If you’ve ever walked the supplement aisle in a drugstore, you’ve seen the overwhelming abundance of options available for your medicine cabinet. According to the Council on Responsible Nutrition Consumer Survey’s 2022 dietary supplement survey, 75% of Americans use dietary supplements, most on a regular basis.
It’s important to remember that supplements are just that: supplements. While they’re good for giving you a boost when you’re low on certain nutrients, the best way to get the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet.
“Supplements will never give you what real food will give you,” says Kara Burnstine, RD, nutrition educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center. “They just help you. They are not meant to be a food substitute.
Still, Burnstine acknowledges that there can be setbacks to relying solely on food for optimal nutrition, and there are times when supplements can be a godsend.
“It would be wonderful if we ate all of our fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins and got everything we needed from the food supply, but unfortunately our food supply sometimes isn’t there either. highest quality,” she says. . “So we could be doing a lot of good things and not getting all the nutrients from food.”
This deficit can become even more pronounced as you age, she says.
“We’re machines, so as we get older, things that used to work well start not working as well. That’s when we may have to turn more to supplements.
Not all supplements are right for everyone. You should always check with your doctor before starting any supplement to make sure it won’t interact with any medications you’re taking or put you at risk for other problems. But for most people approaching or in their prime, here’s what Burnstine recommends:
Calcium for bone strength
Calcium does a lot for you: it plays an important role in blood clotting, it helps your muscles contract, and it regulates normal heart rhythm and nerve function. It also builds and maintains strong bones. When you don’t get enough calcium, your body borrows it from your bones to keep it functioning properly. Daily calcium intake helps you replace that calcium and maintain healthy bones.
When you reach the age of 50, your daily calcium needs increase. Before that, 1,200 milligrams a day was enough for you, but when you hit the century mark, it’s time to step up to 1,500 milligrams a day. Women who have passed menopause are most at risk of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens and weakens bones. Lack of calcium further increases these chances.
Burnstine says that if you know you’re not consuming a minimum of two servings of a source of calcium each day, a calcium supplement is a good idea. But the supplement is only one piece of the puzzle.
“In addition to the calcium supplement, I’m also going to recommend that you take at least two servings of dairy products or eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, and do resistance training, which protects your bones more than ‘something else’, she says.
Vitamin D for immunity (and bone strength)
Speaking of healthy bones, your body can only absorb calcium when vitamin D is present. In addition, vitamin D has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. It supports immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity.
Your body does not make vitamin D, so you must get it from outside sources. These include food, sunlight, or supplements. Before age 70, your daily requirement is 600 IU. After 70 years, it rises to 800 IU. In your later years, your body may need a boost to achieve these goals.
“As we get older, most of us don’t absorb vitamin D as well,” Burnstine says. This can be especially true if you live in an area that gets little sun or if you always wear sunscreen.
Probiotics for Gut Health
Emerging studies suggest that probiotic supplements — the “good” bacteria that live in your digestive system and help control “bad” bacteria — may help counteract age-related changes in gut microbiota, improving your health. immune and supporting healthy digestion as you age.
“We know that if our gut health is good, everything else follows, in terms of inflammation, brain fog, weight loss, sleep, depression,” says Burnstine. “Our gut is connected to almost everything.”
As with most nutrients, it’s best to get probiotics from the foods you eat. You can consume it with fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, chilled sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso. But a supplement is not a bad idea.
Some supplements contain over 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units), which may seem like a huge amount, but Burnstine says your body only absorbs 20-30% of that amount.
“Taking a supplement helps create this diversity and huge population of probiotics in the gut to help us be healthy, lose weight and lower our cholesterol,” she says.
magnesium for mood
Magnesium is tied to immune function, enzymatic reactions and plays a role in reducing inflammation. It is also a key player in mood stabilization. Magnesium levels decline with age, putting you at risk for mental health issues.
“People with low magnesium tend to have higher depression,” says Burnstine. Chronically low levels can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Anyone over 30 should get 320 to 420 mg per day, but Burnstine says not all magnesium supplements are created equal.
“For example, you can take magnesium carbonate, but you can also take something called magnesium glycinate, which is slightly easier on the stomach,” she says. “The combination of how it’s worded causes kind of different responses,” she says. Talk to your doctor about the best magnesium formulation for you.
Multivitamin to cover the basics
A daily multivitamin, while not a panacea, can give you an overall nutrient boost. At the very least, says Burnstine, it won’t hurt.
“I always say a multivitamin is kind of like an insurance policy,” she says. “I would recommend a general multivitamin at any age.”
Most brands are the same, but for peace of mind, look for the USP symbol. This seal of approval marks brands that have consistent quality, exact ingredients in the potency and quantity you find on the label.