11 Supplements That May Be Worth Taking

Fish oil capsules and diet rich in omega-3

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Looking through the grocery store and pharmacy shelves, you can find hundreds of different supplements. It also might seem like everyone you know is taking one supplement or another.

In many cases, supplements may be unnecessary or they may serve as a safety net for individuals concerned they are not getting enough nutrients. There also is a lot of research with evidence to support the use of a variety of common supplements when medically indicated.

But, searching for a supplement can certainly be confusing. Keep reading for a breakdown of the top 11 supplements that you may want to consider.

Dietary supplements are not appropriate for all individuals. Always speak with your healthcare provider to determine if a supplement is right for you as well as the appropriate doses before implementing them into your routine.

Multivitamins

While taking multivitamins is common in the general population, is it always necessary? For some people, it is recommended to take a multivitamin. These individuals include people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, people who are breastfeeding, people who have a limited diet, and people with any condition that may decrease nutrient absorption such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease. These individuals have higher nutrient needs or may not be getting adequate nutrition through food.

While some people take a multivitamin to prevent disease or illness, research does not support this recommendation. Individuals also may take a multivitamin as an insurance policy, and while there may not be harm in this, it is always better to get nutrients through food.

Research shows that for those eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables that a multivitamin doesn't add any extra benefit. Multivitamins may be worth trying, but they are not always necessary.

Omega 3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that include ALA, SDA, EPA, DPA, and DHA. They are called essential because they are not made by the body and we need to eat them through food. There are many studies that have been conducted supporting the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and depression. They also can assist with visual and neurological development as well as support maternal and child health.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating at least 8 ounces of fatty fish per week and 8 to 12 ounces for those who might become, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you don't eat fish or eat enough of it weekly, there are many benefits to taking a supplement.

One study looked at omega-3 fatty acid supplement effects on the gut microbiome. The study found that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can promote a healthy microbiota composition and increase the production of anti-inflammatory compounds. There is also evidence that omega-3 fatty acids influence the gut-brain axis.

Protein Powder

While it is possible to meet your protein needs through food, for some it may be more challenging or other might have higher protein needs. Protein powder can be a convenient way to boost your protein intake when you can't get it from food alone.

Individuals who may benefit from protein powder include anyone looking for a convenient protein option, people struggling to meet their protein needs, athletes, older adults, and people with poor appetite.

Studies show benefits of protein powder in athletes looking to gain muscle mass. Nutrient timing after a workout is shown to be important for results.

Adding a protein shake after your workout combined with carbohydrates is shown to boost muscle mass. Protein powder is an easy and convenient option to mix into a shake, oatmeal, or yogurt for a protein boost.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in many fruits and vegetables including oranges, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, spinach, and bell peppers. It is an essential vitamin, meaning the body cannot produce it on its own, we need to eat it through food.

The recommended intake of vitamin C is 75mg for women and 90mg for men, so we need very little to meet our needs. Vitamin C is associated with many health benefits including immune support, management of high blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease, improvement of iron absorption, and decreased risk of dementia.

While it is recommended to get vitamin C through diet, there may be benefits to taking a supplement. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and studies show that taking a supplement increases blood antioxidant levels by 30%. This helps the body fight inflammation and decreases the risk of cancer. Additionally, studies show that taking a vitamin C supplement can shorten the recovery time for pneumonia and other infections.

Vitamin D

The best and most bioavailable source of vitamin D is from sun exposure and it is found in some foods including fish, egg yolks, and dairy as well as orange juice and plant milks fortified with vitamin D.

Most individuals need to take a supplement in order to get adequate amounts of this fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin D is important for regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone development and supporting immune function. Research also shows supplementation plays a role in decreasing the risk of multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and depression.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral responsible for several important functions in the body. Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions including energy production, protein formation, gene maintenance, muscle movements and contractions, and nervous system regulation.

While magnesium is found in many food such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and beans, many people do not get enough through diet and a supplement may be beneficial. Because of magnesium's role in energy production, there is a lot of research on exercise performance.

Magnesium supplements may be beneficial for improving exercise performance and increasing muscle mass. Magnesium is also important for brain function and mood. Deficiencies are linked to increased risk of depression and research shows that supplementing with magnesium may reduce depression symptoms.

Probiotics

Probiotics are growing in popularity both as food sources and supplements. Probiotics are known as the "good" bacteria in our guts that are thought to provide a number of health benefits. They naturally occur in some foods including kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, yogurt, and kombucha and you can buy them as supplements in the form of pills, gummies, powders, syrups, and teas.

According to the research, probiotics do not appear to provide many benefits to the general population, so taking them for general good health is not evidenced-based. However, if you have certain health conditions, they may be beneficial.

A number of studies have looked at the possible benefit of taking a probiotic for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This condition includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and taking a probiotic may help to modulate the gut microbiota to decrease symptoms.

Curcumin

Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the spice turmeric, the yellow spice found in Indian and South Asian cuisine. While it has been used as a medicinal herb in India for thousands of years, many strong studies are now backing up these claims.

Curcumin is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties. Cooking with turmeric gives beautiful color and delicious flavor to food, but it is difficult to reach the level of clinical effectiveness through cooking alone.

Studies show taking curcumin supplements may be beneficial for preventing conditions with low-level inflammation including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease. Curcumin is best absorbed in the bloodstream when paired with black pepper so be sure to look for a supplement that includes black pepper.

CoQ10

CoenzymeQ10, or CoQ10, is an enzyme that helps generate energy in your cells. It is naturally produced by the body, but its production decreases with age. You can get CoQ10 in some food sources such as organ meats, fatty fish, soy beans, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as supplements.

CoQ10's main role is in energy production, but it is also important for treating heart failure, helping with fertility, reducing headaches, improving exercise performance, decreasing insulin resistance, and decreasing the risk of cancer.

One study showed that supplementing with CoQ10 improved insulin sensitivity and regulated blood sugar levels. Additionally, a study with 420 people with heart failure showed that supplementing with CoQ10 improved their symptoms and decreased their risk of dying from heart problems.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for bone health, red blood cell formation. energy levels, cognition, and mood. It also supports normal functions of nerve cells and DNA synthesis.

B12 is primarily found in meat and dairy foods, so vegans need to take a supplement or get injections. Having a B12 deficiency can result in a reduction of red blood cell formation and megaloblastic anemia.

B12 is also important in maintaining bone health. One study found that in 110 people with celiac disease, low levels of vitamin B12 were associated with decreased bone mineral density. If you struggle to get enough vitamin B12 through diet, supplements are a convenient and effective way to prevent deficiencies.

Zinc

Zinc is found in a variety of plant and animal foods and plays a role in gene expression, immune function, enzymatic reactions, DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, and wound healing. While zinc is found in foods such as meat, shellfish, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds, if you have a limited diet, you may not get enough zinc through food and a supplement may be necessary.

Because of zinc's role in the immune system, research shows that taking a zinc supplement can reduce the length of the common cold by 33%. That said, you should talk to a healthcare provider about how much is right for you. Keep in mind that high zinc supplementation (more than 50mg per day) can cause a copper deficiency.

A Word From Verywell

There are many reasons why taking supplements may be beneficial. Before starting a new supplement regimen, always test your bloodwork to screen for any deficiencies. If you notice any symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, changes in mood, or difficulty sleeping, it may be worth it to look into a supplement.

Additionally, if you have any medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or gastrointestinal diseases, a supplement may be beneficial. Speak with your healthcare provider for guidance on what type and dose of supplements you should consider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I choose a good supplement?

    Because supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is important to look for one that is third-party tested. Choose supplements that indicate a Certificate of Analysis (COA) awarded by NSF, USP, or ConsumerLab.

  • Are supplements worth taking?

    Supplements may be worth taking if you have a nutritional deficiency, a medical condition which could cause a nutritional deficiency, or symptoms that could potentially be improved by taking a supplement. For people who have a limited diet, medical conditions, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, a supplement may be necessary to fill in nutritional gaps.

24 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Rebecca Jaspan is a registered dietitian specializing in anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, as well as disordered eating and orthorexia.