Resources: An excellent newsletter, Nutrition Action Health Letter is $24 a year.  Visit www.cspinet.org to subscribe.  A good website for healthy living is www.sparkpeople.com, with over a million members.  It has sections for both adults and teens.  Sparkpeople has daily updates and all kinds of worthwhile information, and it is free!

Most herbal and vitamin supplements have not held up to scrutiny in controlled trials; some have turned out to be harmful.  Even multivitamins are questionable; a large study released in 2009 showed no improvement in cancer or heart disease rates among women who took multivitamins.  Another study linked multivitamins to an increase in cancer.  Don’t believe the advertising claims-multivitamins and many other supplements are not necessary for good health.

It can be confusing to know which supplements are helpful, but the following have held up to scrutiny and are recommended: Vitamin D: 2,000 I.U. daily (avoid generics) and Omega-3’s (see below).

Vitamin D is known to be important for our skin and bones, and it may help fight hypertension and autoimmune diseases.  Recently, adequate levels of Vitamin D have been linked to lowered rates of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.  People who live in cold climates are often low in Vitamin D, as they are not in the sun enough.  Most need to take a Vitamin D supplement.  The latest studies suggest that adults need at least 2,000 International Units a day.  Avoid the generic Vitamin D; use a name brand.  The Nature’s Finest brand at Walgreen’s is 2,000 I.U. in a small gelcap, easy to take.  If you take calcium with added D, you probably still need to take an extra D supplement.  Do not take more than 4,000 units of vitamin D without consulting your physician.

Omega-3’s (Fatty Acids).  Many studies have shown the benefits of Omega-3’s for the heart, for moods, and possibly for headaches.  Eating fish twice a week is a good goal, particularly fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel.  Fish oil capsules are also beneficial.  Read the ingredients on the bottle and choose the brand with the most EPA and DHA.  One or two capsules a day is recommended.  Flaxseed capsules are also helpful.  Other sources of Omega-3’s in the diet are tofu, soybeans, walnuts, and canola oil.

Calcium is necessary for the heart, muscles, and nerves to function and for blood to clot.  Low intake of calcium leads to the development of osteoporosis and is associated with high rates of bone fractures.  Absorption of calcium decreases as we age.  After 45, most people, particularly post-menopausal women, should take calcium supplements.  Eating too much salt and protein, especially animal protein, increases calcium loss.

Calcium is found in milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, tofu, beans, sardines, calcium-enriched fruit juices, fortified cereals, and other foods.  Our systems cannot absorb more than 500mg of calcium at a time.  Calcium in the form of calcium citrate, such as in citrocal, is more easily absorbed than calcium carbonate.  Citrocal Caplets plus D are a good form of calcium (315 mg) and vitamin D (200 IU).  The usual dose is one or two tablets, twice a day; consult your physician.  To learn more about calcium, visit www.health.nih.gov

Aspirin.  If you are at risk for heart disease, your doctor may recommend a daily dose of aspirin.  Its properties may help prevent heart attacks and strokes, and even headaches and certain cancers.  The usual dose is one aspirin (325mg)a day.  Generic aspirin are fine.  Taking a baby aspirin (81mg) or 1/2 tablet of regular aspirin (162mg) may be sufficient; the dose varies by person.  Aspirin can cause stomach ulcers; if it hurts your stomach or causes heartburn, stop taking it and consult your doctor.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a crucial compound, important for your heart, muscles and nerves.  It is naturally produced by your body.  However, the statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs like Simvastatin, Lipitor, Pravochol, Vytorin and crestor) deplete the body’s CoQ10.  Sutdies have indicated a possible benefit from CoQ10 for migraine and the heart.  I suggest taking 200 mg per day of CoQ10 if you take one of the statin drugs.  It has not yet been proven that this helps the muscles, but CoQ10 is generally safe and may prevent headaches.

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