Top Picks From a Holistic Nutritionist's Supplement Cabinet
When it comes to supplements, the options are endless — so much so that it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. To get some tips from the inside, our in-house holistic nutritionist Michelle W. Book shares some of the staples found in her supplement cabinet.
“When it comes to health, it comes down to habits,” Michelle says. “I have a morning-to-night routine with supplements that helps to provide nutritional balance and energy at the beginning of the day while promoting calmness toward the end.”
Iron and Vitamin C
These are the first supplements Michelle reaches for in the mornings. Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in Canada, especially among women of child-bearing-age. “I find that when I’m low in iron, I’m significantly more tired, so I take supplement to make sure my needs are met.”
This is especially important for people who follow a plant-based diet, as they are more likely to suffer from low iron. Michelle recommends pairing vitamin C with an iron supplement because “it helps significantly improve iron absorption. Because vitamin C is an acid, it keeps iron in the form that the body can best absorb.”
A common effect of iron supplements can be gastro-intestinal upset, especially when first introduced. “Increase the amount you’re taking slowly,” advises Michelle. “Taking the iron supplement with food tends to help me digest and absorb it better.”
Another tip is to avoid taking iron with dairy products.
“The calcium can inhibit iron absorption because they compete for the same receptor in the gut.”
You can find plant-based foods rich in iron including dark leafy vegetables and beans, as well as raisins and dried fruit.
Tip 1: Take a Look at All of the Options Available
When you hear the phrase "plant-based," many are quick to assume that going on a plant-based diet means eating leafy salads for every meal. While we love a great salad, it's important to incorporate a variety of foods into your meals. The next time you go shopping, be sure to explore the many meatless food choices available. Whether it's pasta, quinoa or black-bean tacos, you have an abundance of options to choose from, so don't feel the need to swap out everything you love.
The next product in Michelle’s supplement cabinet is a high-quality multivitamin.
“As a woman of child-bearing age, it’s important to get enough folic acid, so I take a pre-natal multivitamin,” Michelle says.
Having a multivitamin is like a good insurance policy. “In combination with my diet, it just gives me peace of mind knowing that my nutritional bases are covered and that I’m getting what I need.”
With so many multivitamins out there, it’s important to find what is right for you. Whether you’re matured or young and active, you’ll be able to find a product designed for your needs at your stage in life. Visit your local CHFA Member health food store to see all the options available.
The next item in Michelle’s supplement cabinet is her greens supplement, a deep-green powder that can be mixed into smoothies or taken with water. Michelle’s morning typically starts with a glass of lemon water followed by a glass of greens.
“And my son loves it too!”
Beginning as a way to get a few more servings of veggies in, the greens supplement industry is now booming and finding new advocates, from working moms to bodybuilders. They're rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, and Michelle says that it gives her an extra boost of energy.
“I don’t drink coffee, and this just gives me that kick that I need.”
How do you take it? Michelle says that you can put in a smoothie or just drink it mixed with water — the colder, the better.
After a long day both at the office and caring for her rambunctious three-year-old, finding space and time at the end of the day to unwind is crucial. Michelle says that finding the time to meditate while away from all the digital screens and other interruptions is crucial for tackling the next day, and part of that routine includes a magnesium supplement.
“The magnesium I take is in powder form, and I take it mixed in with some water,” she says. “It’s really nice at the end of the day as part of my bedtime routine.”
Magnesium is essential in the body for countless enzyme reactions, makes up the structure of bones, and is involved in breaking down fats and carbohydrates for energy. Some initial research does provide a link between supplemental magnesium intake and a reduction in perceived anxiety or mild depressive symptoms. However, be sure to speak with your health care practitioner if you experience symptoms of anxiety or depression.
As part of a normal, daily routine, Michelle shared that “personally, I find it helps keep me calm and balanced, and helps me sleep better.”
When to Switch It Up
Although these are just Michelle’s top five go-to supplements, she sometimes switches things up or adds in different supplements throughout the year. For example, from the early fall months to late spring (September to May), Michelle increases her intake of vitamin D.
“Typically, I take a probiotic to help boost my immune system in the winter and actively try to increase the amount of fermented foods in to my diet.”
By being responsive to your body’s needs and the environment, it becomes clear that a supplement routine not always simply a routine. Often, it's adaptive support to help your days go better and more healthfully.
“Nutrition is such a personalized thing,” Michelle stresses. “It’s important to talk to your health care practitioner and see what fits your needs. I find that when I’m putting my health first and making the time to have my greens in the morning and magnesium at night to start and end the day properly, I'm set up for success throughout the day.”
Michelle W. Book is the in-house holistic nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA). As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant, positive effects on our health and happiness.