Here are a few things to consider when choosing products for your nutritional needs.
What constitutes a good multivitamin? The answer is the same things that make living food healthy. Most multivitamins are made of synthetic ingredients and toxic fillers. They may have all the vitamins you need, but the vitamins are typically in suboptimal amounts and in a cheap form made of mineral salts, which are poorly absorbed. People who take these pills usually don't get the nutrition they need.
These chemical-based supplements also lack that vital combination of nutrients that characterizes living foods. Nature never produces nutrients in isolation. Oranges, for example, contain much more than vitamin C.
Carrots contain much more than beta-carotene. When you eat them, you get a myriad of vitamins, phytonutrients, flavonoids and more that interact in ways that are not fully understood, but that we recognize to be healthy.
When you isolate one of these nutrients and take it in high doses, especially in synthetic form, your body may treat it like a foreign substance. When only synthetic vitamins are consumed, there is generally no synergy or balance. It's similar to taking a drug or medication. It ignores the complexity of nutrition.
Pharmaceutical companies are now jumping onto the phytonutrients bandwagon, realizing that these have a certain appeal to consumers. The problem is that phytonutrients were almost certainly not meant to be consumed one at a time.
The healthiest supplements combine the enzymes, coenzymes, trace elements, antioxidants, activators, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, and many other elements, which all work together synergistically. These supplements are called whole-food supplements and are generally what I recommend.
Whole-food supplements combine portions of the plants we know are healthy and those portions we have not yet discovered to be healthy. I believe it's wise to do this because medical knowledge is expanding so quickly that it gets outdated practically every few years. A nutrient we hadn't heard of a year ago can suddenly be discovered to protect against certain kinds of cancer or disease. You need a comprehensive multivitamin, made from living ingredients and combined with living nutrition.
BASICS FOR EVERYONE
The reason we have so many vitamin and mineral deficiencies is because most Americans have embraced fast foods and processed foods, rarely consuming adequate amounts of whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds, which are excellent sources of these nutrients. So we do need supplements, preferably whole-food supplements.
When choosing a supplement, you should look for a multivitamin that contains all 13 vitamins and 17 to 22 minerals with 100 percent of daily values. Also, you need omega-3 fats and a phytonutrient powder. That's it!
Realize if you consume a healthy diet, you will probably get at least 50 percent of the daily values of vitamins and minerals. If you are over 50 years of age, you will probably need extra antioxidants, extra calcium and vitamin D, sublingual B-12, and maybe digestive enzymes. If you already have a disease or simply want more protection, start taking extra antioxidants after the age of 40.
When choosing a supplement here is what I recommend for everyone, regardless of age:
Living foods may cause gas and bloating as your body adjusts to them.
FOR THOSE 50 AND OVER
If you are 50 years of age or older, you should take a multivitamin, a phytonutrient powder and omega-3 fats; also make sure you get extra antioxidants, calcium, vitamin D, digestive enzymes and a sublingual B-12.
I recommend a sublingual B-12 supplement for patients over 50 years of age. After age 50 many Americans do not produce adequate amounts of hydrochloric acid, which is required for absorption in the small intestines.
Supplements in a vegetable-based capsule are far less likely to contain toxic components. Make sure the supplement is in a vegetable-based capsule made from herbal and vegetable concentrates.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OMEGA-3 FATS
High-quality fish oils, or omega-3 fats, are vitally important for good health. Realize that many deadly degenerative diseases are inflammatory, such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, autoimmune disease and so on.
Fish oil is able to decrease inflammation significantly. I believe omega-3 fats are special fats the body needs as much as it needs vitamins. Much of the research on these powerful fats was done in the 1980s after realizing the Inuit Indians, who are Eskimos, rarely developed heart attacks or rheumatoid arthritis, yet their diet contained an enormous amount of fat from fish, seals and whales, which are all high in omega-3 fats.
By decreasing inflammation, fish oil is able to help treat and prevent conditions such as cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, migraine headaches, allergies, Alzheimer's disease and even diabetes. Fish oil also helps balance and stabilize neurotransmitters in the brain, which may be helpful in patients with attention deficit disorder, depression and bipolar disorder.
Realize that we change the oil in our cars every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Shouldn't we also begin to give ourselves an "oil change" regularly so that we can prevent a host of diseases?
We have seen the importance of these powerful plant pigments in preventing heart disease and cancer. I firmly believe that everyone needs these supplements on a daily basis, and multivitamins simply do not provide them. Unfortunately, most of us, as well as our children, are also falling way short of the USDA-recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and we are falling prey to disease as a result of that shortage. A phytonutrient powder should provide a combination of colorful organic fruits and vegetables such as red, yellow, green, orange and purple, as well as fiber in order to have phytonutrient protection on a daily basis.
Opinions will always differ on what vitamins and minerals to take and on the amounts necessary. Before making any dramatic changes in the amount of vitamins or minerals you add to your daily diet, always consult your personal physician.
There are other nutritional supplements that are important, including carnosine, glucosamine sulfate, gingko biloba and supplements for prostate health. However, the ones discussed today are the foundation for good health. Also, natural, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is extremely important for women and men, especially over the age of 50.
As more research is done on nutritional supplements, we will find that some supplements may be healthier than we thought and others may be less healthy. It is impossible to banish all confusion regarding supplements, so we must do the best we can with the information we are given for the moment. This pillar of health represents the latest, most proven research on nutritional supplements to give you a great start to living in divine health.
Don Colbert, M.D., is board-certified in family practice and anti-aging medicine. He is the author of the New York Times best seller The Seven Pillars of Health (Charisma House), from which this article was adapted. His latest book is I Can Do This Diet (Siloam Press). For additional resources and articles by Colbert go to www.drcolbert.com. He and his wife, Mary, live in Longwood, Florida.