Supplements: Essential vs. Nice-to-have

by Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit) on June 2, 2011

A bunch of you have asked what my supplement regime is, so I thought it’d be fun to talk about supplements as a whole and delve into the ones I use and why.

As much as I’d love to believe that money grows on trees, it doesn’t. So when it comes to having a conversation about supplements, I can understand why people get scared of it.

The good news is, is that you don’t need to drown in supplement bills to live a happy and healthy life.

The Essentials

Generally speaking, the essentials that everyone needs are:

  • Multi-vitamin. Because [unfortunately] no matter how clean you eat, there’s just not enough nutrients in our soil to provide you with all of the macro + micro nutrients you need.
  • Omega-3. Omega 3 + 6 play a balancing game. If one is low, the other is high, and vice versa. Our diets are naturally high in omega-6, so we need to supplement with omega-3 to keep that balance.
  • Probiotics. I can’t tell you the last time I met a client that didn’t have issues with their digestive or intestinal system. We run our digestion to the MAX from the time we move from our mothers milk, to our last day. So it’s no wonder we’re deficient in healthy bacteria! [For more information on healthy bacteria, checkout this post]

Essentials: Personal Picks

Multi-vitamin

Cost: $1.33/day


Vitamin Code is a raw form of multivitamins created by Garden of Life. Garden of Life is one of my favorite supplement companies. Their supplements are sourced from real food, the have high standards, and they truly stand behind their commitment to offering the best products to the consumer.

Omega-3

Cost: $0.58/day

I am new to Ascenta NutraSea, but have already fallen madly in love! When shopping for an omega-3 supplement, there are a couple of things I look for:

  • Ratio of EPA to DHA.
    • complement your diet: 1.5 EPA to every DHA [I use this ratio]
    • joint health: 4.5EPA:1DHA
    • heart health: 2EPA:1DHA
    • brain performance: 1EPA:5DHA
  • Price comparison to competitors.
  • Source of omega-3. Herringand sardines harbor some of the highest levels of heart-healthy omega-3.

Probiotics

Cost: $0.83/day

I am an unfaithful probiotics user. I jump from product to product (but this dairy-free DDS Acidophilus powder is my favorite). But you know what, that’s a good thing! I am of the school of thought that the more you try, the more diverse your bacteria.

Things I look for in a probiotic supplement are:

  • Dairy free
  • Sugar free
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Powdered form. This is a preference thing. I like it powdered so I know all of it will be used.
  • Single vs. dual celled. Single species are good if you’re fighting a specific health issue. If you’re just taking probiotics to support your health, a dual celled bacteria is best.

Personal Essentials

Depending on someone’s history and current state of health, additional supplements may be essential.

My personal essentials are evening primrose oil + B complex.

Personal Essentials: Personal Picks

Evening Primrose Oil

Cost: $0.44/day

Efamol Pure Evening Primrose Oil makes my PMS much more bearable. I still crave chocolate, but I don’t want to scream, cry, and jump for joy, all in a matter of seconds.

Evening primrose oil also acts as a cheap relationship therapist. Trust me.

Vitamin B complex

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This B100 Complex assists with stress + energy support. I do not take this daily, only when I need it!

The nice-to-haves

In addition to the supplements above, I also rely on:

  • Spirulina. Used as a protein supplement and energy booster from time to time. Check out my post on spirulina here.
  • Vitamin D drops. My best bud during the dark and dreary days of Winter.

So there you have it. Moral of the story is: find a good multi-vitamin, probiotic, and fish oil and you’ll be set. Unless of course you have some underlying health issues that need addressing, but for most of us, getting on this minimalistic supplement regime will do wonders for our health.

Are you a supplement taker? What’s your favorite supplement company?

Do you find it challenging to remember to take your supplements?

I battled with this problem for years until I setup a supplement schedule. I found 2 things in my day that I do everyday no matter what. Breakfast + Lunch.

Every time I purchase a new bottle of supplements, I separate 1/2 and place it in my lunch kit, and the other stays in the fridge at home.

Breakfast smoothie = supplements

Grabbing lunch = supplements

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Cait @ Beyond Bananas

Hi Leanne. Thanks so much for writing this post. Taking supplements has always been one of my downfalls, so it is nice to see what you reccomend as essentials… and also nice to see that the dayily cost..really isn’t too much.. and it is just the overall sticker shock that might get ya. once you break it down. it is totoally manageable though!

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey

I am a supplement taker, but I have underlying issues, so before I take the “regular stuff” I need to fix my pituitary gland and thyroid! My doctor is working with Standard Processes supplements to get everything corrected.

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Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free

I used to take a lot more supplements than I do now, but I have been trying to cut down on $ and they are ridiculously expensive. I only take a few now that I know help me. I still feel good!

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Sam

We take the same omega’s! :) I am low in magnesium and iron so I need to take those plus vitamin C to help absorb the iron and a multivitamin of course. I am awful at taking them though, I REALLY need to get better! That evening primrose oil sounds like something I need in my arsenal…I am an emotional wreck come pms time…yikes!

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Lisa @ Healthful Sense

I totally agree! My husband and I take a MVI, omega 3 fish oil, and probiotic daily. Sometimes I’ll throw a b complex in the mix because after you have kids your hair falls out. Atleast mine did :)

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Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga)

I dont actually find it challenging to remember to take my supps. I actually have made a choice in recent years to just stop taking as many!

It was getting out of hand$$ and I never felt like they really “did” anything. I did a big post on this about 5 mos or so ago. Vitamins, Vit D, fish oil, flax oil, you name it oil, this potion, lotion, pill or trick…it was overwhelming me so as i ran out of things, I just….stopped.

The only thing I take now are probiotics. And this has actually been proven true and a good thing “I am of the school of thought that the more you try, the more diverse your bacteria.”–so your strategy has actually been proven!

And I do take a multivite as well as magnesium from time to time, but not daily.

I love seeing what other ppl take and why!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

I am a big supplement taker. I don’t eat seafood, so Omega-3 is a big one for me too. I also take C, D, and Juice Plus (fruits and veggies) every day. If I forget to take my Juice Plus, I totally notice a difference. Never thought I’d say that!

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JT

I am a supplement taker too. My favorite brand is SISU, most of my sups are that brand. The ones I take regularily are greens (chlorella/spirulina/greens+), B50 complex, Ester C and probiotics. They are quite costly but I have found much cheaper prices online. Sorry, small health food stores: when I need something asap, I’ll get from the store but I prefer to buy them online. For a bottle of SISU Ester C Supreme there was a $12 difference between the online site I buy from and Superstore price. And I have yet to pay shipping because my orders are so large :)

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Chad @ thebreakupnote

Great post and informative – it’s good to know what supplements are important to have. I do not take very may supplements – but when I do it’s almost always the three you mentioned up there!

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Holly @ The Runny Egg

Thank you for this post! I used to be so good about taking supplements but I was taking anything and everything that sounded good — I had “heard” CoQ10 was good, so I took it, I heard cranberry is good, so I took it. I was taking tons of supplements every day! Then I just quit because of the cost and frankly I didn’t feel any better! I want to start up again but I honestly had no clue where to start!

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Kristina @ spabettie

I am a supplement taker, and rely on my naturopath to guide me in what I need – presently I am on an amino acid protocol that he designed and is amazing! I also take my omegas and a daily… I have not taken a probiotic but I have been wanting to…

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Heidi @ Food Doodles

I’m very minimal with the supplements, a multi(sometimes) and extra vitamin D in the winter. The only thing I really want to try that I haven’t yet is probiotics. I don’t usually have any major digestive issues, but on the rare occasion that I do I’m betting those would help. Unfortunately, how many supplements I take is directly related to how much they cost though :(

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Michelle | Gold-Hearted Girl

I find it SO hard to remember to take my supplements. I take a little baggy of them to work with me, but they’re usually all there at the end of the day! I think I need to make a point of taking them first thing in the morning.

I take a multi, B12 eod, eye formula, vitamin C when necessary, and fish oil sometimes.

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Stefanie @TheNewHealthy

I love how you broke it down based on price per day – that really puts things into perspective and I’ve never thought of it that way! :)

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Heather

One of my goals for the next have of the year is to take more multi-vitamins when needed. I take probiotics and omegas, but I really need a woman’s vitamin to help round things out. Thank you for the post!

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Lauren @ WWoB

This is a great post! I take krill oil everyday and a multi most days to make sure I get enough vitamin E and D. I take B complexes several times a week, especially drinkin’ days haha!

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Mercedes @ Cultivating Consciousness

Leanne- I cant tell you how happy I am to see this post. I’m working on a similar post myself, as I am an AVID supporter of supplements. Most of my supplements are Innate Choice brand, but I also use Nutrimetrix for a couple things that Innate Choice doesn’t make. I completely agree with you on your “must haves” list, but I also swear by digestive enzymes for people who are trying to heal their guts. Again, great post!

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Eva

For some reason the health food stores in our town do not carry dairy free probiotics… and it bugs me (as I am lactose intolerant and could really use a probiotic in my life). Any ideas?

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

If you live in Canada, a company called National Nutrition is fantastic to order from. They have a great website and loads of non-dairy probiotics. Good luck!

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Eva

Could you email me? I am wondering if you would be willing to do a email consultation and how much it would cost. I have a kidney disease .. fsgs, went off of gluten and dairy in Dec 2010 and my kidney’s improved (went from spilling 7grams to 3 grams to 1 gram). I am still spilling 1 gram daily and still have to use diuretics to keep the fluid retention under control. Thanks.

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kate

such a great post supplements are always so intimidating and there are so many to choose from this really helps!

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Rachel

Thanks for this post, I often find myself wondering what supplements to take if any – and whenever I ask a doctor or other nutritionist they tell me about all kinds of processed stuff, and I dont want any of that.

This is such a big help =D

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torviewtoronto

thank you for the post I don’t know much about supplement

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eva @FiveFruitsAndVeggies

i take a multi-vitamin and fish oil capsule…i also drink homemade water kefir for my probiotics…..good to hear that most people take these things as well

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Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty

Great post! I love reading posts about supplements

Do you think that Nutritional Yeast is a good source of B vitamins. I use it pretty much every day. Sometimes I worry that I eat too much, but I really enjoy it!

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Jill

Thanks for this post, I went to Sprout’s tonight to restock, and lo and behold a lady was there giving out samples of the fish oil you reccomended! I bought it, but the liquid kind. Do you take Evening Primrose every day or just the week of your cycle? I take mine daily, but didn’t know if that is necessary.

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

I took it for 6 weeks, daily until my body had built up the reserve. Once you’ve topped up your body, you can use it the week of your cycle, or depending on when you need it most. If you’re just taking it for PMS, then that should be fine.

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Kristine

I am currently taking Rainbow Light Women’s One Multi (whole food based), Rainbow Light Advanced Enzymes, vitamin C and D. I also take the Renew Life Women’s Vaginal Support Probiotic. Just added the DDS a week ago to get some different strains. Food based vitamins are hands down the best there is.

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Mandy

Do you have a recommendation for a children’s multi vitamin? my kids are 8, 3 and 18 months

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Helen

I looked into evening primrose oil, and I was a little confused, because it looked like it is mainly composed of omega-6, but you said the purpose of taking omega-3 was to balance out omega-6, which we already get a lot from in our diet…?

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Yes, you’re right. Evening primrose oil is made up of primarily omega 6. I take it to help balance hormones, lessen the severity of PMS, among other things. Then, I take the omega 3 because everyone’s diet is usually lacking. Our diets are naturally high in omega 6, but they’re lacking the omega 6 that comes from evening primrose, therefore I take it in supplement form. Hope that helps!

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Sus

Thanks for this article. Does a prenatal count as a multi vitamin? Have you tried chaste tree berry for pms?

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Andrea

I am really surprised that you recommend multi-vitamins. I eat a vegan, 80% raw, diet and despite soil deterioration I’ve never had any trouble getting all the vitamins and nutrients I need. Multi-vitamin research is appalling and there has been very little longitudinal research because they are still relatively new to our world. I do believe we all have to do what’s right for us as individuals so you should keep doing what works for you! Just surprising to me.

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Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit)

Hey Andrea – thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’ve seen a bunch of different approaches to supplementation and I am of the belief that no matter how clean and pure we eat, our food just simply doesn’t have the nutrients needed to support us 100%. But to each their own, as you’ve said!

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Angelia

I was surprised to see you didn’t offer affiliate links! I am looking to purchase some fish oil and would love to support your blog!

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Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit)

Hey Angelia! I do now… but didn’t on this post. I’ll go through right now and add them :)

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Angelia

Leann- Is this the same thing as your affiliate link? If so, you might want to change your link. This is half the price!
http://www.amazon.com/Ascenta-NutraSea-Original-120-Sftgels/dp/B0019GX4SO/ref=sr_1_4?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1393514171&sr=1-4&keywords=ascenta+nutrasea

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Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit)

Oh thank you! I chose the other one because the one you linked to only had a couple of bottles left before the product was going to deactivate.

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