Nutritionist Steph Lowe sheds light on what she believes are the most important supplements to take.
While real food should always be priority number one, supplements do have their place in the 21st Century. We need to consider factors such as modern agriculture, soil quality, genetics, training load and recovery. So please follow these steps before choosing to supplement.
- Prioritise real food. Real food is defined as food that come off a tree, out of the ground or from an animal.
- Prioritise food quality. More on that here. (Please link to “The Importance of Meat and Egg Quality” when it goes live).
- Prioritise lifestyle changes. Control your stress, aim for 7.5 hours of sleep per night and hydrate well.
- Supplement, if necessary.
The following is not individual prescription, but general information regarding our top three supplements: magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin C. In an ideal world you would work with your practitioner and develop your protocol around blood tests results and specific requirements.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant elements and hundreds of enzymes require magnesium ions to function. It plays a crucial role in bone formation and the regulation of blood calcium levels, fatty acid synthesis, muscular relaxation and the activation of vitamins B and D. Magnesium is essential to all cells but one of the most common deficiencies in the Western world, so it is highly likely that you will benefit from supplementation.
Magnesium is great for:
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Natural menopause relief
- Muscle cramping
- Exercise recovery
- Relaxation, stress management and cortisol control
- Sleeping troubles
Food sources of magnesium are: nuts, seeds, raw cacao, dark green vegetables, fish and meat.
Although its name would convince you otherwise, vitamin D is in fact not a vitamin (as our skin can manufacture it), but a fat-soluble steroid hormone.
Vitamin D is great for:
- Controlling calcium levels in the blood and therefore bone health
- Muscle function
- Nerve conduction
- Overall physiological health
Food sources of vitamin D are: egg yolks, lard and mushrooms. It is important to note that the greatest provision of vitamin D comes from the sun, so please aim for a minimum of 15 minutes of sunlight between the hours of 10am and 3pm. To ensure you are producing vitamin D, check your shadow. When it is much shorter than you, the sun’s rays are entering the atmosphere at the correct angle for your skin to utilize the UVB rays. In winter, you will notice that your shadow is much longer for most of the day, and this is when no amount of sun will be beneficial.
Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is used as a cofactor for enzymatic reactions such as collagen synthesis, wound healing and capillary health. Humans have lost the ability to synthesis vitamin C from monosaccharides (unlike plants, reptiles and birds) and it therefore must be obtained exogenously. As it is water-soluble, excess will be excreted via the urine, but this also means that a constant supply must be obtained.
Vitamin C is great for:
- Enhanced iron absorption
- Skin integrity
- Cortisol control
- Exercise recovery, via its antioxidant capacity
- Research now also suggests that decreasing free radicals may also assist with cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
Food sources of vitamin C are: fruit and vegetables, in particular kale, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries and kiwi fruit.
What brands do I choose?
A practitioner-only brand is important to ensure quality, sustainability and the highest manufacturing standards. Examples include Metagenics, Bioceuticals, Orthoplex and Pure Innovation.
Do I need a Multivitamin?
If you are prioritising real food and food quality, you may find a multi-mineral is more suitable. This prevents you from spending money on excess vitamins that you would otherwise excrete via your urine. A multi-mineral differs in that it contains small amounts of the essential minerals that may be lacking in our food due to modern agriculture and poor soil quality.