If you follow health and wellness influencers on social media, or if you buy anything health-related – I mean anything – on Amazon, you’ll probably be inundated with ads for products that will give you clear and glowing skin, help you grow your hair and fingernails, remove your belly fat, or any of a dozen things you didn’t even know were possible.
The thing is that most of these products haven’t undergone the rigorous FDA testing that’s required of prescription drugs, and may have inconsistent manufacturing, unknown side effects, or be no more useful than a placebo. (AKA not useful at all, and not worth the money in the least.)
There are, however, supplements out there that most nutritionists agree on — they’re worth taking, they’re made by reputable companies, they can actually help you feel better, and they’re not that expensive.
“There are definitely a few key supplements that are going to be beneficial for women,” says nutritionist Jamie Sobolewski. “But it’s always important to remember that the supplements are only as good as the food they’re supplementing. Sobolewski works for the digital health care platform New Ocean Health Solutions, and has both a Bachelor of Science in health and exercise science, and a Master’s degree in clinical nutrition. She’s worked as a nutritionist for the last ten years, specializing mostly in women’s health and athletic performance.
“What this means is that your supplements should only be filling in the gaps of a well-balanced diet,” she continues. “When I work with clients, we make sure that we address nutrition first and then supplements can help with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are hard to gain from certain foods.”
A multi vitamin is good for every female, Sobolewski says. “This is where you’ll get your vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, etc., most of the nutrients that you need in your diet.
“Additionally, I usually recommend that most females supplement with Omega-3s. They’re great for anti-inflammatory, brain function, heart, health, healthy skin, and more. And they’re one thing that’s hard for many females to get in their diet unless they eat a lot of fatty fish, say salmon, twice a week. If not, supplement with an Omega-3.”
Sobolewski adds that for non-fish eaters, you can get plant-based Omega-3 supplements.
“The last one that I would recommend for most females would be vitamin D3. And once again, this is really hard to get in foods, except for some fortified foods like milk and yogurt. You can get vitamin D from the sun, but in the winter months, or where there’s less sun or maybe you’re working inside all day, you’re not outside in the sunshine. Vitamin D3 is good for mood, strong bones, and more.
“Of course, if you have a certain health condition, if you have digestive health issues, if you’re anemic, if you’re an athlete or pregnant, you may need additional supplementation.”
Dominique Markowitz is a registered dietitian nutritionist and her advice is to start with a good probiotic.
“It’s something that’s risen in popularity as people are learning the power of the gut and the microbiome,” she says. “A lot of those parts of your health that are neurological, such as brain function and memory loss, stem from your gut health. The healthier microbiome can help in reducing symptoms of diseases such as depression and anxiety.
“When it comes to probiotics, there are just so many products now on the market. I can only imagine the confusion that consumers feel when they are trying to choose between one brand and another. What actual bacteria do we want? And how much? The bacterial CFU (colony-forming unit) counts can range from 1 billion to 100 billion so there’s a lot of variability.”
Markowitz says that when checking probiotics labels it’s important to check the numbers at the end of shelf life and not at the time of manufacture as the microorganisms can be degraded.
She adds that you also want a range of bacteria in your probiotics. “Women may struggle with UTIs and so getting a really good range of lactobacilli can help with preventing further problems and complications,” she says. Other bacteria to check for in your probiotic include Saccharomyces boulardii and Streptococcus thermophilus. And unless the product says otherwise, Markowitz always refrigerates her probiotics to keep them fresher longer.
The probiotics, she says, will also help with your other supplements. “One key component of benefiting from nutrients is making sure that they’re absorbed as well as possible,” she says. “Probiotics can really help with that.”
Lastly, Markowitz would make sure women are getting enough Vitamin B. While some B supplements offer crazy amounts of the vitamin – a good rule of thumb is to check the recommended percent daily value – Vitamin B can be especially helpful for women who are trying to cut out carbohydrates. “And vegetarians especially,” she adds, “should make sure they get enough B12.”
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