Supplement Smarts, Part 1:
The 4 Key Supplements to Take Every Day


Fish Oil Capsules

Supplements – in my book, they’re essential health-boosters that can help fill in nutritional gaps and protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up. While they won’t make up for a bad diet, think of supplements as your nutritional pit crew, standing at the ready to make those quick adjustments, tweaks and fixes to your internal engines and get you back out on the road, raring to go. 

Fact of the matter is, with so much of our food grown in soil that’s depleted of nutrients, it’s tough to get the necessary nutrition from food alone. Furthermore, if your meal features foods that have been genetically modified, sprayed with pesticides, processed, packaged and trucked long distances, most of the nutritional value has been lost by the time it hits your plate. So our bodies wind up being overfed with empty calories – and starved of nutrients. 

While I recommend everyone should eat whole, preferably organic foods or from farmers’ markets, I also believe that supplements are important as well. So where to start? Here’s my list of supplement superstars that just about everyone can benefit from – and the vita-must-haves that do wonders and help make wellness sustainable. I’ve broken my favorites into three groups, so you can discover the supplements that best suit your needs. They are:

  • The Everyday Fab Four – the four basic supplements that are the cornerstone of good health.
  • The Supportive Six – the six ‘problem solver’ supplements, that are there when you need them.
  • The Fascinating Five – my five favorite supplements you may not be familiar with – but should be!

The Everyday Fab Four

At minimum, I recommend taking these 4 supplements every day: a multivitamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and a probiotic. Why? Because the Fab Four covers a lot of health bases. Together, they can help keep your gut and insulin levels on an even keel, keep energy levels high and even help reduce cancer and heart disease risk.

1. Multivitamin

We have a huge need for protective, health-supporting nutrients to help us combat the daily assault of living in a polluted and stressful world. It’s also why I put a good multivitamin at the top of my “vita-must” list. Think of a multivitamin as a little insurance policy to help protect your body against the vitamin and mineral shortfalls that can occur even in diets that are rich in healthy foods. By gifting your body with a multi, you’ll also be optimizing cellular function, which helps make all your systems work consistently at their peak, instead of sputtering through the day. 

Be Well Tip:
  • When buying, look for multis in capsule form with an easily absorbed enteric coating versus harder-to-digest tablet versions.
  • Always take your multi with food to assist with absorption and prevent the queasiness that can sometimes occur on an empty stomach.
  • If you’re on medications, review your multi’s contents with your doc to make sure there aren’t any contraindications.
  • As there is currently little regulation of supplements in the US, be sure to buy from a reputable company.

2. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D, actually a pre-hormone and not a vitamin, is like the office busy body – it’s involved in just about everything – playing an essential role in the making of hundreds of disease-preventing proteins and enzymes, and affecting more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength, builds bone, has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and bolsters the immune system. Come up perpetually short and over time, you could be leaving your body vulnerable to scourges like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Here’s the tricky part: it’s virtually impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food, so you have to get it from supplements and sun exposure.

Be Well Tip: 
  • Generally 2,000 – 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 is a typical maintenance dose, but if your levels are low, you may need more – but don’t DIY it or guess your appropriate dose. Have your levels checked by your doc at your annual physical to determine your needs. Here is the Vitamin D3 (2000) that we use often with patients as a maintenance dose.
  • Ideally, your levels should be in the optimal range of 50 to 80 ng/ml.

3. Fish Oils

Fish oil supplements are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are vital to good health. They support your body’s ability to prevent chronic diseases and help protect it against inflammation. They also promote a stronger immune system; cardiovascular, joint and vision health; strengthen skin, hair, and nails; and enhance nutrient absorption, metabolic function as well as attention, mood and memory skills. In short, fish oil is seriously good stuff, but as with Vitamin D, you can’t make your own omega-3 fatty acids, so you’ve got to get it from outside sources. Fatty fish and fish oil supplements are your best sources – so I urge everyone to indulge!

Be Well Tip:
  • I recommend a dosage of 2 to 3 g of EPA and DHA (combined) daily, but make sure you choose a good quality fish oil to ensure purity and the removal of heavy metals, pesticides, PCB’s and other contaminants.

4. Probiotics

Probiotics are the naturally occurring “good” bacteria that live in your gut and play a significant role in your total wellness. When you’re healthy, your intestinal tract hosts a battalion of more than 100 trillion friendly bacteria, who spend their days aiding digestion, boosting your immune system and consuming bad bacteria. They manufacture key nutrients and limit the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria – and in their spare time, they also help inhibit bouts of lactose intolerance, poor digestion and diarrhea. But as strong as your belly battalion might be, poor diet, stress, pollution and antibiotic use can wipe out the good guys – so it’s up to you to fortify and repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria – which is where probiotics come in. A daily dose of probiotics is a fantastic way to swiftly and significantly improve digestion and strengthen immunity – no prescription required! 

Be Well Tip:
  • Look for probiotic capsules or powders with the two most common and effective beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
  • The daily dose for both should be 10-30 billion viable or “live” units of bacteria a day.
  • Side effects are rare, although some people may initially experience some gas and bloating, which usually subsides within a few days.

If you’re looking for an easy way to get these four supplements at once, the Be Well Daily Dose includes a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D and probiotic.

  • Should we also question how supplements are made and manufactured? How are the vitamins synthesised? I often struggle with the need for overt supplementaion and would rather take something that is needed and effectively absorbed by the body.

  • Viriato77

    Unless you have a diagnosed deficiency, do you really need supplementation with a multi-vitamin?

  • Viriato77

    Also, if you’re taking fish oils, aren’t you already getting vitamin D3? Moreover, if you can get 10,000 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D produced in just 30 minutes of full body exposure to the sun, a normal healthy body is probably getting enough as is. But I guess some people have too much money and need to get rid of it somehow.

  • Concerned citizen

    Too many people shy away from the sun for various reasons. We run from the house to the car, sit inside all day long, etc. Studies are showing a huge increase in D deficiency because we spend less and less time in the sun.

    Re: your multivitamin comment – my feeling is that most people do need a multivitamin. These days our food is not nearly as nutritious as it was – even if you eat organic. The soil is over used chemicals leach in, etc. In addition, life is very stressful which uses up any nutritional reserves we may have. Better safe than deficient ;)

  • Viriato77

    would you mind terribly citing to these studies? And also your support for your assertions about multivitamins.

  • Michael Padula

    I was taking 5000 units D3 and was on a boat mid day during the summer for 3 hours 4 days a week and my blood test came back low normal.

  • Viriato77

    Great, you have data for Michael Padula probably needing D3, for whatever reason. This does not support the constant marketing of vitamin supplements. Recall that I did say, unless you have a diagnosed (measured) deficiency, supplementation is probably a waste of money.

  • A. Istvan

    I haven’t been able to take a vitamen D supplement- I get very tired, nauseated, headachy, etc w/I and hour of taking even a small amount (250 units),And now sunlight gives me the sme response. I’m in the low range at 20. Brand doesn’t matter , pill/capsule/drops don’t matter, food or time of day doesn’t matter, cod liver oil no good; love fish but can’t eat that many sardines! My MD gave me a prescription for 50,000 units and told me that ” everyone ” can take D w/o problems. And why was I being so reluctant to take something that can only help me…
    Any ideas, please ?

  • Jonhel

    while fish oil is undoubtedly beneficial for some purposes, don’t studies show that they are bad for the prostate?

  • bobbi

    Doctors only say they are testing your vitamin D. They more than likely just tested the precursor, 25OH. If you had that much vitamin D supplementation and exposure to sun and only show low normal, I would be concerned about my metabolized level. If your metabolized levels are high, that can lead to many problems, kidney damage for one. As a person whose body converts the precursor into the active version too readily, I need to keep my level below 20. I am also baffled my the whole vitamin D massive dosing, and wonder where is it all going?

  • barbara taylor

    Your nausea is a sign that you have too much vitamin d. See the post above to Michael. I have vitamin d dysregulation and if a small amount makes you ill, then 50,000iu could be VERY dangerous for you. Your doctor is DEAD WRONG that anyone can take vitamin d. I have had three doctors prescribe 50,000 iu and two of them screamed at me because I knew better than to take it. None of them would test my metabolized 1,25D. That number is for the active metabolite. In persons with some illnesses (they may not even know they have) the precursor IS low, but, the active version is normal or high. Yours sounds very high if a small amount makes you ill.

    It is malpractice, IMO, for any doctor to prescribe 50.000iu without testing the active metabolite, yet, they do all the time. I have heard some people have suffered heart attacks and death because of it.

    The problem with this supplement is that one does not pee out the excess. The vitamin d proponents have done a great disservice to the public by not giving us all the facts, and making it sound so safe. It is safe for most people, but, you can have sarcoidosis, where this is a known problem, and not know it. IMO the vitamin d proponents also underestimate the number of people this supplementation can be detrimental to.

  • NorthernNana

    If you live in central Maine, it’s impossible to get enough sun exposure.

  • disqus_lbq9tqJfAQ

    Ever suspect labs ? I have reason to.

  • diannep

    Winter climates do not provide enough sun exposure hence, D3 is essential to take. Although I do take krill oil supplements, it is not for D, it is for EPA/DHA and astaxanthin . Eating fish is not a great thing anymore. I do eat wild salmon and shrimp but not every day, nor is that advisable. I have my D level checked and I am at the lower end of the range…. so what does that say?
    It says that despite taking 1000iu of D3 a day as per limitations on D supplementation, it works but not that well. Now I am taking 3000-4000iu even though it is now summer. I have read sun conversion to D is not as efficient as we age.

  • diannep

    I wanted to share this information although many likely know. Getting vitamin D via sun exposure is preferable because it does not involve the liver. D3 supplementation works by LDL carrying it to the cells. The pharma industry does not mention their statin drugs stop livers from making LDL. It is sad that many of us do not have sun exposure year round but we must supplement. I am supplementing due to low normal and include Magnesium and Calcium for the best results to bone health. My doc wants me to take a statin only because of my LDL which is slightly elevated although all other numbers are great. I refuse! Nothing quite as good a great free range egg in the mornings.

  • Sandip Sharma

    Hey Matt. Read your comment and thought I’d get in touch with you. I work with a qualified nutrition advisor and the supplements I take are 100% plant based and have very efficient. Let me know if you still haven’t found anything right.

  • Simon

    Then tell people to love themselves… not replace what happiness and self respect do to the body with artificial extracts of a beautiful and flowing nature. When we are healthy we are drawn to the sun. We buy and eat food that feels good. That does us good. Fooling people that they may still be as happy as the happy by popping pills is misleading.