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Contributed by Jamie Stephens NTP, Lead Practitioner at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Chicago, Ill.
So you’re trying to eat healthy or avoid certain foods—if you’re not getting some foods in your diet, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies down the line. That’s where supplements can help. They’re a great way to fill in for the nutrients necessary for optimal functioning of your body.
Supplements have also become more important as farming practices have changed over the last century. Our soil is no longer as rich in the vitamins and minerals we need for our bodies to be at their best. So even if you’re on a healthy organic diet, you’re probably not getting all the nutrients you need.
A note about supplement quality
Not all supplements on drugstore shelves are created equal. Some are made cheaply with fillers and lack quality control, so you want to look for supplements that have the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification or NSF Certification. (Note that the supplements I recommend below have all been selected based on Pharmaca’s strict Quality Assurance Guidelines, so you know they’re of the highest purity and potency.)
Here are my top recommendations for supplemental nutrients that can be helpful based on the diet you’ve adopted.
Paleo diets, though very nutrient dense in fruits, vegetables and animal products, can still be lacking a few nutrients, such as calcium and fiber. There are also additional needs for vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA.
Supplement recommendations for paleo diets: Calcium, Fiber, Vitamin D3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Gluten is not a nutrient that our body’s need to properly function, but the grains in which we find gluten are staple sources of B vitamins and fiber in the standard American diet. That’s where you’ll want to supplement.
Supplement recommendations for gluten-free diets: B Vitamins, Fiber, Vitamin D3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These diets typically recommend staying under 150 g of carbs/day and may or may not require avoiding gluten. (Those avoiding grains and gluten should consider all of the same nutrients as those on a gluten free diet.)
Something to note is that on a low-carb diet one may have a more difficult time replenishing the glycogen in their liver. Honey can be helpful to take before and after workouts when we need extra glycogen, or even before bed (since glycogen is needed to keep blood sugar steady, and drops in glycogen during the night can cause wakefulness). Look for a good-quality raw honey such as Honey Garden Organic Raw Honey.
Supplement recommendations for low-carb diets: B Vitamins, Fiber, Vitamin D3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Vegan and vegetarian diets are usually lacking in a few nutrients that can only be obtained from animal products (e.g. B12 and vitamin A). In addition, EPA and DHA are mainly found in animal products but also exist in small amounts in algae. Iron, calcium and protein though found in plants can be more difficult to absorb and for this reason may need to be supplemented to meet one’s daily needs.
Supplement recommendations for vegan or vegetarian diets: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, B12, Vitamin D3, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A, Protein
Found what supplements you need? Here’s what we recommend.
Garden of Life Organic Plant Calcium or Vitamin Code Calcium, or New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care
Psyllium Husk by Organic India or Renew Life Triple Fiber
Pharmaca makes a great liquid Vitamin D3; if you’ve had your gallbladder removed or have trouble digesting fat, look for Pharmax D-Mulsion. Vegan/vegetarian products include Garden of Life MyKind Organics spray, gummies or capsules, and Natural Factors Vegan Bio-Enhanced Vitamin D3.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA/DHA)
Two high-quality products stand out: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega (with lemon flavoring) or Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil. For vegans/vegetarians, try Vegan Algae Omega by Nordic Naturals or Flora DHA Vegetarian Algae
Look for a quality B vitamin complex in the methylated form, such as Thorne Research Basic B Complex, Integrative Therapeutics Activate B Complex or Pure Encapsulations B Complex Plus.
Superior Source B12 Methylcobalamin sublinguals or Pure Encapsulations B12 liquid.
Look for a plant-based iron such as Floradix’s, Gaia Herbs PlantForce Liquid Iron or Megafood Blood Builder.
Vitamin A from Thorne Research, Bluebonnet Nutrition or Pharmaca
Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Shake or Garden of Life Organic Plant-Based Performance Protein Bar
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