Times change. Vitamins and minerals we normally consumed in once popular foods like canned sardines (yuk!) are hard to come by elsewhere. We’re stuck in the house or the office most of the day. And recently developed medications that are supposed to help us are discovered to have nutritional side effects.
While you may have heard supplements don’t work, that’s not always the case. Our list below includes supplements that many doctors are now recommending thanks to changing lifestyle, diet and the prevalence of new prescription drugs. I’ve included links to some products that meet the recommended requirements – and they’re well-priced (this is a blog about saving money after all…).
If you’re taking statins for high cholesterol, your CoQ 10 levels are often depleted so doctors now recommend that you take supplements to replace the loss. A powerful antioxidant, restoring CoQ10 levels help reduce muscular issues that are often a side effect of statins. Plus, CoQ10 can lower overall cholesterol levels and raise HDL (the good cholesterol).
CoQ10 also is recommended for those with heart disease and may improve or slow progression of other diseases such as muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s.
HOW MUCH – Though no RDA has been established, at least 90 – 120 mg per day is recommended for those taking statins or with the other conditions mentioned. It’s best to take it with food that contains fat. Since few of us get more than 10 mg a day in foods (oily fish, liver, whole grains, soy/sesame/canola oil), if you have a family history of any of these diseases but are not yet taking medication, consider taking 100 mg a day.
WARNING – If you’re taking beta blockers, anti-depressants or chemotherapy medications, check with your doctor first.
If you have heart disease or a family history of it, fish oils are an important supplement for managing it.
And unless you can add more fatty fish or walnuts to your diet (at least twice a week), fish oil supplements may be the only way to get these essential nutrients in your diet.
There are 3 major types of fish oils – Omega Fatty Acids 3, 6 and 9. Most people don’t get enough Omega 3 fatty acids but get plenty of the others. It’s even suspected that the imbalance in fatty acids contributes to a host of modern health issues.
HOW MUCH – Forget the milligram count on the front of the bottle. More important are the levels of EPA and DHA often noted on the back label. Look to get 700 – 1,000 mg of EPA and 200 – 500 mg of DHA daily, ideally in the least number of tablets. Do not take more as excessive amounts can have been shown to have side effects. And look for “clean” supplements – low in contaminants – which should be noted on the labels.
WARNING – If you’re taking warfarin or similar drugs or have issues with bleeding, check with your doctor first.
If you’re being treated for acid reflux or normally take over the counter drugs like Prilosec, you’ll need to replace the magnesium loss these drugs cause. You can get prescription versions of these drugs that include magnesium, but supplements may do the trick and are probably cheaper.
Try alternating acid reflux medications them with antacids (like Gaviscon or Tums) to treat your acid reflux/reduce magnesium loss. Or, look for magnesium glycinate, citrate or chelate supplements. Avoid magnesium oxide as it can be irritating.
You can also increase intake of foods high in magnesium. These include leafy green vegetables (like spinach), avocados, whole grains (real grains like quinoa, farro, wild or brown rice – not what passes as whole grains in most off the shelf crackers and breads), nuts and beans.
HOW MUCH – The RDA is 300 mg for adult women and 400 mg for men. If you’re taking magnesium, make sure you get enough calcium – at least twice the amount of the magnesium you’re taking – to offset any constipation or gas magnesium supplements may produce. Most antacids contain calcium so if you go that route, check the amount of calcium in each dose.
WARNING – If you have heart or kidney disease or you’re taking antibiotics, check with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.
When the US National Institute of Health increases a vitamin’s RDA, you know something’s going on. Not found in many foods, Vitamin D is primarily synthesized by the body in the presence of sunlight. If you’re indoors most of the time, you’re likely not getting enough. Luckily, supplements are an inexpensive way to get vitamin D which is critical for a wide range of body functions.
HOW MUCH – Formerly 400 IU a day was recommended but that has risen to 600 IU (800 IU for those over 70). Some health experts suggest as much as 2,000 IU per day. Look for vitamin D3 rather than blends or D2 which is used to fortify many foods.
WARNING – Don’t take vitamin D supplements if you’re taking medications for thyroid or liver conditions, psoriasis, mineral oil or weight loss drugs like Alli without checking with your doctor first.
The Daily Vitamin
The daily vitamin has been dissed a lot lately, but there are many who say a well selected all-purpose vitamin can’t hurt – especially if you can’t always eat as well as you should. The key is taking the right one. Look for vitamin blends created for your age group, gender or with specific conditions in mind. Generic versions of name brands are the best value. Just take one a day since most of these load up on some vitamins (like A and C) where high doses aren’t recommended.