Supplements are a huge draw for people focused on their health, but they can get overwhelming. The question “What supplements should I take” has been asked hundreds of times, and although there are benefits to almost every supplement on the market, they are not all necessary. To keep things simple for the supplement-novices out there, or if you are looking to clean out your pill cabinet, there are four supplements that should be added to everyone’s daily regimen based on their enormous benefits. These are: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Betaine HCL.
The first and most important are Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Most commonly taken as Fish Oil capsules, these essential anti-inflammatory fats aid in brain development, autoimmunity, prevent against cancer & neuro-degeneration, improve insulin sensitivity & fertility, and help speed recovery from activity… need I say more? When I joined my CrossFit box, I asked them THE question: what supplements should I take? They recommended Fish Oil. Just to be clear, fish oil does not contain mercury, because the type of mercury found in fish is not soluble in oil, and is therefore separated when the oil is extracted.
If you want to get fancy, Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, discusses the proper ratio of EPA to DHA. He thinks a 1 to 1 ratio is good, but that even a DHA heavy oil is acceptable, and is preferred for children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. In fact, children under 3 years of age should ONLY have DHA. It’s safe for children because it’s derived from algae, and therefore free of chemicals and pollutants that may be present in the EPA from fish oils. Also, our bodies can convert this safe DHA into EPA if needed!
There are different grades of fish oil, the most expensive (and cleanest) is pharmaceutical grade/ultra-refined. You do get more bang for your buck with these, but they are not necessary to get the benefits we are looking for. Any fish oil capsules you can find should be fine, but if you want some general standards to follow in addition to the EPA-DHA ratio, try to match these:
- PCBs 15 – 20 ppb
- Mercury < 10 ppb
- Lead < 10 ppb
- Arsenic < 100 ppb
Information on how much fish oil you need depending on your weight and the specs of the fish oil product can be found by Googling "fish oil calculator." The first result should be from a company called Whole9Life, and is the best I have found so far.
The second supplement that everyone should consider taking is Vitamin D. Vitamin D controls inflammation, regulates blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, can help with acne, prevents a huge slew of diseases, and decreases the likelihood of developing many cancers. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors got all the Vitamin D they needed (10,000-20,000 IU/day) from the sun. This is the best way to get it, but impossible for many people, so we supplement. Taking 2,000-5,000 IU/day in the morning with a meal that contains fat will give you the most benefits (if you have Hyperparathyriod disease, take less than 1,000 IU/day). And, for goodness sake, try to see the Sun everyday.
Magnesium has absolutely huge benefits that can’t be ignored. Magnesium helps form healthy bones and teeth, help with protein synthesis, lowers the risk of heart disease, regulates hypertension, and treats migraines, insomnia, and depression. It also increases calcium absorption (which we’ve been hearing is important since we were kids… we were just unfortunately told to do so by drinking milk). The best way to figure out how much to take is by starting with one 200mg pill (or 200mg of powdered magnesium), and adding one more every day until you reach bowel tolerance. 400-800mg is a good range to play with. Magnesium puts most people to sleep, so it’s a good thing to take at bedtime.
Betaine Hydrochloric Acid (Betaine HCL, for short) is a digestive aid. It adds acid to your stomach to give your digestion a nice little push at the beginning of the process. This supplement can work wonders to help your body process proteins and fats. If I am going to eat something that I either know I’m allergic to but can’t avoid, or is not in the Paleo Diet and therefore not easy on the stomach, I make sure I have Betaine with me to make the best out of the situation. Also, if you are a first timer at The Paleo Diet and find that your stomach is upset due to the change in foods, taking some Betaine at every meal just might get your stomach back to normal.
There is no need for your pill cabinet to be full of supplements that may or may not greatly improve your health and functionality. Fish oil, Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Betaine HCL all have benefits that largely outweigh the annoyance of having to swallow a couple of pills. And in fact, there are liquid forms of fish oil and powdered forms of Magnesium to make taking these supplements even easier. So don’t fret if you are one of the many people asking the question, “what supplements should I take?” I hope you have found a simple and helpful answer here with these four supplements.
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