Supplements are a great way to add nutrients and beneficial bacteria to your diet that you may not be getting (or absorbing) from your daily food intake. There are many reasons why, even with a clean vegetable-packed diet, you may not be receiving all the nutrients your body needs. First, modern intensive agricultural methods have reduced amounts of vitamins and minerals from the soil in which food grows. The result of all those pesticides and monoculture is that modern spinach doesn’t contain as much folate and vitamins A, C, and K than when our nation had more small farms and people ate more regionally. Second, the Standard American Diet is not only low in nutrients, with its dependence on refined and processed foods, but it is also damaging to the gut. Refined flours, antibiotics in meat, and added sugars have decreased the diversity of bacteria in our microbiome, the community of bacteria living inside our gut and scientifically proven to affect our weight, mood, energy levels, skin and overall wellbeing.
To address these issues, we should all make our best effort to eat a diverse array of clean, organically grown foods from local farms, and add in fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut to add beneficial bacteria into our digestive tract and reduce sugar cravings. We can also feed the good bacteria already in our gut by eating fiber, complex carbohydrates and resistant starches, such as onions, garlic, artichokes, sunchokes, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and whole grains. One of the reasons I created Provenance was to make eating clean, organic nutrient dense foods to nourish your body as delicious and convenient as possible!
Even if you’re doing all of the above, chances are you will benefit from targeted supplementation. Here are my top 5 supplements that I keep at home for myself and my family.
Keeping the gut healthy in order to absorb nutrients from foods and produce neurotransmitters that keep me happy and calm is my number one priority. Currently in my fridge, I have 3 brands. The first is from Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman. Dr. Lipman is a pioneer in functional medicine and his medical grade supplements and shakes have always helped me feel my best. I’ve also been experimenting with the probiotics from a new company, Thryve Inside (BONUS: They give our clients 15% off with code PROVENANCE15). I recently had my gut microbiome using their testing kit (Read my recent post about biohacking), and Thryve Inside’s probiotics are designed to help restore beneficial bacteria and diversity that I am missing. Finally, when I am feeling a little above my ideal weight and want to shed a few pounds, I turn to Metagenics UltraFlora Control. These contain Bifidobacterium lactis B-420, a bacterial strain which has shown weight loss in clinical trials, with losses of 2-5 pounds in the first week as the gut tightens.
I am deficient in Vitamin D3. If you live in the Northern US and it’s wintertime, the cold temps and position of the sun prevent us from getting adequate sunshine to meet our Vitamin D requirements. When I had my bloodwork done during my Parsley Health Assessment and saw how low my actual numbers were, I immediately started supplementing with Vitamin D, with a dose of 20,000 IUs per day, Monday through Friday for 3 weeks, then reduced to 5,000 IUs everyday for 3 months. The result? Darker, shinier hair, longer and stronger nails, and increased energy. I’ll be scheduling a follow up appointment with Parsley Health to measure my Vitamin D numbers again in a few months and I’m sure that, based on the way I feel after supplementing with it, I’ll be happy with my numbers.
Magnesium has been called the “miracle cure” and for good reason. It has been shown to increase energy, improve sleep and digestion, reduce stress and muscle pain, regulate potassium, sodium and calcium levels, and treat migraines. Moreover, you need sufficient magnesium in order to properly absorb and utilize calcium for strong bones. Research indicates that as many as 80% of us are magnesium deficient. My favorite way to increase my magnesium intake is a good long soak in a bath with epsom salt from the drugstore, Ancient Minerals magnesium flakes, or for a special treat, the Captivator Love Bath from CAP Beauty. No time for a luxurious bath every night? I also like Natural Calm, a magnesium citrate powder you mix with hot water for a delicious and relaxing drink at the end of the evening (a good swap for your nightly glass of wine when you want to reduce your alcohol intake).
It’s hard for me to restrain from singing the praises of collagen enough! Collagen is found in the skin, joints, cartilage and bones of animals as well as the scales of fish. Grass-fed bone broth is a great way to incorporate it into your diet as well as collagen protein powder from grass-fed beef or fish.This supplement comes in a flavorless powder that dissolves quickly in any liquid. I add a packet to my coffee or smoothies every day, and have noticed less joint pain and healthier hair, skin, and nails. Since it’s only found in animal products, it’s a great supplement if you tend to have a more plant-based diet with minimal animal proteins. You can add a 20-day supply of Vital Proteins collagen stick packs when you’re ordering organic prepared meals or a cleanse program from Provenance.
Omega-3 fatty acids
I like to eat fish several days a week but having more omega-3s via fish oil supplements is always a good thing. Sardines and wild salmon are a sustainable way to get more omega-3s. The Standard American Diet is high in omega-6s thanks to all the industrial vegetable oils like canola, soybean,and sunflower that are used in processed foods, restaurant meals, and so-called “healthy” salad dressings. The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is thus out of proportion for many people, and avoiding those vegetable oils and increasing fish oils is the way to go. Omega-3s fight inflammation, which is the root cause of most modern disease.
Be Well carries a convenient Daily Dose supplement which contains a multivitamin (containing B vitamins and important minerals), fish oil, probiotic and D supplement in an individually wrapped package that you can take twice a day with meals.
Supplements should never take the place of a well-balanced, clean diet, but they can assist with targeting certain nutritional deficiencies or a microbiome not in balance. If you’re experiencing low energy, fatigue, digestion problems, or skin issues, it’s worth taking a look at the supplements I’ve outlined above and experiment. I suggest taking supplements consistently for a set period of time (usually at least on month) and paying attention to any changes that may occur. Some supplements can be taken temporarily, others can be taken every day as part of a wellness maintenance routine. Combined with clean eats, quality sleep, and an exercise routine, supplements can fill in possible nutritional gaps and help you meet your wellness goals.
Caroll Lee - Founder of Provenance Meals
Caroll is an avid cook, mother of two, Board Certified Health Counselor and the founder of Provenance Meals. Her passion in life is to feed people real food -- food that is raised, grown and prepared in traditional ways that are good for your health and good for the planet. Caroll practices holistic nutrition, understanding that a healthy diet must be combined with other sources of nourishment—loving relationships, enjoyable physical activity, meaningful work and spiritual connectedness—to reach true health and happiness.