Walk into any health food store, and you’re sure to encounter row upon row of supplements, all of which make some pretty powerful health claims. How do you know which ones you need, and how do you choose between different brands or dosages?
While the best source of vitamins and nutrients is always whole, healthy foods, sometimes it’s difficult to meet your body’s needs through food alone, especially if you’re following a calorie-restricted diet. Supplements can help bridge that gap, although they should not be relied upon to provide all of your body’s nutritional needs.
The best supplements for you will depend somewhat on your individual health needs and goals, but certain supplements are beneficial for most people, especially those who are actively trying to lose weight. Achieving a healthy weight often goes hand in hand with repairing underlying health concerns — such as inflammation or digestive issues — that can make weight loss difficult. Taking the right supplements can help heal these issues and help restore balance to your body’s natural digestion and detoxification processes.
The following supplements are a few that we recommend to most patients who are looking to lose weight.
Even the healthiest eater doesn’t get every single vitamin and mineral the body needs in the correct amounts every day. This is even more true for someone participating in a calorie-restricted diet, who may be at risk of low levels of important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, calcium, zinc, and selenium.
A good multivitamin supports a healthy diet by offering an extra dose of these and other important nutrients. For weight loss, a multivitamin can help curb food cravings. Food cravings often mean that the body is lacking something it needs. Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to misinterpret these signals and reach for some potato chips instead of a banana when the body needs potassium. The right multivitamin will work in conjunction with a healthy diet to give the body what it needs, so it’s less likely to experience those cravings.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Numerous studies support the benefits of a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats, most often found in fish, are beneficial for heart health, brain health, and reducing inflammation in the body. Yet most people don’t even come close to consuming the recommended amount through diet alone. An Omega-3 fatty acid supplement can be a healthy addition to a well-rounded weight loss plan. For best results, split up your dose throughout the day. For example, if your recommended dosage is four tablets daily, take one with breakfast, one with lunch, and two with dinner. Taking more in the evening may also help promote more restful sleep.
Vitamin D is another important vitamin that most people don’t get enough of. Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods; the best way to maintain an adequate level is through safe sun exposure. However, even in sunny southern states, it can be difficult to get enough from the sun. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Vitamin D is also necessary for the body to absorb calcium, which makes it necessary for building and maintaining strong bones. Taking a vitamin D supplement can help your body maintain the proper blood levels.
Vitamin B refers to a group of vitamins that help control how the body uses the food you eat for energy. Low levels of any of the B vitamins can lead to issues with cell metabolism and low energy levels. Vitamin B-12 is one that many people are deficient in, particularly vegetarians and older individuals who lose the ability to absorb B-12 from the foods they eat. Vitamin B-12 can help increase energy levels and is often recommended as a sublingual spray to help improve absorption.
In a perfect world, all of our meals would be home cooked with fresh, organic vegetables. But that isn’t always possible. It’s often tempting to reach for a meal-replacement bar from the grocery store, but these products are usually loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients — even the ones that claim to be healthy. It’s always important to read ingredients, choose products that use healthier sugar substitutes, and pay attention to serving size.
It’s helpful to have a meal replacement option when you’re on the go, however, so you’re not stuck going through the drive-through when you get hungry. These meal replacement drinks are delicious and can help you stick to your diet.
While again, the best sources of antioxidants are whole fruits and vegetables, additional supplementation with antioxidants can be helpful if you need to reduce internal inflammation, which can make weight loss difficult. Antioxidants also help protect against cellular damage that leads to disease and signs of aging. The beneficial compounds can often be found in tablet form or in a powder that can be added to beverages.
Nutritional supplementation shouldn’t be an impulse buy. Take some time to make sure you’re getting the right supplements for your body and that you’re getting them from a reputable manufacturer. You should use the same level of care in choosing supplements that you use when buying foods: look for quality ingredients and avoid anything artificial.
With so many supplements on the market now, it’s challenging to know what to choose. The good news is that there is oversight in the industry. As of August 24, 2007, the FDA now requires all supplements to have accurate labeling and be free of any impurities or contaminants. This makes choosing supplements much safer than it was in the past.
Before making a purchase, do some research. First research each of the supplements you’re considering. Investigate the potential benefits and any risks. Make sure you understand the recommended dosage, and don’t rely on a supplement to provide 100% of your daily needs. A multivitamin, for example, may contain only 25% of your daily magnesium requirements, but including leafy greens and nuts in your diet (even dark chocolate) can supply the rest.
Then, research the different companies that manufacture the supplements you’re interested in. How long have they been in business? Are they recommended by medical professionals? Do they have seals of approval from independent organizations?
Once you’ve established what you’re planning to take and who you will be purchasing it from, buy a small quantity to try if possible. Don’t stock up until you’ve tried a full bottle and know for certain that it’s something you plan to continue taking. Some supplements may have side effects; for example, multivitamins with iron may be hard on your stomach or some fish oil supplements can leave a fishy taste in your mouth. You may have to try a few different products or brands before settling on one that works for you.
Remember that supplements are intended to enhance the diet, not replace good nutrition. Eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense fresh fruits and vegetables has health benefits well beyond weight management. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring antioxidants and other compounds that help keep your body functioning properly and help protect against disease.
The best practice is to employ the services of a medically approved health and weight management program. Our personalized weight-loss program at Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers takes the guesswork out of proper supplementation by designing a diet plan and wellness program tailored to your unique physical needs. Contact us today for your free consultation.
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on March 15, 2018