Photo credit: Lindy Rojas
Because I’m a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner- meaning I’m extensively trained on using specific supplements (and diet) to address specific health problems and deficiencies- I have a ton of supplements in my house. If you’ve ventured into the “natural health” world for any amount of time, you’ve probably developed an endless list of “must-have” supplements, vitamins, essential oils, and more. But there is a big difference between supplements that are “beneficial” and those I would consider “essential”.
Why do we need supplements?
I get this question a lot, and my answer is basically, “Because we don’t get enough nutrition from our food”. Typically when I recommend a supplement to a client, I explain how they could get that same nutrition from food. Usually the supplement is the easier choice because of convenience or simply the desire NOT to eat the food that they need. The Standard American Diet (SAD), and even the Standard “Healthy” American Diet, has completely excluded all the traditional foods healthy cultures have valued for centuries, like the organs of animals or carefully fermented/cultured foods.
Some people feel that they can get all the nutrition they need from their healthy diet. That’s great! But most people would consider (and do consider) my family a little crazy based on the kinds of things we make sure to eat frequently- like liver, raw milk, anchovies, lacto-fermented veggies and drinks, tons of organic (expensive) fruits and vegetables, and homemade bone broths- and we still value our basic supplements as essential additions to our daily lives. I’d be interested to see a food journal from a family who believed they had no need for any supplement support because they got everything they needed from their diet.
Ditch Your Multi-Vitamin!
I’m not a fan of multi-vitamins. In fact, some research suggests that commercial multi-vitamins may cause more harm than good. I do take one multi-vitamin formula that I trust from Dr. Ron’s Ultra Pure for my own personal reasons, but that isn’t even on my essential list here. The problem with multi-vitamins is that they’re just full of synthetic chemical vitamins that the body has a hard time recognizing or absorbing. According to some of the studies linked above, multi-vitamins may contain dangerous amounts of certain isolated synthetic vitamins. While there are plenty of studies showing the benefits of individual vitamin, mineral or other nutrient supplements for specific diseases or conditions, the medical community seems to have concluded that the generic multi-vitamin is a waste of money, and we should spend our money on good food and exercise instead.
But the truth remains, we simply do not eat enough “good food”…even if we try. (You can get a lot of help with my weekly whole food meal plans- Real Food Weekly.)
I’d rather focus on quality supplements that provide a condensed and convenient form of actual food that is probably missing from your diet. Here are the 3 non-synthetic, non-commercial supplements I believe everyone should take every day, and why:
1. Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil
Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil is an extremely nutrient-dense traditional food supplement full of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K that are essential for immunity, cardiovascular health, musculo-skeletal health, reproductive health, developmental health, and probably every other area of health there is! I do specifically recommend this brand and product because there are many “cod liver oils” available on the market that I do not trust and even recommend completely avoiding for many reasons- from collection of the fish to a toxic way of processing it to a flat out bad quality, wast of your money cod liver oil. This product contains high levels of naturally occurring vitamins A and D, in their natural ten to one ratio, with no synthetic vitamins added. This is the kind of quality cod liver oil used to complement traditional diets throughout the world for centuries. Historically, traditional diets centered on foods rich in vitamins A and D – liver and other organ meats, seafood and the fats of grass-fed animals. Even people who spent much time outdoors in the sun used fish liver oils as an essential part of their diets. Natural, old-fashioned cod liver oil is a wonderful food that everyone may benefit from. Fats from fish or grass-fed domestic animals are rich in nutrients essential for health and reproduction and are the foods that were most emphasized in traditional cultures, especially for pregnant women and young children. There is SO much more to learn about the benefits of a quality cod liver oil like this, so I recommend you click here to learn more about it.
2. Juice Plus+
My family has taken Juice Plus+ for years and love it. This is a convenient way to add a wide range of real vegetable and fruit nutrition to your daily diet, which means hundreds of beneficial phytonutrients like vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Most people simply cannot and do not eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day. Juice Plus+ basically takes 17 vegetables, fruits and a small amount of gluten-free grains (oat and brown rice- adding fiber which is needed to absorb the plant nutrition), and dehydrates them slowly at a temperature that maintains their enzymatic properties, then encapsulates the whole food powder that remains after all the water is removed. Juice Plus+ has an impressive list of clinical research to back up their product. I’m most impressed with the data showing the absorption rate and beneficial results from the anti-oxidants in Juice Plus+…something that most anti-oxidant supplements have a hard time proving. Our family has personally enjoyed stronger immunity, better skin, hair and nails, and a noticeable increase in our desire to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit and drink more water (especially the kids). We all take the Juice Plus+ chewables, which are basically like little “vitamin treats” that the kids especially love, even though they don’t contain very much added sugar. For an extra dose of anti-oxidants, I also take the “Vinyard Blend” which is a potent blend of berries like including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bilberries, and elderberries. Learn more about Juice Plus+ here, and feel free to contact me more about it if you are seriously interested in getting Juice Plus+ for your family…I would be happy to personally help you!
3. High Quality Probiotic
“Probiotic” is a hot word in the nutrition and supplement industry nowadays, and for good reason. Medical and nutrition research is continuing to show how important enzymes and bacteria are for almost every area of health including gastro-intestinal health, immunity, neurological health and much more. This is yet another confirmation that the traditional cultures of the world knew what they were doing. Most traditional cultures around the world have thrived on lacto-fermented or cultured foods for centuries. The process of fermentation or culturing enhances the enzyme and beneficial bacteria content of food and serves as a natural preservative. Examples of traditional fermented or cultured foods are sauerkraut or pickles (not using vinegar), preserved/pickled fish or meat, kefir, yogurt, and ale.
Modern diets are basically full of dead food- meaning the living enzymes and organisms that your body want to thrive on have all been cooked or processed out of the food. While I actually suggest you incorporate homemade lacto-fermented and cultured foods and drinks into your daily diet, a probiotic supplement will ensure you’re getting a good dosage of the living beneficial organisms that your body craves. There are, again, many probiotic products on the market- some good, many bad and a waste of your money. Prescript-Assist Pre/Pro-biotic from Radiant Life is awesome and I recommend this as a truly high quality probiotic.
How much does this COST?
Cost can be one of the most frustrating parts of a nutrient-dense, whole food diet. Many people just give up because they believe it’s too expensive to eat well. Adding nutrient-dense supplements like these may seem completely out of the question. I’m typically in the same boat when it comes to worrying about this side of things, which is why I’ve figured out exactly how much these supplements cost to take every day. I balance the cost analysis with the benefit, though, knowing that I am truly investing in the healthy of my family, and it’s absolutely worth the expense.
For adults to take 1/2 teaspoon (more or less) of cod liver oil, 1 Prescript-Assist Probiotic capsule, and the Garden and Orchard Blends of Juice Plus+ every day, it costs about $2.50 per day (and I rounded everything up). I should also let you know that Juice Plus+ offers FREE capsules or chewables for kids ages 4+ (one child for every regular adult order) as part of their Children’s Health Study. With the Children’s Health Study Juice Plus+ chewables, the small amount of cod liver oil they need (which I start giving the kids at around 5-6 months old so they are used to it and enjoy it), and the Prescript-Assist Probiotic , I figure that it costs about $.065 a day to give the kids these three supplements every day.
**If you want to get set up with the FREE Juice Plus+ for kids, you must contact me to set up your account.
My recommendations here are based on real world experience as a clinical practitioner, working closely with a family medical practice. I work with real families with all kinds of health backgrounds, and these three supplements continue to be the ones I recommend first and foremost. These are what we use in our home, and I take these kinds of decisions very seriously. For me, the results speak for themselves. These three things together seem to work wonders for the health of my family and all the families I work with who do the same. I know the title of this post is strongly worded- possibly a little provocative. Everyone has their personal opinions about what supplements are most important or beneficial, and you may have problems with the ones I’ve recommended here. My main concern is that you are doing your best to provide the best possible nutrition for your family. Feel free to share your thoughts…maybe the “essentials” in your home, questions or comments about what I’ve provided here. Please keep your comments kind and respectful, especially if you disagree with me or other commenters. 🙂