Beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, cashews, turkey, quinoa, shrimp
- Magnesium: bananas, spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yogurt or kefir, black beans, almonds, dark chocolate, figs
- Potassium: bananas, winter squash, sweet potato, white beans, yogurt, halibut, oranges, brokkoli, lentils, pork, salmon, pistachios, chicken breast, tuna
- Omega 3: Salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans
- Vitamin D: Salmon, tuna, yogurt, fortified milk
- Calcium: Milk, yogurt, sardines, tofu, almonds
- Vitamin K2: cheese from grass-fed cows, egg yolks, spinach, arugula, red beets
- Folate: 400mcg
- Iron: 8 – 10mg
- Vitamin A: 700mcg
- Selenium: 50mcg
- Vitamin E: 15mg
- Vitamin B – Complex:
Who needs these?
Some of these vitamins are fat soluble, thus it is important not to overdose them. The best way to supplement safely is by letting your doctor take a blood test and act according to that. That being said – in case of iron deficiency, you can certainly reach normal iron levels with proper nutrition. It all depends on your body and how low your iron levels are to begin with.
If you are constantly stressed out and can’t concentrate well, you can try out a B-Complex. However, I have yet to find a B-Complex supplement that has the right ratio of B1- B6 – B12. Most of them contain too much B12 and too high levels of that can cause more damage than good … . Try to get your B-vitamins from food!
Folate and iron are a must for anyone who is pregnant. Actually, start taking folic acid now if you plan on getting pregnant.
Vitamin A is great for anyone dealing with sight problems, glaucoma or simply working a lot in front of the screen. Again, try to get in as much as possible with food but there is no harm in a little “boost” by taking ß-carotine for 1 month. Make sure not to use high doses (like 800mcg), 400 mcg is more than enough.
Foods containing these vitamins
- Folate: Fortified cereal, spinach, lentils, beef liver
- Iron: Oysters, chicken liver, turkey, green vegetables, tuna
- Vitamin A: Sweet potato, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, tomatoes
- Vitamin E: Wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter
- B 12: Clams, beef liver, trout, fortified breakfast cereals
- B6: Chickpeas, salmon, chicken breast
Remember that this is a short overview of the most important vitamins for general health. Always consult your doctor first before starting taking any kinds of supplements.
Also, watch the ingredient lists of those supplements you get! There is going to be a whole chapter on ingredients in the ebook that is going to come out soon. We want to make sure you are getting those nutrients in and not waist your money!