There are numerous different approaches to supplementing our food intake with vitamins and extracts. Some experts recommend taking loads and loads of pills, while there are others who don’t believe in supplements at all. As you might expect, I don’t believe that one approach fits all. For example, if you regularly go on holiday and also eat lots of oily fish, nuts and seeds, then there is no need to take vitamin D tablets. However, if you rarely reveal your body to the sun, and don’t receive sufficient amounts of vitamin D in your diet, then you most definitely would be wise to take it in the form of a supplement. Another example might be that if someone eats chicken and eggs straight after a workout, then there would be little need for an additional protein shake.
When it comes to nutrients, the body is quite good at storing most of them. So even though we look at the NRVs (Nutrient Reference Values in the UK, or DRAs in the USA – Daily Recommended Allowance) as a guideline for what our body requires, it’s not crucial that we always consume these numbers daily.
When it comes to vitamins, other than water-soluble vitamin C and all of the Bs, as long as say over a 10-day period we ingest roughly 10 times the recommended daily amount, then the aggregation will be fine. Sunbathing is a great example. A one-week holiday in the sun with careful exposure can help our body accumulate enough vitamin D for several months.
PRIMAL CURE SUPPLEMENT PRINCIPLE: EAT FOODS RICH IN NUTRIENTS AND FILL ANY NUTRITIONAL OR VITAMIN SHORTFALLS WITH REPUTABLE SUPPLEMENTS.
PRIMAL CURE NUTRITION BELIEF: IT’S BETTER TO HAVE A BELT-AND-BRACES APPROACH THAN TO TURN A BLIND EYE. WHEN WE ARE UNSURE IF WE ARE RECEIVING SUFFICIENT NUTRIENTS FROM OUR FOOD, THEN WE SHOULD ADD INCREMENTAL GOODNESS IN THE FORM OF QUALITY SUPPLEMENTS.
Everyone is different, so when it comes to supplements I think it’s important for you to make an educated guess about what is right for you. To provide an example, I will now explain both what I take and the logic behind my selection.
I take seven daily supplements:
- Omega 3
- Coenzyme Q10
- Garlic extracts
- Combined multi-mineral and multi-vitamin tablet
If I had to take just one of these on a desert island, it would be Omega 3 and this is the one supplement I recommend to everyone, regardless of age.
In addition to my daily seven that I try to take religiously, on days when I go to the gym, sprint or play a game of tennis, I either drink a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) shake during my session, or drink a whey protein shake straight afterwards.
Our caveman ancestor had a diet rich in Omega 3. He loved eating whole animals, especially Omega 3-rich brains! He didn’t face the problem of factory manufactured beef, sourced from corn-fed antibiotic-injected cattle, with its resulting Omega 3:6 balance artificially adjusted from a healthy 1:1 ration to a noxious 1:7 ratio.
If most nights you eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines, or you consume a pack of walnuts as your daily snack, then you might not need to take Omega 3 supplements. If you’re not a fishy person, then taking Omega 3 will almost definitely improve your health. I personally eat loads of oily fish and love nuts, but still take an organic cold-water sourced Omega 3 capsules every morning. For me, Omega 3 is a must-have supplement.
I could list dozens and dozens of other amazing health benefits we receive from taking a quality Omega 3 supplement daily, but I would just be diluting this one very important advantage:
PRIMAL CURE ON THE ONE REASON MOST PEOPLE WOULD BENEFIT FROM TAKING A DAILY OMEGA 3 SUPPLEMENT: IT IS AN ESSENTIAL FUEL FOR AN ACTIVE BRAIN.
When it comes to selecting the right Omega 3 supplement, it’s time to become a quality fanatic. If not, there is a danger of the supplement originating from highly toxic fish, full of mercury and other potentially harmful metals.
There are three different types of Omega 3 (which is not related to the fact it is called Omega 3). They are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is primarily sourced from plants, such as seeds and nuts. When animals such as cows, fish and us humans consume ALA, we convert some of it into EPA and DHA. Oily fish like salmon convert it best. EPA and DHA are the two types of Omega 3 fatty acids that are the most superior for our health. While the human body can convert a certain amount of ALA into EPA and DHA, it’s not super-efficient at doing so. It is for this reason, even though we might consume enough Omega 3 by eating plenty of nuts and seeds, that we still need our oily fish or algal supplements to directly deliver EPA and DHA.
But why is it so important for our health?
Omega 3, in particular those rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is quite simply food for the brain. In fact, one of the key components in the brain is docosahexaenoic acid, and for those of us who were breastfed, our mother’s milk was loaded with it. It’s not just about prevention either, in some instances Omega 3 can cure certain brain disorders! But surely this can’t be true, because aren’t we supposed to be stuck with the same brain cells throughout our entire life? Recent scientific research has turned this belief on its head. It now appears that we can grow new brain cells on a daily basis through a process known as neurogenesis. The area where neurogenesis is most effective is the hippocampus. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for storing long-term memories and learning new things. Therefore Omega 3 could make us even smarter than we already are!
From the same family as ginger, turmeric is a brilliant anti-inflammatory herb that can either be consumed as a supplement, or used to spice up your food.
While tablets and supplement manufacturers often claim their products are 10 to 100 times more potent than you would put in your homemade curry, if you are not a big fan of taking too many supplements, then heaping it on your chicken or beef is still very beneficial.
Supplements are made up of a compound found in turmeric called curcumin and not turmeric itself. There are more than 5,000 medical articles and pieces of research online, many claiming turmeric to be the most powerful herb on the planet. The benefits of turmeric could fill an entire book (many books actually – Amazon alone has 301 books with Turmeric in their title).
Let’s look at some of the main benefits of this incredible herb:
- Reduces chronic joint pain.
- Reduces the pain of arthritis.
- Can boost low energy levels.
- If you mix with raw honey you can create a facemask to treat acne.
- It can slow and even prevent blood clotting (for those who suffer side effects from Ibuprofen, curcumin is a godsend).
- In 2009, Auburn University of Alabama published a report that explored how taking turmeric supplements can help reverse type 2 diabetes.
- It is a powerful anti-inflammatory...
- …and a very strong antioxidant.
- It helps us grow new brain cells and decrease memory loss.
- Medical studies have demonstrated that it helps to prevent certain cancers.
I personally love nuts, seeds, spinach, avocado and many other foods that are rich in magnesium and I consume them regularly. That said, I still don’t feel that I regularly eat the 500 to 600mg that I believe I need. Why am I saying 500 to 600mg if the recommended daily allowance for my age indicates 420mg? The more active we are, and the more we exercise, the quicker we deplete our mineral stores. With magnesium’s benefits to health being so vast, I take a supplement every day. For those who don’t like taking them, you can always buy bath salts rich in magnesium and, as an addition to all of the other long-term benefits, your muscles will become relaxed, especially after exercising.
As magnesium can hel us get a better night’s sleep, it’s the one supplement I like to consume just before I go to bed. To ensure I don’t forget to take it, I store it in my bathroom next to my toothbrush, and not in the kitchen.
You can get magnesium tablets on their own or combined with other minerals and vitamins (especially calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K). Because I have had kidney stones in the past, I am conscious that I must not overdo my calcium intake. So, I have two different magnesium choices in my bathroom. If, during the day, I have had either cheese or a probiotic yogurt, then I take my evening magnesium on its own. If, however, I haven’t eaten foods rich in calcium during the day, then I take a combined magnesium, zinc and calcium supplement.
If you are unsure of whether you are getting enough magnesium, calcium and zinc in your diet, consider that, in 2005, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that 73.3% of Americans were not meeting the daily RDA of zinc, 65.1% were deficient in calcium and 61.6% were not consuming enough magnesium.
Once you have started eating fermented foods in your weekly routine, if you feel the need to take a probiotic supplement, then in his book, Brain Maker, author Dr David Perlmutter suggests that it’s advisable to purchase probiotics that contain the following five superior helpful bacteria: Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum.
Some brands claim their products contain thousands of different bacteria, but my concern with these is that the more they contain, the smaller the dose of each one. Aim for brands that contain 10 to 20 different strands, and if they contain all five recommended by Dr David Perlmutter, all the better. Make sure you don’t wash these down with unfiltered tap water, or there is every chance that the chlorine in the water will kill off the helpful bacteria before they even arrive in the gut!
You may not have heard of it, but our Primal ancestors ingested lots of coenzyme Q10 when they consumed entire animals, as it’s found primarily in the heart, kidneys and liver. Smaller doses can be found in sardines, mackerel and peanuts and even smaller amounts in vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower and broccoli.
Our body naturally creates a certain amount of coenzyme and for this reason it is not considered a vitamin. However, we get less and less efficient at producing it as we age, and therefore can’t provide our hearts and cells with the amount they need to stay healthy.
Therefore, if you’re not a big organ/offal eater, and you are more than 40 years of age, you might need to consume this in the form of a supplement. There is no NRV for coenzyme Q10, and I guess this is because it’s difficult to identify how much of it our body produces naturally.
Dr Jonny Bowden, in his book The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth, suggests that once we pass the age of 40, we should consume at least 60 to 100mg daily. And for those with a family history of heart disease, or those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, he recommends taking between 100 and 300mg daily.
The US National Library of Medicine suggests that coenzyme Q10 supplements may be useful in the treatment of high blood pressure, muscular dystrophy, heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, migraines, certain mitochondrial disorders and HIV/AIDS. However, don’t take coenzyme Q10 supplements if you are pregnant or less than 18 years old.
In a nutshell, coenzyme Q10:
- REDUCES BLOOD PRESSURE
- IS GOOD FOR THE HEART
- ENERGISES OUR CELLS
- ACTS AS A POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT
In Japan, to reduce both heart disease and high blood pressure, approximately 10% of the population are reported to be talking Q10 medication on the advice of their doctors or medical professionals. If you are stressed or take statins, then you almost definitely would benefit from taking coenzyme Q10.
While I love putting fresh garlic in most salads and curries, its strong flavour and pungent odour mean this top 20 superfood isn’t suitable for all dishes. However, as garlic provides so many health benefits, I take a supplement every day. After all, garlic helps reduce cholesterol and also helps the body detox naturally. Along with onions, bananas and artichokes, garlic acts as a prebiotic, which means it acts as a source of food for certain beneficial bacteria, When it comes to our gut, garlic is the superfood of our bacteria.
COMBINED MULTI-MINERAL AND MULTI-VITAMIN TABLET
While I always try to eat as healthily as possible, I don’t want to risk falling short on any of the minerals our body relies on to function. So for the past two years, I have started to take a combined multi-mineral and multi-vitamin tablet that has been specifically formulated for men over 50. For females out there, don’t worry – there are plenty of different options for you too.
On days where I go to the gym, sprint or play tennis, then I will add a whey shake, protein bar or EAA to my diet. Even on fasting days, I might sometimes indulge in one of the three if I feel low on energy.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER SUPPLEMENTS ON THE MARKET?
No single approach works for everyone. When it comes to supplements, recognising individuality and not specifying ‘a one size fits all’ approach is very important. My whole philosophy with Primal Cure is to provide you with knowledge about what we are designed to consume as fuel, so that you can then make informed decisions about your own health and individual circumstances.