If you could afford one supplement, what would that be?
All nutrients are important, but if you had to decide on one, two, or more supplements, this post will give you the information you need to help you make a smart decision.
This page contains affiliate links, meaning that we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links; however, this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you in advance if you use our links!
After seeing thousands of patients for many years, my clinical nutritionist determined, in order of importance, that the following list of supplements should be taken daily:
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin C
- Trace Minerals
All nutrients are important; however, if you can’t afford all of them, you should start with Omega-3 EFAs and add supplements as listed in order of importance.
At the end of this post, you will know the health benefits of each supplement and, as a bonus, other nutritional alternatives you could include in your journey to improve your health.
Table of Contents
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin C
- Trace Minerals
- Whole Food Supplementation
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are a type of fat that are essential for your body.
Essential means that your body requires it for good health but cannot make it itself.
The body itself can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials, but Omega-3s is one of those that the body needs from diet.
You need to ingest Omega-3s every day!
There are several types of Omege-3 EFAs, but most of the scientific research focuses on these three:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in plant oils, such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils.
- ALA aids your body in the production of energy, and assists a healthy heart, cognitive function, and fights inflammation.
- ALA normally converted into EPA and DHA in your body in small quantities (only about 5% of ALA gets converted into EPA and about 0.5% into DHA).
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) present in fish, fish oils, and krill oils.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) also found, like EPA, in fish, fish oils, and krill oils.
Don’t worry about the long names, just remember the acronyms.
One of the main roles of Omega-3 EFAs is in the formation of the structures of cell membranes as they’re largely made of fat.
This is very important as your body is always repairing by getting rid of old cells and creating new ones.
Cell membranes support the sodium-potassium pump for the production of energy. A weak cell membrane can interfere with the production of energy.
Cell membranes also support the nutritional transport in and out of cells. So a weak cell membrane can get in the way of moving nutrients and leave the cell more susceptible to viruses.
Omega-3 EFAs are fundamental in your body’s ability to making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.
Omega-3 fats have been studied throughly in the prevention heart disease and stroke as they appear to help the heart beat at a steady clip and not veer into a dangerous or potentially fatal erratic rhythm.
Omega-3 fatty acids also may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles in cancer and other disease conditions.
Omega-3 fats also lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve blood vessel function.
At higher doses, omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and may ease inflammation, which plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis.
DHA, in particular, is especially high in the retina, brain, and sperm.
Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) help in the creation of eicosanoids, which are signaling molecules that have wide-ranging functions in the body’s cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune, and endocrine systems.
There is a strong positive connection between DHA and your infants’ eye (vision) and neurological (intelligence) development during pregnancy and breastfeeding stages.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids are the first nutrients you should have in your in your nutritional toolset.
Barlean’s Omegas-3 liquid supplements is what I have given to my kids when they were younger and they loved it!
No sugar! Barlean’s sweetens Omega-3 supplements with Xylitol, a “naturally occurring substance found in many fruits, vegetables, and even in the human body.” But, toxic to dogs!
Health Benefits of B Vitamins
B vitamins are a group of 8 water-soluble vitamins that help a variety of enzymes do their jobs.
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 (folate)
- B12 (cobalamin)
All water-soluble B vitamins work as a team to promote healthy nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver, muscle tone, and cardiovascular function.
- B vitamins protect us from mental disorders, depression, and anxiety.
- B vitamins help with the release of energy from carbohydrates and fat.
- B vitamins also assists with breaking down amino acids and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body
B vitamins are AWESOME!
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, was the first water-soluble B vitamin discovered.
B1 plays a critical role in energy metabolism and, as a result, in the growth, development, and function of your cells.
Humans store thiamin primarily in the liver, but in very small amounts. However, B1 has a short half-life, so you need to ingest it constantly.
A deficiency of B1 leads to the disease beriberi.
Studies show that a deficiency in B1 causes anorexia and other eating disorders.
Other signs of B1 deficiency is frequent cracks in the lips and corners of the mouth.
Thiamin, or B1, is essential for the production of your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid or HCl), which is important to break down proteins into individual amino acids and the digestion of minerals.
And guest what?
Consuming sugar rapidly depletes vitamin B1 and B2.
So, the combination of sugar consumption and a diet poor in B vitamin sources are not a good combination.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin, as called vitamin B2, is an essential component of two major coenzymes, flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD).
Don’t worry about these long name, just know that these coenzymes play major roles in:
- energy production;
- cellular function, growth, and development; and
- the metabolism of fats, drugs, and steroids.
FMN is needed for the conversion of vitamin B6 into the coenzyme pyridoxal 5’-phosphate, an active coenzyme form of vitamin B6 that is ultimately required for protein metabolism.
Likewise, FAD is required for the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into niacin (vitamin B3).
Homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood, in high levels has been positively correlated with pathological buildup of plaque in the arteries and the tendency to form clots. Bad combination.
Riboflavin helps maintain normal levels of homocysteine.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
The two main forms of niacin in dietary supplements are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide.
A deficiency of vitamin B3 results in pellagra, a disease characterized by:
- Rough skin that turns red or brown in the sun
- A bright red tongue
- Vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
- Extreme tiredness
- Aggressive, paranoid, or suicidal behavior
- Hallucinations, apathy, loss of memory
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted to niacin by the liver and has been used to treat several symptoms indicative of niacin deficiency.
Tryptophan can be found in high quantities in turkey and its conversion to niacin requires iron and vitamin B6.
Large doses of niacin in the form of nicotinic acid can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with atherosclerosis.
Studies have found that prescription-strength nicotinic acid, which ranges between more than 100 times the recommended dietary allowance of 10 to 35 mg, can:
- lower blood levels of LDL (what they call bad) cholesterol;
- raise levels of HDL (what they call good) cholesterol; and
- lower levels of triglycerides.
As a side note, LDL cholesterol is called bad cholesterol because it’s the type of cholesterol found in the fatty buildup in the arteries. Something like saying that ash is bad because that’s what you find at the site after the fire.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Pantothenic acid is also known as vitamin B5.
Vitamin B5’s main function is in the synthesis (creation) of two components:
- Coenzyme A (CoA) – Essential for fatty acid synthesis and degradation, a myriad of other anabolic and catabolic processes.
- Acyl carrier protein – Its main role is in fatty acid synthesis.
Pantothenic acid is also essential for the proper function of the adrenal glands and improving your body’s ability to withstand stress.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Pyridoxine, as known as vitamin B6, represents a group of 6 compounds (vitamers) involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions, assisting protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism.
Vitamin B6 deficiency most often occurs when other B vitamins in your body are low, particularly vitamin B12 and B9 as they all work together.
Vitamin B6 deficiencies have been linked to diabetes, nervous disorders, and coronary hearty disease.
Severe vitamin B6 deficiencies can exhibit the following symptoms:
- Microcytic anemia
- Skin conditions
- Lowered immunity
Vitamin B6 plays a role in cognitive development as it assists in the creation of neurotransmitters and in maintaining normal levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood.
Homocysteine at high levels has been positively correlated with the undesired accumulation of plaque in the arteries and the tendency of blood clotting.
Vitamin B6 is also involved in:
- the creation of new glucose inside your body during fasting;
- immune function as it promotes the production of lymphocytes and interleukin-2; and
- the formation of hemoglobin.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Biotin, also called vitamin B7, plays a vital role in assisting enzymes to break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the foods that you eat every day.
Biotin also helps to regulate signals sent by cells and the activity of genes.
Pretty amazing, huh?
The signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency normally appear gradually and can include:
- thinning hair with progression to loss of all hair on the body;
- scaly, red rash around body openings (eyes, nose, mouth, and perineum);
- ketolactic acidosis (which occurs when lactate production exceeds lactate clearance) and aciduria (abnormal amounts of acid in urine);
- skin infection;
- brittle nails;
- neurological findings (e.g., depression, lethargy, hallucinations, and paresthesias of the extremities) in adults;
- and hypotonia, lethargy, and developmental delay in infants.
The rash and unusual distribution of facial fat in people with biotin deficiency is known as “biotin deficiency facies.”
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Folate, as known are vitamin B9, presents the following health benefits:
- It helps in the formation of DNA and RNA and is involved in protein metabolism.
- It plays a key role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid that presents harmful effects in your body if it is present in high amounts.
- It assists in the production of healthy red blood cells and is critical during periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and fetal development.
Dr. Axe presents in his website the following 9 symptoms of folate deficiency:
- Poor immune function; frequently getting sick
- Chronic low energy (including chronic fatigue syndrome)
- Poor digestion; issues like constipation, bloating and IBS
- Developmental problems during pregnancy and infancy, including stunted growth
- Canker sores in the mouth and a tender, swollen tongue
- Changes in mood, including irritability
- Pale skin
- Premature hair graying
During pregnancy, another problem that can occur from folate deficiency is neural tube deformities like spinal bifida in babies.
It is important that you know that “folic acid” is the synthetic version of folate, the natural form of vitamin B9 found in nature.
The active version of folate, meaning that it is immediately usable by the body, is called Methyl Folate.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Cobalamin, or Vitamin B12, is needed to form red blood cells, DNA synthesis, and promote the function and development of brain and nerve cells.
Cobalamin is also needed to:
- Prevent anemia
- Inhibit nervous disorders
- Maintain fertility
- Promote normal growth and development
An early symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is a tendency to irrational anger.
In dietary supplements, vitamin B12 is usually present as cyanocobalamin, a form that the body converts to the active forms: methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin.
Other dietary supplements can also contain the active form of vitamin B12 methylcobalamin and other forms of vitamin B12.
The body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from dietary supplements is largely limited by the capacity of intrinsic factor.
What is this intrinsic factor?
Vitamin B12 binds to the protein in the foods we eat.
In the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes unbind vitamin B12 into its free form.
From there, vitamin B12 combines with a protein called “intrinsic factor” so that it can be absorbed further down in the small intestine.
Vitamin B12 tablets are available in high amount far above the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance), but these high amounts are not necessarily the amount that will be absorbed because an adequate amount of intrinsic factor is also needed.
Health Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium, an essential mineral found in large quantities in the body, is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymes that regulate several biochemical reactions in the body, including:
- protein metabolism,
- muscle and nerve function,
- blood glucose regulation,
- the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and your own antioxidant made by your liver, and
- blood pressure control.
All these functions sound very important to me.
Magnesium also contributes to the structural development of your bones.
Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.
Calcium helps muscles contract and magnesium helps muscles relax.
Cramps, for instance, are a sign of insufficient levels of magnesium.
The last place in your body where you want a cramps is your heart!
In addition, some studies have shown that magnesium supplementation has helped improve migraine pain.
Now, here’s a good one. It is magnesium, not calcium, that helps form hard tooth enamel, resistant to decay.
Without the right amount of magnesium, the calcium in your body can dangerous.
Once the body has metabolized calcium, magnesium helps to flush it out of the cells.
Without magnesium, calcium accumulates and acts as a toxin.
Now, just as calcium depends on magnesium, magnesium depends on vitamin D3 for proper absorption.
You need to right balance of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3.
And one last thing. Chocolate cravings are a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Remember that magnesium:
- Helps relax muscles.
- Maximizes energy production.
- Supports the nervous system.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria (friendly flora) that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection as they are part of your immune system.
Your friendly flora enhance your immune system by forming a living blanket that coats the intestinal tract thereby inhibiting other species of microorganisms from establishing themselves in the intestinal mucosa.
Friendly bacteria produce chemicals that are deadly to harmful forms of bacteria.
Friendly bacteria also enhances your immune system by stimulating the production of immune cells such as lymphocytes and macrophages.
Now, probiotic means favorable to life whereas antibiotic means against life.
So, every time you take antibiotics as prescribed by your MD to kill a pathogen, you’re also killing your friendly flora.
And what happens when you kill friendly bacteria? A type of yeast called Candida Albicans can grow out of control!
Your friendly bacteria keeps candida under control as they both compete for food. If your friendly flora dies, candida has no competition takes advantage of the extra food.
Therefore, every time you take antibiotics, it is VERY important that you replenish the lost friendly flora with probiotics.
What feeds your friendly bacteria? Fiber!
The fiber you eat from veggies and fruits are food for your intestinal flora.
Eat your veggies. Or drink them too in a delicious green smoothie.
One interesting fact.
Your body contains about the same number of gut bacteria molecules as it does cells for the rest of your body.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced endogenously (internally) when ultraviolet rays from sunlight hit the skin’s cholesterol layer and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
Fat-soluble means that the vitamin that can dissolve in fats and oils. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed along with fats in the diet and can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue.
The vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplements is biologically inactive and must undergo two processes called hydroxylations in the body for activation.
- The first hydroxylation occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also known as calcidiol.
- The second hydroxylation occurs primarily in the kidney and forms the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, also known as calcitriol.
Here is a list of several health benefits of vitamin D3:
- Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut.
- Vitamin D maintains adequate levels of calcium and phosphate in your blood to enable normal mineralization of bone.
- Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
- Vitamin D assists in the modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.
- Vitamin D also module many genes that encode for proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis (cell death).
Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.
Always supplement with vitamin D3 (animal source) instead of D2 (vegetable source).
You make vitamin D3 in your body, not D2. Vitamin D2 is hard to process and poorly utilized in your body.
A vitamin D3 deficiency can cause rickets and myopia (nearsightedness).
Health Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that unlike most animals, we humans are unable to make it internally, so it is an essential dietary component.
Essential means that you need it to be healthy but because you can’t make it, you must ingest it.
Vitamin C is required to make collagen, L-carnitine (an amino acid), certain neurotransmitters, and metabolize protein.
Collagen is an essential component of connective tissue, which is vital for tissue repair and wound healing.
Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant and has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within the body such as vitamin E.
Vitamin C’s antioxidant activity limits the damaging effects of free radicals or oxidation.
Another important strength of vitamin C is that it improves the absorption of nonheme iron, the form of iron present in plant-based foods.
In other words, pairing an iron supplement with vitamin C is one of the best ways to maximize the absorption of iron.
Interestingly enough, in one study, scientists found that consuming 100 milligrams of vitamin C with a meal increased iron absorption by 67 percent.
Insufficient vitamin C intake causes scurvy, which is characterized by fatigue, widespread connective tissue weakness, and capillary fragility causing hemorrhages.
One interesting finding is that blood levels of vitamin C tend to be lower in people with dementia.
Vitamin C should be taken with bioflavonoids as they contain Vitamin P that improve the absorption of vitamin C.
Vitamin C also works synergistically with vitamin E.
Health Benefits of Trace Minerals
Minerals are essential for life and must be consumed for optimal health.
There are 7 macro minerals that you need in big amounts:
And there are trace minerals that you need in minute amounts to activate many biochemical processes inside your body.
Normally, it is a single atom of a trace mineral incorporated into a complex protein such as an enzyme.
For instance, iron is a trace mineral that is part of the hemoglobin molecule.
The following list is an example of a group of trace minerals:
Minerals require strong stomach acid for digestion, so it’s better to take mineral supplements with food since your stomach will produce sufficient hydrochloric acid to digest the food you are eating.
Plant-derived minerals are the best form of minerals for your body to absorb.
Minerals cannot be created. Minerals in the soil are absorbed by plants.
No minerals in the soil, however, means no minerals in the plants and ultimately, no minerals in you.
This is why I recommend supplementing with extra minerals.
Whole Food Supplementation
Whole foods have all the nutrients in the right balance that your body needs.
Your body was designed for whole foods.
Greens powders are dietary supplements designed to help you reach your daily vegetable intake as they are jam packed with vitamins and minerals as well as essential fatty acids and amino acids.
Some of the ingredients in super greens powders include:
- Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, collards, parsley
- Seaweed: Spirulina, chlorella, dulse, kelp
- Other vegetables: Broccoli, beets, carrots, tomatoes, green cabbage
- Grasses: Barley grass, wheatgrass, oat grass, alfalfa grass
- High-antioxidant fruits: Blueberries, raspberries, goji and acai berries
- Nutritional extracts: Green tea extract, grape seed extract, ginkgo biloba extract
- Herbs: Holy basil, astragalus, echinacea, milk thistle
- Mushrooms: Maitake mushroom extract, shiitake mushroom extract
Each of these ingredients come with an array of nutrients that provide your body with what it needs to be healthy.
Some of the these super greens powders are also enhanced with:
- Probiotics: Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis
- Plant-based digestive enzymes: Amylase, cellulase, lipase, papain, protease
- Natural sugar substitutes: Stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract
Nevertheless, super greens powders should not be a substitute of your daily intake of real whole foods.
Super greens powders should enhance you healthy lifestyle and help you achieve your health goals.
I add super greens powders to my daily berry-spinach-kale smoothie.
The best way to get your nutrients from is from food. That’s what we’re designed to do.
However, our foods today aren’t as nutritionally rich as they were before and our bodies don’t know that.
We can “supplement” with nutritional supplements to make up for the deficit and enhance the nutritional levels of the food we eat.
If you can afford one supplement, you should get Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.
If you can afford two supplements, you should get Omega-3 EFAs and B vitamins.
However, B vitamins work together and best with magnesium.
You can then add, in order of importance, probiotics, vitamin D3, vitamin C, and trace minerals.
Nutritional supplements should not be used to make up for a poor diet.
Instead, nutritional supplements should be used to enhance your nutritious daily menu and healthy lifestyle.
At the same time, you have to eliminate highly refined foods that are hurting you:
- all sodas
- any food that contains gluten in the form of gliadin such as wheat, barley, and rye
- anything made with wheat flour like bagels, bread, pasta, biscuits, cake, cookies, etc.
- foods fried in oils at very high temperatures
- high glycemic foods (foods that spike your insulin high and quickly)
And eat whole foods.
I hope this post was informative to you.
Please, drop a quick line in the comments section below.
Letting me know what you think.
Thank you very much!