My Top 5 Most Commonly Recommended Dietary Supplements

variety of dietary supplements

The world of dietary supplements can be difficult to navigate. It’s easy to get lost in supplement aisles at the grocery store or overwhelmed by the numerous products being advertised to us in the media for a variety of purposes.

While I always take a food-first approach with all of my clients (meaning that I aim to help them meet all of their nutrient needs through foods), there are often times when a dietary supplement is needed. Supplementation may be necessary due to certain dietary patterns, disease states, or training demands. Additionally, some people benefit from supplements to boost reserves of nutrients, hormones, or neurotransmitters that otherwise would become deficient.

To help you sort through what dietary supplements you can trust and which supplements may be right for you, I put together a list of my top 5 most commonly recommended dietary supplements and recommendations on what to look for when purchasing supplements.

 

1. Omega-3 Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which means they help with decreasing inflammation caused by stress, toxins, or injury. They also are essential for forming the structure of cell membranes. Most Americans don’t consume enough omega-3 fatty acids; according to a recent analysis completed by the FASEB journal, 83.5% of Americans do not consume enough seafood to meet minimum omega-3 recommendations through the diet. The most current recommendations from Harvard Medical school are that anyone who does not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids through the diet should supplement with 1g of omega-3 fatty acids per day to decrease inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular events.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D serves several critical functions in the body, including: promoting calcium absorption, which keeps bones strong; supporting immune function, cell growth, and cell division; and reducing inflammation. This nutrient is not found naturally in many foods aside from fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel) and several mushroom varieties, though it is added to several dairy products such as milk or yogurt. Vitamin D can also be synthesized with sufficient exposure of the skin to sunlight. Because these foods often comprise just a small part of the typical America diet and adequate sun exposure is not always possible (particularly in cooler climates), vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US (about 42% of us are deficient). For someone who is deficient, supplementation is likely necessary, though dosage and length of supplementation will vary based on the severity of the deficiency.

3. GABA

GABA stands for Gamma Aminobutyric Acid and it is a neurotransmitter that is made naturally in the body. Its primary role is to reduce fear and anxiety. This neurotransmitter is not available in many food sources (only a few fermented foods, such as kimchi or tempeh), and GABA levels in the body can become deficient during periods of high stress. Additionally, individuals with certain medical conditions tend to have low levels of GABA, including those with seizure disorders, ADHD, panic disorders, or mood disorders. GABA supplementation has shown to be most effective for those who experience anxiety. I have found it to be particularly useful for myself and clients who have difficulty falling asleep at night due to racing thoughts.

4. Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is essential for DNA and red blood cell production. This nutrient is only available from animal sources, which means that anyone following a vegan or predominantly plant-based diet will need to take a dietary supplement. Additionally, anyone who has undergone gastric bypass surgery will need to supplement with B-12 because absorption of vitamin B-12 occurs in the stomach (which has largely been bypassed), not the intestines as is the case with most other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also be common in the elderly because our digestive capabilities tend to weaken as we get older.

5. BCAAs

BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a group of 3 amino acids that have been shown through research to assist with reducing muscle soreness after exercise. Some studies have also shown that they can help with increasing muscle growth. These amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are found naturally in many foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs. However, individuals following a vegan or plant-based diet may not consume enough through the diet to meet their needs. Additionally, anyone engaging in a strenuous weightlifting program requires additional protein intake for recovery, and a BCAA supplement can help with supporting these needs during and after exercise or between meals. You can learn more about BCAAs by visiting my earlier blog post on this topic.

 

These supplements represent the most common recommendations I make for my clients, which include athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all ages. Remember, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and therefore you cannot trust that every supplement on the shelf or online is safe. I would always recommend talking with your doctor or dietitian first before starting any new dietary supplement. To see the brands I typically recommend for different supplements, visit the link to my Fullscript dispensary on the Products page of my website. Fullscript is an online dispensary that can only be used by licensed healthcare professionals (such as doctors and dietitians) to recommend professional-grade supplements of the highest quality, purity, and potency.

If you are ever looking for supplements yourself, please look for a third-party seal to ensure the supplement has been verified for quality, purity, and potency. Examples of third-party seals include USP, Informed Choice, NSF, and GMP.

 

Are there any dietary supplements you would like to learn more about? Any supplements I didn’t cover here that you would like for me to review? Comment below!

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The Best Foods to Have on Hand During Self-quarantine

This time of self-quarantine and social distancing poses some unique challenges for meal prepping and following a nutrition plan. Some foods that were once readily available are now scarce on the shelves or hard to keep on hand due to a short shelf life. For ideas on the best foods to look for by food group when you go shopping, read the list below to stay healthy and balanced!

  • Proteins. Protein is a nutrient that is critical to get in every day. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, we cannot store excess dietary protein, so we need to consume adequate protein daily to meet metabolic demands. The next time you go grocery shopping, look for the following items:
    • Packaged or canned fish/chicken
    • Frozen seafood, meat, or meat alternatives
    • Eggs/egg whites
    • Sliced deli meat (no nitrites or nitrates)
    • Beans, lentils, or peas (canned or dry)
    • Milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
    • Protein bars/powders

 

  • Fruits and vegetables. Produce is one of the top sources of essential vitamins and minerals that offer antioxidant and immune-protecting benefits for the body. If you aren’t sure what to get, look for:
    • Frozen fruits or vegetables (frozen options are great because they retain high levels of vitamins and minerals – sometimes even more than fresh!)
    • Canned fruit or vegetables (no added sugar or artificial sweeteners for fruit and low- or no added sodium for vegetables)
    • Fruit pouches (such as apple sauce or mixed berries – these aren’t just for kids, but great for adults if you need fruit on-the-go or an easy-to-digest pre-workout snack)
    • Fresh potatoes, carrots, and onions or apples, pears, oranges (long shelf lives)
    • Do continue to get other fresh options weekly or as often as possible! As long as you plan ahead of time to intentionally use ingredients such as lettuce, mushrooms, or cucumbers in recipes, you can utilize these foods effectively and avoid waste.

 

  • Starches. These are typically easier to get at the store, but the source matters! High-nutrient options are best, such as:
    • Brown or wild rice, quinoa, cous cous, farro, etc.
    • Oatmeal, cream of rice, muesli
    • Whole grain wraps, bagels, or pasta
    • Potatoes, corn, or peas
    • Beans, lentils, or chick peas
    • Limit high-sugar, processed starches like chips, crackers, cookies, etc. Some comfort food is okay, but don’t rely on these foods for most meals and snacks!

 

  • Dairy. Dairy is important for getting in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and more! These foods should be consumed on a regular basis for strong bones and balanced electrolyte levels:
    • Milk, regular yogurt, cheese
    • Note: You can get many of these nutrients from dairy alternatives, but some dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk are much lower in protein and some products may not be calcium-fortified. Check labels to make sure you are getting the intended nutrients from a particular product.

 

  • Healthy fats. Important for healthy cell membranes and neural function, as well as the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. See if you can find:
    • Olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil
    • Nuts/seeds (any type of nut or seed is fine, but look for lightly salted or unsalted)
    • Black olives
    • Avocado/guacamole
    • Pesto
    • Limit butter, whole fat dairy, and high-fat meat, esp. if heart disease or high cholesterol are concerns.

 

  • Other ingredients to have on hand:
    • Corn starch
    • Chicken or vegetable stock
    • Bouillon cubes
    • Minced Garlic
    • Herbs and spices
    • Soy sauce or hot sauce
    • Vinegar (balsamic, white, red wine, etc.)

If you need help with meal planning, please reach out! I would be glad to assist you with developing a meal plan to meet your specific needs and preferences during this time. NOVA Sports Nutrition offers virtual nutrition counseling from the comfort of your home for ease and convenience.

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How Poor Posture Affects Your Entire Well-being

Most of us focus on getting in our cardio, weight training, meal prep, and sleep when we are trying to improve health and wellness. One aspect of health that is often neglected, however, is posture.

Forbes reveals that people today spend more time sitting down than ever before. One contributing factor is that physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of the total workforce. Excessive time sitting down causes adverse effects on the human body, mostly due to how it impacts one’s posture. The good news is that there are ways to counteract this. Read on to learn more about how poor posture can affect your body and what you can do to avoid these effects!

Effects of Bad Posture on our Body

Poor Circulation

Bad posture often stems from long bouts of standing and sitting, which you may experience in an average office job. Medical News Today details how standing or sitting for long periods can cause a slew of complications, many of which are due to the effects of poor circulation.

Having poor circulation means that some parts of your body are not getting the right amount of blood flow. If left untreated, poor circulation can cause a range of problems, such as fatigue, digestive issues, cognitive dysfunctions, joint and muscle cramping, numbness and tingling in your hands and feet.

Spine Damage

Nowadays, people can’t live without their phones, as most of our daily functions revolve around it. Unfortunately, our phones may also be causing complications with our posture. The Guardian reports how “text neck” or the position we assume when we use our phones puts a lot of weight on our cervical spine.

This is because the average human head weighs around five kilograms, or about 11 pounds, and. the way we tilt our heads towards our phones can place more pressure on our spines. This can cause head, neck, and arm pain, which can worsen over time.

How to Prevent These Effects

Walk Around

If staying stationary is one of the biggest contributors to bad posture, then it would only make sense that movement will counteract these effects. However, you can’t exactly spend your working hours constantly moving about. Thankfully, there’s a science behind movement, and a precise guide to how often you should get up and take a walk. Pain Free Working recommends following the “20-8-2” rule – sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight, and walk around for two. In an office setting, this means being conscious of how much of the day you’ve spent staying seated. Use a timer and a notebook to log your activity, and make simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or going for a walk during your lunch break.

Do Yoga

If you’re looking for a more active solution, then why not give yoga a try? An article on Bustle emphasizes the benefits of yoga for one’s posture, as it stretches your back and strengthens your core. It also makes you more aware of how your body is positioned. Indeed, taking up yoga will yield permanent benefits for your posture, and in the long run, your overall wellness and health.

If you found this helpful, you might want to check out our article on Why Lack of Sleep Affects More Than Just Your Energy Levels to help guide you further on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

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3 Things I Would Have Told My 16-Year-Old Self

3 Things I Would Have Told My 16-Year-Old Self

When we are teenagers, it can seem like our worries and problems will follow us in perpetuity. Whether our concerns revolve around navigating social groups, choosing the right style of clothing, improving our athleticism, or choosing a college major that will allow us to follow our dreams, it can be tough to imagine that these concerns will ever be alleviated.

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