If you’ve read many of my past articles, you know that on the whole, I’m a much bigger fan of a diet based in whole foods than I am of supplements. The reason isn’t that no supplements aren’t worthwhile, but rather that so many of them have less-than-convincing evidence for their efficacy, or that the nutrients they supply are easily obtainable from the diet.
“Over-supplementing” might also cause you to lose focus from your diet. While supplements might patch some holes, they are like putting individual buckets down to catch the water leaking through a bad roof. You might ‘solve’ the problem of your carpet getting wet, but the real problem is still right above you, and no amount of buckets is going to fix the roof. In the same way, supplements can’t ‘fix’ a poor diet–they can only supplement it in areas where diet alone is not a reasonable option.
All of this is merely a preface to the main point: there are worthwhile supplements to take, just not shelves and shelves of them. There are supplements with limited use which might only be applicable to some individuals (like chromium, which may increase insulin sensitivity, but only in some diabetic individuals), there are supplements with broadscale applicability but only for certain populations (like sports drinks for very athletic populations), and there are supplements which I would argue nearly everybody would be better off taking. It’s this final category of supplements which this article focuses on!
The supplements on my list have a few things in common:
- They are not easily obtainable from the diet, or obtaining them solely from food would be prohibitive in some way (cost, health concerns, etc.)
- They provide demonstrable benefits which are as close to univerally applicable as can be expected
- They are cost-effective (that is, the benefit they provide is worth the cost; this is ultimately a personal decision, of course!)
There are potentially other supplements out there which fulfill one or two parts of my criteria, but if they’re missing one aspect then they warrant a little more discretion. Now, without further ado, let’s move on to the first item on the list!