What Supplements Should You Take?


Here’s a question I get a lot, as a Nutritionist, from friends and family: “Hey, What supplements should I take?” Sometimes it’s a hard question to answer, because I don’t know a person’s whole history or eating habits or particular health concerns.  But I thought it might be helpful throw out a few things I generally always recommend to most everybody, regardless of their health issues, age, goals, etc.

I believe we need supplements.  We need them because by and large we do not eat enough raw veg or healthy fats to supply everything we need; and we need them because our world is toxic.  Every molecule of toxin that we encounter (exhaust fumes, plastics, phthalate-laden body products, pesticides, etc), that we breathe in or that gets ingested or absorbed into our bodies requires several molecules of antioxidant to detoxify it.  Add to that the fact that our soils are largely depleted and toxic with chemicals, therefore our food is likely not as nutritious as our bodies require. And because the majority of us are not eating a dozen cups of kale every day or juicing a few pounds of veg and drinking it fresh, we have got to stack the antioxidant deck in our own favor with supplements. And we have to do it on top of eating a beautiful, whole-foods, plant-based, organic diet.

So, what do I generally recommend to most folks I come across, and what do I myself take?

1) A high-quality multivitamin-mineral supplement. You could try MegaFood, or Garden of Life, or Metagenics, or any number of quality brands, but the bottom line is you are gonna get what you pay for.  If your 30-day supply costs less than $20 bucks you probably aren’t getting high-quality food-based nutrients.  (If anyone has found a truly high-quality multi for less than this, shout it out in the comments.)  A few pointers are 1) look for the B12 form to be methyl-cobalamin or adenosyl-cobalamin; if it’s cyano-cobalamin, you’ll know the manufacturer is using cheap synthetic vitamins; 2)make sure that the vitamin D is D3, not D2; and 3)multiple pills are generally better than one-a-days.  (Although, a one-a-day is certainly better than nothing, so if all you can swing is one pill a day, do that.)

2)Probiotics, in some form or fashion.  Most people are bug-deficient; they’ve been taking antibiotics and birth-control pills and cortisones, and eating microwaved foods, and their guts are dysbiotic.  I like capsules because you can get way more bugs down your gullet in just one swallow than you can by eating a tub of yogurt. Aim for at least 10 billion to 50 billion live bugs (CFU’s = Colony Forming Units) per capsule. But if you don’t want to swallow another pill, then contact Cultures For Health and get to making some kefir, kombucha, or kimchi and innoculate your gut with healthy bugs.

3)Fish oil. I could go on and on about fish oil, EPA, DHA, and how beneficial quality essential fatty acids are to every single cell in our bodies. Suffice it to say that without healthy oils your cells cannot function properly, your cardiovascular system cannot function properly, and your brain cannot function properly.  Not to mention your skin, eyes, bones and just about every other part of you.  Most people eat the wrong kinds of fats, and need what my favorite Dr. Sherry Rogers calls, an “oil change.”  My favorite fish oil is Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil. My kids and I don’t mind the lemony flavor.  (Hint: if your kids won’t take a spoonful of CLO, try dumping some Barlean’s Omega Swirl into their plain yogurt.) Don’t be chintzy with the fish oil.

4) Other Minerals, especially Magnesium. Most people are mineral deficient (why? because their diets, and indeed our poor soils, are deficient).  The thing is, minerals are bulky.  You just can’t fit a day’s worth of mineral into one measly multi-vitamin tablet.  So you need some on top of your diet, and on top of your multi.  I mostly recommend aiming for 400 to 500mg of magnesium per day, starting with 200 and working your way up because if you’re not used to getting enough Mg in your system it can cause loose stool. Got muscle aches? add magnesium.  Having difficulty sleeping? add magnesium.  Constipated? add magnesium.  But don’t forget other minerals too.  I’ve been trying out Carlson’s Multiple Mineral lately and I like it fine.

5)Vitamin D.  In warm weather, get sunshine on a large portion of your body each day.  In cold weather, take supplements.  I personally take anywhere from 4000 to 10,000 IU’s of D3 daily in winter.  And by all means, get your D3 checked.  The blood test is called “25 OH D3.”  I would want to see my blood level of D3 in the 60-80 ng range.  Want to strengthen your immune system? add vitamin D3.  Want to slash your cancer risk? add vitamin D3.  In fact, you can cut your risk of colon cancer by 80% by correcting your vitamin D deficiency (Rogers 306).

6)Vitamin C.  I consider Vitamin C the best catch-all antioxidant, although it’s by no means the only good one.  And I’m not chintzy with it, either.  I take at least 3 grams a day.  It does practically everything, and you probably need way more of it than you are getting. I could load you up with reference after reference for reasons to take more vitamin C, but I’ll start with just one.

*Disclaimer: These are things I take everyday to combat toxicity, cancer, and aging. And I think most folks could benefit from them as well.  But I’m no doctor, and I certainly don’t toe the line of the FDA Food Pyramid or MyPlate, or whatever industry-lobbied nonsense  (my opinion, obviously) they are spouting these days.  So for the best nutrition advice for your own health concerns and your own body, get in contact with a knowledgeable Nutrition Professional or Functional Medicine Doc, have an in-depth conversation and maybe a few lab assays, and get some help developing your own plan for excellent health. You are your own best health advocate, so get educated and take responsibility for your own wellness.

(Roger’s, Sherry A.  How to Cure Diabetes.  pg 306.)


Vegeater is a Clinical Nutritionist currently home raising two little vegeaters. She has a Master's degree in Human Nutrition, and is passionate about helping people use food and nutrients as therapy for disease and as disease prevention. She also likes cooking wholesome plant-based food, fermenting things, knitting, and thinking about how to live simply and well in our modern world. She believes, as Wendell Berry put it, that "what we eat determines how the world is used."