Super Supplements: Cod liver oil, vitamin D3…and more!
When it comes to supplements, there seems to be a never ending lineup of pills and powders claiming to give us more energy and help us achieve better health. While Bec and I are generally of the motto ‘Just Eat Real Food!’, there are some real heroes out there that make the cut. We try to incorporate these few supplements (although not too strictly!) into our daily routines, while keeping the focus on maintaining a nutrient-dense diet for the bulk of our needs.
Before starting any form of supplementation, it’s important to remember that isolated nutrients (aka supplements) and whole foods react very differently within the body. The human body is complex, and vitamins will compete against each other for uptake. The effect of high, isolated doses can be quite unpredictable and mega-dosing with one nutrient can cause you to become deficient in another – Quite the balancing act!
At it turns out, whole foods really are the whole package. Unlike supplements, they come with a balanced nutrient profile and a variety of enzymes and fats needed for proper absorption and assimilation – just as nature intended.
That said, not all supplements are bad. Some are very helpful in treating specific issues and deficiencies, and can give that little extra boost towards achieving our best physical health and beauty. Call us geeks, but we really like digging into the research on this stuff, and have found some stand-out supplements that are backed by the science and work great for us at the moment.
…So, here they are – our ‘Super Supplements’:
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, pre-formed vitamin A, EPA and DHA. Emphasis is on pre-formed because this active form of vitamin A can be readily used by the body, unlike carotenoids such as beta-carotine. Contrary to popular belief, beta-carotine (the stuff found in carrots) is not synonymous with vitamin A; but is actually a vitamin A precursor. That means it must pass through a series of reactions within the body to convert to true vitamin A. Here’s where we encounter a problem: each of us have a differing ability to convert carotenoids to vitamin A. So while some of us may be super efficient converters (can get adequate vitamin A from plants), the rest of us could benefit from some pre-formed vitamin A!
So why supplement for vitamin A? Though beta-carotine is common in plant foods, pre-formed vitamin A is present only in animal foods. Even then, it can be difficult to come by pre-formed vitamin A in significant amounts unless you’re a regular consumer of liver and organ meats. Vitamin A is vital in eye health, immune function and maintaining skin integrity. Some people even suggest that skin conditions such as keratosis pilaris result from vitamin A deficiency (what initially interested me in cod liver oil).
Recently, both Bec and I have been taking the Blue Ice fermented cod liver/butter oil blend by Green Pasture. This stuff is a little pricey, but I’m convinced that this is the highest quality cod liver oil out there…and worth every penny! Unlike other brands, Green Pasture use traditional fermentation methods to keep the nutrients in tact. They also add butter oil – known to aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K2). What’s more, butter oil contains vitamin K2 which works in synergy with vitamin D and A to get the best results. I had a bit of trouble sourcing this in Australia – if you’re looking for a supplier I would recommend GPA Wholefoods.
The sunshine vitamin! Vitamin D is important for bone health and density, immune function, skin health…and just about everything else! Though we don’t think it’s necessary to take this daily (unless you have a deficiency…which can be quite common), I like to take vitamin D on days when I know I haven’t been in the sun at all. It’s worth mentioning that vitamin D is best absorbed from the sun and oral supplements just don’t work as well – but if you’re going to supplement, vitamin D3 (the active form!) is the way to go (available here).
Both Bec and I like to take magnesium on a regular basis…and Bec even bathes in it! Magnesium is vital for just about every bodily function and is involved in upwards of 300 chemical reactions! Unfortunately, due to crappy modern farming methods, magnesium has become scarce in our soils. As a result it can be difficult to obtain enough magnesium through diet alone, so supplementing on occasion can be beneficial.
I recently became interested in vitamin K2 after listening to a podcast with Dr Kate Rhéaume-Bleue on Bulletproof Radio. Basically, vitamin K2 is involved in the regulation of calcium and where it is deposited. This is important because calcium has the potential to be deposited in your arteries (aka calcification) or in your bones. Some even argue that vitamin K2 is more important than calcium in maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis (Great podcast here)!
Though vitamin K1 is common in many plant foods (another reason to eat your green leafies!), vitamin K2 is a bit harder to come by (some sources: natto, brie cheese & grass fed butter) and needs to be replenished frequently. For some reason, K2 is impossible to find in the chemist (at least, here in Aus), but you can purchase it online here.
Do you take supplements? We’d love to hear what you include in your supplement routine!