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What Supplements Should I Take?

by Marissa on October 11, 2013

what supplements should i take

One of the most popular questions I’m asked is, “what supplements should I take?”

Seems a lot of people think supplements = healthy.

Not so much. I’m on the conservative side when it comes to supplementation. I’ll attempt to answer the question, “What supplements should I take” by explaining why I take the ones I do in a minute but first let me explain why I’m conservative.

Nature gets it right.

I believe, first and foremost in whole foods. There’s little any supplement can offer in the quantities and combinations that real food can.

If you eat a varied diet of whole foods, including lots and lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (which should be your goal on a daily basis), you’ll have little to no need for supplements.

Well + Good addressed a similar topic, “Does the science of nutrition need a makeover?” One of the points the article made in review of T. Colin Campbell’s newest book, Whole, is that your body does a really good job of using the food you eat to deliver the energy and nutrients you need to keep things rockin’.

I’ve never been much of a pill-popper.

I think I was a teenager before I could ever swallow an advil. That said, I really don’t like swallowing things whole. Nor have I ever been very good at remembering daily doses of anything except dark chocolate.

If you’re wondering what supplements you should take, get your blood work done and find out where you’re deficient as a first step.

I can’t tell you what you should take but there are a few I take, some more regularly than others, that I believe are highly beneficial and worth exploring.

Probiotic: To balance healthy gut bacteria, keep the immune system healthy and help with digestion, a probiotic can be helpful. Look for probiotics with billions of CFUs. They’re found naturally in foods like cultured yogurt (be careful because the added sugar in many yogurts can completely cancel out the probiotc benefits), kefir and fermented foods.

Digestive Enzyme: Also helpful for digestion, digestive enzymes are protein molecules that make digestion more productive and efficient. A holistic health care professional can tell you which enzyme is right for your specific needs.

Fish Oil: The two essential omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA – and fish oil contains both. Because the body doesn’t make them, they must be obtained in the diet. BUT most American diets are lacking omega-3s, which reduce inflammation and the diseases associated with it. Aside from eating cold water, oily fish like wild salmon, sardines, mackerel and black cod, a fish oil supplement is the best way to get enough.  Choose a reliable brand that has been independently tested and is free of toxins and heavy metals.

Multi or Pre-natal: I’m of baby-bearing age (not pregnant!) and figured I could use a little extra help in that department when the time comes. Plus, these are gummy and taste like candy, but naturally-sweetened so I figured why not!

B12: For vegans or those who limit animal products, B12 is essential for adrenal support, metabolism and maintaining a healthy nervous system. It’s most commonly lacking in limited diets because it’s richest sources are animal foods like liver,  grass-fed beef, milk, sardines, salmon and lamb. Blue-green algae is also a good source. B12 supplements are difficult to absorb through the stomach so a sub-lingual tablet can be a better choice.

I never recommend taking supplements to make up for an unhealthy diet. What I mean is, supplements won’t work if you’re eating fast food often. Also, everyone is different and just because the above supplements are right for me, doesn’t mean they’re right for you. Check with your health care provider for contraindications and other considerations before taking new supplements.

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I had a ton of trouble swallowing pills until I was in college, glad to hear I am not alone. I try to only take what my doctor recommends given my blood work and diet and even then I am wary of taking daily. Right now I am focused on B12 and D. 

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