As a Health Coach, and as one who has been endorsing nutritional supplements to my clients since 1999, I hope I got your attention with the title above. Add to that, my belief in the benefits of nutritional supplements is sky high… I hope you are now even more curious. First things first…
The basis of optimal health is the food that we eat.
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates said, Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. If you have any doubts as to the striking benefit to you and your body to live a long and healthful life as a direct result of the food you eat, read The China Report. Whether you believe in the author’s recommendations of vegetarianism or not, at the very least you will come away with a much greater appreciation for the role our diets play in how healthy we are. Whether we are blessed with long and healthy lives, or we succumb to diseases of affluence, is a function of what we eat. Michael Pollen, one of my favorite authors (In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) is a credible, outspoken advocate of eating food to make us healthy.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
What about supplements?
You can easily find ample arguments for and against supplements on the Internet. Do not expect universal agreement on such a controversial topic. In general, you can expect that the experts will disagree. So that we are on the same page, supplements means “nutritional supplements”, which are tiny amounts (one gram or less) of essential compounds that are help our bodies be healthy. I love that they are called supplements, and not replacements. Since food is in first position to provide our bodies with all of the necessary nutrition for optimal health, supplements were never meant to make up for an inadequate diet, or a disregard for whole, nutrient-dense food. Even though I believe the benefits outweigh the downside of taking supplements, I still believe that one should be mindful when choosing to take supplements. To that point…
Do not buy them if you fall into some or all of the following categories:
- You live off of junk food and fast food.
- You hope that taking your vitamins will make up for bad habits, such as over-indulging in fats, sugars, alcohol, sleep deprivation, sedentary living, and smoke.
- If you think that if you take your vitamins, the rest of your choices do not matter.
- That because you take vitamins, you have a free pass when it comes to the quantity and quality of the food you eat.
- You do not practice anything that would be considered a healthy lifestyle.
- You think that all supplements are created equally, so you might as well purchase the cheapest variety.
According to Dr. Tom Carter, practicing cardiac-thoracic surgeon and nutrition advocate, a health plan is a good way to chart our course. In Dr. Carter’s plan we would be practicing the following:
1. Drinking plenty of clear, clean water
2. Having regular exercise and movement
3. Getting restorative sleep
4. Eating real, whole food
5. Maintaining weight control
6. Avoiding toxins (food and environmental)
7. Taking quality supplements
In this plan, supplements act synergistic-ally along with other excellent habits. All of these layers interact to provide our bodies with a fighting chance from various angles to ward off disease and to stay well. Therefore, taking supplements works best when part of a larger plan. If one considers that supplements are the plan, one is in for a disappointment. They are not designed to work that way.
For example, going through Dr. Carter’s plan, if you are habitually dehydrated, your kidneys and your skin (among other organs) will malfunction. It is not the job of vitamins and minerals to repair chronically thirsty kidneys and skin. If you are a couch potato, supplements alone will not strengthen your muscles and lead your brain to release feel-good hormones, among other benefits of exercise. If you stay up all night on caffeine, taking supplements will not provide the deep restorative rest required by your body to mend and rejuvenate, and to maintain hormonal balance. If you eat mostly junk food, supplements cannot make up for the devastating shortfall of nutrition plus toxic overload to your body, nor are they designed to. If you are overweight, vitamins and minerals cannot repair the chronic wear and tear on your pancreas and blood vessels, among other organs. If you smoke and drink to excess, supplements are unable to repair the damage to your lungs and liver.
If none of these behaviors describe you, and if you do treat your body like the precious vehicle that it is, and if you do honor yourself by making excellent choices and even if you are not perfect, taking supplements is an essential addition to your health plan. Every layer of protection helps. Each item on this plan interacts with the others. Our bodies are not made up of individual islands; everything is connected.
Quality supplements create an extra barrier between you and chronic degenerative disease. In the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), Harvard researchers concluded, “We recommend that all adults take one multivitamin daily.”
These professionals do not say that taking supplements is a panacea. There are no panaceas in health and wellness. Covering your bases by having a multi-pronged approach to staying well is something for which your body will thank you for decades to come.
Here is the brand I use and recommend, in case you are looking for a quality supplement.