By Stefan Ianev
According to the American Dietetic Association, the best nutritional strategy for promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of chronic disease, is to wisely choose a wide variety of foods (1).
We are in complete agreement with this statement and believe that a balanced diet should take priority over supplementation to ensure adequate micronutrient intake and promote a more diverse microbiome. However, reality is that getting all the essential nutrients we need from food alone is just not possible in this day and age.
Multiple studies which looked at the dietary intakes of athletes and non-athletes have reported that they all failed to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for all the essential micronutrients (2-6). In fact, in some cases they didn’t even meet the RDA for more than half of the essential micronutrients. This was true for both hypo and hypercaloric conditions.
One study reviewed four of the most popular diets on the market, including South Beach, Atkins, DASH, and Best Life. They all found that they all failed to meet the RDA for all 27 essential micronutrients (6).
The study went on to calculate how many calories it would take from each respective diet to reach 100% sufficiency for all 27 essential micronutrients. Quite shockingly, it ranged from 18800 all the way up to 37500 calories per day, which is well above any recommended calorie intake level that could help achieve weight loss or health benefits.
Studies have reported that soil degradation may be responsible for the inadequate nutrition in our food supply, due to its adverse impacts on the quality of food production (7). So no matter how good your diet is, it is simply not possible to meet all your micronutrient requirements from food alone.
Supplements that support general health include those nutrients that we should be able to obtain from our diet, but due to inadequate intake and/or poor soil quality, we do not. But before you jump on any performance enhancing supplements or the latest fat burning product on the market, you need to make sure that all your macro and micronutrient requirements are being met.
So, let’s quickly take a look at the top 3 general health supplements that we recommend.
Multivitamin / Minerals
The first supplement on our list is a multivitamin and mineral. It practically doubles as your insurance policy that you are meeting most if not all of your micronutrient requirements.
In fact, due to the emerging evidence of widespread micronutrient deficiencies, on August 31st 2002 the American Medical Association reversed their long-standing anti-vitamin policy by stating, “The Journal of the American Medical Association today is advising all adults to take at least one multivitamin pill each day.”
The next supplement on our list is fish oil. Fish oil contains two specific omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids which need to be obtained from the diet.
Ideally, we should be able to obtain all the omega 3 fatty acids that we need from our diet. However, numerous sources suggest that Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the natural diet on which human beings evolved (8).
While seafood is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, studies have shown that mercury levels in those who ate fish more than four times per month were significantly higher than those who did not eat fish (9).
Most health organizations agree that 200–300mg of combined EPA and DHA per day is enough for adults to maintain their overall health (10). The recommended 200-300mg of EPA and DHA can be easily obtained by taking a single one-gram fish oil capsule per day, without exposing yourself to high levels of mercury.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fiber is 25g per day for females and 38g per day for males. Most people should be able to get this amount through their diet. However, when you’re on a low-calorie or low carb diet, getting enough fibre becomes very challenging.
In those cases, taking a concentrated form of dietary fiber such as from flaxseed meal, psyllium husks, or slippery elm bark, is an easy and cost-effective way to increase fiber intake without blowing out your daily calorie or carb intake.
Typically, between 1-2 tablespoons per day should be sufficient in most cases. You can easily add fiber to your protein shakes or sprinkle it over salads. We recommend alternating your fiber source every few days, so you do not develop an intolerance to any one source.