I take supplements daily, and I usually recommend specific ones to clients. They can be really helpful and essential if you're deficient in certain nutrients, but I never make the claim that they will "cure" a disease, help you lose weight, or make you feel amazing. The supplement bottles from sketchy brands may make those claims, but I will never say that.
Why not? Because food always comes first. No amount of supplements can fix a nutrient-poor diet.
Food is the BEST source of nutrients. Always. No exceptions. Real food is amazing, incredible, and it has the power to heal your body or significantly reduce symptoms of many conditions. If you're healthy, real food can take you from feeling okay to vibrant and glowing. Of course, it's not just food. It's the whole picture - food, movement, stress management, sleep, relationships, spirituality, and more, but food is really important.
Nature is incredible. Although one guy claimed to make the perfect food with all the essential nutrients in a powder called Soylent, I don't think he could ever outdo nature. Drinking the same thing all day everyday without all the amazing flavors and textures just doesn't sound very fun to me.
Let's look at the wonderful nutrients found in nature.
The Egg Yolk
Hands down one of my favorites. Not only is a local, farm-fresh egg yolk gorgeous and a rich orange color, but its flavor is so creamy and delicious compared to a store-bought conventional egg. Real Food Liz (& I) cringe everytime an egg yolk is thrown away for egg white omelets. When you ditch the yolk, you're throwing away one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. There's fat-soluble vitamins, B-vitamins like choline, and more. When you choose pastured yolks, you'll get one of the best natural multivitamins you could eat.
Eat them. Mix it up and look beyond spinach and lettuce. Try swiss chard, collard greens, or my favorite - eat more kale. Saute them, roast them, make green smoothies or juices, eat them in salads. Just get them in. Greens are rich in folate and are a plant-based source of calcium. Those beautiful green colors signal a rich antioxidant and phytonutrient content. Eat up!
Many people take fish oil but don't bother eating fish regularly! I'd rather see you eating a few servings of fish weekly rather than taking a fish oil supplement. Omega-3 rich fish like wild salmon or sardines are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also contain Vitamin D, calcium (if canned with the bones), and more. The nutrient synergy is amazing. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it comes packaged in fatty fish for increased absorption. Smoked sardines are my favorite.
Don't be confused by chia seeds and flaxseeds claiming they have more omega-3s than salmon. Yes, they do contain omega-3, but the plant-based form is not the most usable form. Only a small amount of the usable and beneficial form converts in the body. You'll get the benefits of omega-3s mostly from fish, and it's the most delicious form I know.
The Amazing Avocado
If it was warm where I lived, I would have avocado trees in my backyard and make guacamole everyday. They are rich in healthy fats that nourish the body and support gorgeous skin, hair, and nails. You could even make it into a hair or skin mask for natural beauty. The healthy fats in avocados are great for happy hormones and fertility.
Our guts need some love. The processed foods in the Standard American Diet are not that rich in fermentable fiber or prebiotics that help keep our 100 trillion gut bacteria healthy and happy. We need to feed our bodies, but we also need to focus on feeding our "old friends." This is one many people miss on a daily basis. So, start fermenting veggies. Sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented carrots are really easy to make. Store-bought versions are often pasteurized and thus missing the probiotics. Pick up or brew your own kombucha or kefir (can be dairy or non-dairy like kefir water). Make sure to eat some prebiotics and starches too like onions, garlic, and plenty of veggies. Note: If you are FODMAP intolerant or have digestive issues, prebiotics may worsen digestion and symptoms.
These are just 5 ideas of nutrient-rich foods, and believe me, there are plenty more. I dare you to start adding these foods into your daily life and see how you feel.
So, what about Supplements?
Now if you eat a real food diet rich in nutrients, you still may decide to use supplements. That's okay! I definitely support the use of supplements, especially targeted for specific supplements. If your labs show you are Vitamin D deficient, then you may need to take Vitamin D to get enough. Produce is lower in nutrients now because of the soil it's grown in and the travel time from farm to grocery store. Local produce is likely to be higher in nutrients. Conventionally raised animal products eat unnatural feed and won't be as rich in nutrients as grass-fed or pastured products.
The problem is supplements are not well-regulated, and what's on the label may not be what's in the bottle. Some studies have actually found steroids in supplements! That's why I recommend working with a practitioner who can recommend specific supplements and tested and trusted brands and who can encourage you to focus on FOOD first. They can also explain what the supplement is, any research behind it, and pros and cons based on your needs. Definitely be wary of ones that make huge claims without any research. I like using Examine.com for an unbiased look at the research of specific supplements.