“I eat a healthy, plant-based, balanced diet, so why do I need to take supplements?”
I know, I know. I was singing the same tune myself not so long ago. There’s no definitive answer, as every body is vastly unique, and there are many people who can get away with taking no supplements at all. The truth, though, is that we’re all quite deficient in certain areas without evening knowing it.
There are two “golden supplements” that I personally recommend in addition to a plant-based, intuitive eating plan.
- A high-quality fish oil (or vegan alternative).
- A high quality probiotic.
“I eat fish, why do I need to take fish oil?”
The answer is that a high-quality fish oil supplement provides concentrated, clean nutrition that supports healthy cholesterol levels, eye health, cardiovascular health and joint health, to name a few.
I’m not going to recommend a particular fish oil because, again, our bodies are different as are our budgets and physical needs. What I will give you are some MUSTS in terms of selecting a fish oil supplement:
- Third Party-Tested Product (preferably IFOS, International Fish Oil Standards, tested). This guarantees that the fish oil you’re consuming is pure, and that the peroxide, anisidine, PCBs, heavy metals, lead and mercury levels, among other things, have been tested and deemed low or practically nonexistent.
- Concentration. Check the labels. Do you need to take five capsules of one brand to get the same amount of omega-3s you’d get in one capsule from another brand? The labels are tricky. All in all, you end up getting the same bang for your buck but with a lower quality product. So investigate the numbers and don’t be afraid to hound the health food store staff with your questions!
- Enteric Coated. Having an enteric coating on your fish oil capsules ensures that the supplement will make it into the intestines, where it can be assimilated by the body. This coating protects our stomach acid from dissolving the capsule before it ever makes it to the small intestine. Without this coating the capsule is obliterated by the body’s powerful stomach acids and you’re not only losing out on the nutrients, but you’re wasting your money!
Ok, so we have fish oil covered. Now, why take a probiotic?
It’s simple. To improve digestive health. Probiotics are known to support the immune system, yeast balance, and balance ailments such as constipation, indigestion, gas, bloating, yeast infections, candida and the side effects of antibiotics.
Eighty percent of our immune support resides in our gut. There are three times the number of bacteria in our tummy alone (trillions) than there are cells in our entire body!
So, how do you go about choosing a probiotic?
First and foremost, there are shelf-stable probiotics and there are refrigerated probiotics. Typically, the difference in these two is potency. Refrigerated probiotics will have higher potency, typically 5-200 billion CFUs (colony-forming units), while shelf-stable probiotics will offer anywhere from 1-10 billion CFUs.
When you look at the plethora of toxins many of us have been exposed to through food, medication and environment throughout our lifetime, we can really use all the digestive support we can get. Even the most health-conscious clean eater would benefit immensely from the lowest strain probiotic. Proper digestion is truly the key to our overall health.
When selecting a probiotic to help balance your digestive health, be on the lookout for these MUSTS:
- Guaranteed potency THROUGH the expiration date.
- High CFU (colony-forming units).
- Multiple strains (the more L’s, Lactobacillus strains, and more B’s, Bifidobacterium strains, the better).
A good recommendation for someone on a tight budget would be to splurge on a refrigerated, high-potency probiotic to jumpstart the digestive system, then transition to a less expensive, but still high quality (potentially shelf-stable) probiotic for maintenance. Again, this depends entirely on your own body and needs.