9 Supplements in My Pantry
While the vast majority of all vital nutrients can be obtained from eating a balanced diet rich in veggies and wholesome foods every day, there are some vitamins that are hard for every human to come by--be they vegan, paleo, pescatarian or caveman.
I found the ideology behind taking different vitamins and supplements was explained rather articulately by detox expert Mike Perrine. He says we should think about supplements on a scale of invasiveness. Whole foods are the most natural, least invasive way of getting nutrients, followed by superfood supplements such as maca and chlorophyll (which are still whole foods, as they are found in nature). Vitamin pills are slightly more invasive, as they are often a processed, lab-created product. Prescription drugs are quite invasive, often bringing foreign substances into the body very unnaturally. The most invasive "supplement" would be surgery, ideally only as a very last resort, for whatever the health concern has progressed to.
Here I list out the supplements I personally have found beneficial for my diet, and why you may find them helpful as well (just consult your doctor beforehand!)
- Vitamin D3 + K2: Vitamin D, mostly gleaned from the sun through our skin, gets converted to its absorbable form as a hormone and affects not only calcium absorption and bone health, but it regulates the release of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine. That being said, Vitamin D is what I like to call sun candy! A little sunshine can improve your mood AND feelings of weakness. I have self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder, which makes me SAD (see what I did there?) in winter months, and I believe most humans who get minimal amounts of sun exposure do, too, as adequate amounts of vitamin D are rarely found in even the healthiest of diets. SO, the takeaway here is to try and spend a few moments in the sun each day without sunscreen (10 minutes won’t give you cancer), and if that isn’t possible, I highly recommend a supplement. I’m currently loving the D3+K2 drops by Pure Therapeutics, as they are vegan, flavorless and absorb most quickly into your body. The D3 aids with calcium absorption while the K2 aids in ensuring that calcium gets to your bones and not your soft tissues. Win, Win, WIN!
- Probiotics: in addition to implementing fermented foods into your daily diet (a topic deserving of its own post), probiotics are essential to a happy, healthy gut. Our gut needs bacteria to help breakdown and absorb the nutrients from our food; without them, our digestion slows wayyy down, and our clean eating efforts are largely gone to waste (literally... out the other end... not utilized). By improving digestion, probiotics also help with regularity, bloating, stomach cramps, acid reflux, among other benefits. I do not yet have a strong loyalty to a particular probiotic brand, but I think a good rule of thumb is to find one that has 4 or more strains of bacteria (think of it like different breeds of dogs) and 15-30 billion CFUs.
- Flax Seed Oil: Healthy fats are essential for a healthy diet. Foods such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, natural nut butters, raw nuts and seeds are all great sources. But sometimes my day is so crazy that I don’t always have time to pack in as many servings as I need. On those days, I like to take some flax seed oil. I purchased mine from Trader Joe’s.
- B12: A B12 supplement is important for all, meat-eaters or not, and is particularly vital for vegans. There really is no way around it, as B12 is found in animal protein and only trace amounts in algae. And even with meat-based diets, the B12 is not as extractable as it is when received from a supplement. B12 sprays are most quickly absorbed, easy to take/remember, and often can be the best bang for your buck in terms of servings per bottle. I picked up this spray bottle from my local grocery store, so they can be found anywhere!
- Collagen: I was skeptical of collagen powders for a while, mostly because I felt like our body would produce as much as we needed and did adding more really help? Also, all I was seeing was collagen from cows. I have never been a big red meat eater, so I cut that out of my diet years ago. But I recently discovered the brand Further Foods, which offers a marine collagen extracted from non-GMO codfish. It is a completely flavorless powder that mixes easily into any liquid, and can be used in pretty much any recipe (see how I use it in my smoothies on Instagram and my oats, here). In addition to being a naturally clean source of protein, collagen improves the appearance and elasticity of our skin, strengthens hair and nails, and can even make your eyes whiter. While I haven’t been using it long enough to see true visible benefits, the reviews rave about the stuff, and even the past two weeks of use have proven to help my digestion! Excited to see what else this stuff can do for me.
- Maca Powder: To be perfectly transparent, I mostly use maca powder because I love the taste. I tried it once at a friend’s place and found the nutty flavor it offered my oatmeal quite pleasant. Turns out, it also is packed with essential vitamins, fatty acids, fiber, and supports the endocrine system. By regulating hormones, maca can reduce symptoms of PMS, menopause, and even improve fertility and libido (and men out there, note this stuff for erectile dysfunction. Just sayin.) I love Anthony’s maca powder and buy it off Amazon.
- Spirulina: A blue-green algae, Spirulina is a dense source of chlorophyll, a phytonutrient that aids in detoxification and balancing your body’s pH levels. According to the FDA, Spirulina also contains large amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, and amino acids (aka protein). Basically, it is a super natural multivitamin that also improves heart health, immune function, weight loss, digestion, and more! I have only ever tried Nutrex’s Pure Hawaiian Spirulina powder, and I love the milder taste that pairs well with smoothies and oats. They offer a capsule option as well.
- Digestive Enzymes: I have a hyper sensitive stomach, so even eating tcertain foods at the same time can give me stomach aches, bloating, or indigestion. I love having these on me whenever I go out to dinner, or know that I am having a particularly heavy meal. We have digestive enxzymes naturally in our gut, but similar to the need for probiotics, having a little more can only help. I am a big fan of Renew Life’s DigestMore
- Chlorophyll: Since spirulina isn’t always the most convenient, I can just pop a chlorophyll and know that I am at least getting the beneficial phytonutrients. I love these capsules, picked up from my neighborhood health food store, as I have the option to take it as a pill, or break it open and dump the powder into a smoothie or even just water. It is tasteless!