essential-vitaminsVitamins and minerals are essential to life—and we mean essential. Without them, we couldn’t think or even breathe, much less digest food or walk the dog. But chances are you’re not getting enough of the good stuff, and figuring out what you need is tricky business. We uncover the 5 key nutrients young women should consume, plus which you should get from food and what’s OK to buy in a bottle.

***Of course, check with your doctor before starting a supplement regimen.

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1. MAGNESIUM

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady. A chronic lack of magnesium in the body yields many consequences – including low energy levels. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and irritability.

This relaxation mineral is a natural calcium channel blocker—it blocks calcium from entering nerve cells and ‘exciting’ them—so it calms you. According to the USDA, many of us are deficient, so 200 mg can be a good addition for just about anybody.

Recommended daily dosage: 300-400 mg daily

Need a supplement? It’s important to eat a magnesium-rich diet throughout the day (with foods like green vegetables such as spinach, oatmeal, quinoa, lentils, and fruits), but adding 200-400mg of a magnesium supplement at bedtime will help you sleep better and keep your bowel movements regular (***carefully if you take more than 1000mg/day – it’s likely to give you diarrhea).

 

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2. DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into their smallest parts so that the body can use them to nourish cells and to provide energy. Enzymes are the key players in this digestive process, maximizing nutrient extraction and turning the foods we eat into energy. Digestive enzymes enhance your bodies ability to breakdown food and absorb nutrients (and prevent stomach ache/gas/bloating that can often come after eating).

Need a supplement? Although you do not have to supplement digestive enzymes, we find them to be life-changing when it comes to feeling good. We absolutely love Enzymedica’s large selection of digestive enzyme products – each formula targets a specific food group so you can select based on whatever is troubling you.

 

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3. PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that promote healthy intestinal flora and support immune system function.
Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are two of the friendly bacteria commonly seen in probiotic supplements; they have both shown an ability to survive the trip to your intestines, where they are able to destroy excess bad bacteria gathered there. Probiotics can ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and help prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections. They are specially useful when your body’s normal bacterial balance is interrupted—which can happen when you’re stressed, ill, traveling, or taking antibiotics.

Recommended daily dosage: Recommendations vary, but supplements with at least 20 billion live organisms per dose have shown to be the most effective.

Need a supplement? Besides yogurt and kefir, some common foods made using fermentation include sauerkraut, kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), and pickles. If you aren’t sure that you’re getting enough probiotics from your diet, a daily supplement can be helpful. We love Natren Healthy Trinity potent probiotics.

***TOO MUCH – will result in side effects such as gas, bloating, or abdominal pain. If this happens, stop taking them, then begin reintroducing them into your system again in smaller doses and work up to the point where they start giving you problems.

 

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4. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS:

Omega-3 fatty acids are the brain-boosting, cholesterol-clearing good fats (monounsaturated). They have been shown to lubricate joints, fight wrinkles, protect vision, help acne, and improve mood; and because it helps affect brain development, many experts recommend expectant mothers get omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

There are three basic forms of omega-3:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) vegetarian-friendly source can be found in walnuts, flaxseed, flaxseed oil and olive oil; which the body eventually, but in small quantities, converts to DHA.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found primarily in fish oil, this is the ultimate form of fatty acid in humans. Most people get far too little of this all-important fatty acid, especially since the conversion of ALA to DHA is slow and minimally yielding.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is also found in fish oil; EPA works with DHA, but tends to help with inflammation in the body more than DHA or ALA.

Recommended daily dosage: 1,000 mg daily (check the label to make sure it’s made of 500 – 1000 mg a day of DHA and between 250 – 500 mg a day of EPA)

Need a supplement?  Try Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega for a high-quality omega 3 supplement.

 

vitamin D sourcesFood sources of vitamin D

5. VITAMIN D
The vitamin du jour, D could be something of a wonder drug. Docs believe it can reduce your risk of breast cancer by as much as 50 percent, and it may offer protection from both ovarian cancer and diabetes – as well as depression. More happiness: Vitamin D helps calcium absorption (critical for strong bones) and plays a central role in muscle function. Our bodies make it naturally when exposed to sunlight, but thanks to weather variability and sun protection to lower skin cancer risk, that may not be happening as often as it should. Having sufficient vitamin D in the skin helps minimize acne, boost elasticity, stimulate collagen production, enhance radiance, and lessen lines and the appearance of dark spots.

Recommended daily dosage: 1,000 to 2,000 IU,

Need a supplement? Most likely. Milk, orange juice, eggs and salmon contain small amounts of D, but nowhere near enough. There’s some disagreement among experts about whether we get enough D, so ask your doctor to check your D levels with a simple blood test before taking a pill. If you do supplement, look for Vitamin D3, which is the variation best absorbed by the body. We love Source Naturals vitamin D3, which is available in 1,000/2,000/and 5,000 IU capsules.