These 6 Questions Will Help You Figure Out If You Need To Supplement Your Diet
Just like you can’t out-train a bad diet, you can’t out-supplement a bad diet either. As a health coach, I don’t recommend even looking at supplements until you’ve taken the time to truly improve your nutrition.
That involves decreasing your intake of inflammatory, processed foods and common allergens, like gluten and dairy, and increasing anti-inflammatory foods like dark leafy vegetables, high-quality animal proteins, and healthy fats like avocado or coconut oil.
Once your diet is on track, supplements can be a positive addition.
With the vast number of supplements out there and a variety of claims for each, it can be difficult to sort through what’s actually worth taking. Use the following six questions to help determine if supplementation will be beneficial for you.
Do you eat fatty fish?
Consuming fatty fish like salmon and trout is a great way to get omega 3 fatty acids in your diet (yes, we do need fat). These fats are anti-inflammatory, helping us to recover from exercise and get more restorative sleep. They can also improve our immunity and decrease aches and pains.
If you don’t eat fatty fish on a regular basis, consider taking fish oil to help ensure you’re getting your daily dose of omega 3’s.
Do you eat/drink fermented foods/beverages?
Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and vegan yogurt, or beverages like kombucha and kefir, provide a dose of healthy bacteria. These bacteria help our bodies to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome, which is essential when it comes to digesting and absorbing the food we consume.
According to a study by the National Human Genome Research Institute, we are 90% microbes, 10% human. So basically if your gut microbiome is healthy, you’re healthy! If you’re not eating or drinking these foods and beverages regularly, taking a probiotic aimed at improving digestion may be beneficial to maintaining a healthy gut.
Do you spend time in the sun?
It’s common knowledge that sun exposure provides us with vitamin D, which is not only essential for our bone health, but also plays a role in hormone regulation. In fact, vitamin D is often regarded as a hormone and not just a vitamin.
With our modern, busy lifestyles, there’s not always time to get daily sun exposure, especially for those who live in colder climates. And when we are able to get outside, we’re generally fully clothed. So it’s no surprise that most people are deficient in vitamin D. A vitamin D supplement can help to prevent or to improve this common deficiency.
Do you not eat meat? Or do you only eat it rarely?
While it’s possible to get plenty of quality protein from plant sources (that’s what our vegetarian meal plan is all about!) animal protein provides us with essential B-Vitamins that we can’t get from plant sources. B-Vitamins support both energy levels and mental function.
Nutritional yeast tends to be fortified with B-Vitamins, so this can be an ideal source for non-meat eaters. But even so, without daily consumption of animal protein, it can be difficult to get enough of these vitamins exclusively through diet, which is supplementation may be beneficial.
If you do eat meat, is it exclusively muscle meat?
Muscle meat is a great source of protein, but it doesn’t provide the same kind of support for our connective tissue (think skin, joints, and ligaments) that bones, cartilage, and gelatinous meat do.
If sipping on bone broth and gnawing the cartilage off of bones is not a part of your regular diet, consider supplementing with collagen.
Are you eating your greens?
Vegetables — green leafy ones or otherwise — all provide a variety of micronutrients. These include vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and Vitamin C. All of these play an essential role in the plethora of bodily functions that are taking place inside us at any given moment. Often these are functions that we rarely ever think about, like our hair growing or our eyelashes blinking. Including a wide variety of vegetables will generally provide you with a broad spectrum of necessary vitamins and minerals.
If, however, you’re struggling to get enough veggies in, a greens powder or fresh green juice can be an ideal supplement to add to your regime. These are typically more effective than pills since they allow our bodies to better absorb the vitamins present in the greens.