A Wise Guide to Vitamins and Dietary Supplements

Recently I was talking with one of my favorite workout partners and chocolate-eaters-in-crime. She and her husband have been following a lifestyle diet developed by Belldon Colme, founder of the Nutri-90 Programs, and author of No One Ever Got Fat From Calories. After following the program, my friend Alli and her husband’s great efforts earned them notable results. The topic of our chat the other day, though, was about supplements. Colme had told Alli and Charles to refrain from taking any of the vitamins or fish oils in their cupboards, at least for the time being.

Guide to Vitamins and Dietary supplements

The heart of conversation, that if we eat right, we don’t need supplements, made my head spin once again on a nutrition related topic. In order to find out if I am wasting money on my Vitamin D and cod oil, I have chomped into and digested some research about what benefit we might get from supplements. The research has also offered insights about when and how to take various supplements.

Do I really need the supplements, or can I just take my money and buy another pair of Rothy’s?

While it depends on which expert you ask, Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and Chris Kresser, a leader in the world of integrative health today, both advocate for supplementation.

In one blog post, Kresser argues for “maintenance supplementation” even if you are eating clean. He explains that even if you are diving forks into kale salads and chomping into farm-raised chickens, certain aspects of our daily lives (such as chronic stress, less sleep and “a decline in soil diversity”) are often prohibiting us from getting all of the vitamins and nutrients we really need to maintain our optimal health.

While Sisson and Kresser are very mindful about the nutrients they pack into their bodies — through the ancestral, or Paleo diet — they also both acknowledge that fish oil, prebiotics and probiotics, to begin, can work in tandem with our healthy diets to help us maintain our best health.  We at aSweatLife also encourage you to speak with your doctor about what your specific body may benefit from most.

Alright, I’m still eyeing the new loafers, but I believe buying the supplements is money well-spent. How do I get on an effective schedule?

If, like me, you are buying into the vitamin regime, when and how you take that magnesium and Vitamin K is mighty important if you want it to be absorbed into your system, or you may quite literally be flushing money down the toilet. Here is a quick guide to the most common vitamins and dietary supplements:

Vitamin D: The best way to get your Vitamin D is from the sun — taking care not to sizzle in the sun — but due to geographic locations and often less time in nature, many of us are deficient here. A Vitamin D supplement allows us keep our heart healthy as well as to keep those bones strong so that we can be squatting into our next decade.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so take it with healthy fats — think buttery avocados and creamy nut butters. If you have worked with a licensed doctor or dietitian and decided to also take Vitamins A, E or K, they also fall into this category. These vitamins offer a perfect reason to whip up this smoothie from vegan recipe goddess OhSheGlows.

Calcium: This is another key player in keeping our bones from getting brittle. An important health hack: avoid anything labeled “calcium carbonate”— while it may be cheaper, it is harder for your body to absorb. It is also wise to split your calcium pill in half (each half weighing in at 500 mg) and take each half at different times of the day so that your body absorbs it entirely. Absorption is also boosted if you take this vitamin with your meals.

Iron: Supplementing this mineral will help you fight anemia, though this is not an issue that everyone faces, so make sure to have your doctor test your levels at your next exam. The first deal is, calcium, zinc and iron are kind of like besties who’ve had a falling out. While they all complement your health, you don’t want to put them in your belly at the same time as they’ll all fold their arms and offer each other, and in turn you, the silent treatment.

Iron is actually best taken on an empty stomach — acting something like the only child that just needs some time alone; if you do take iron with food, it might do battle with your food and cause some digestive issues. Do wash iron down with a lot of water as swimming boosts her mood.

Fish oil: Often, in our modern diets, we consume more Omega-6s than we do Omega-3s, which, according to Sisson, leads to a constant state of inflammation. While digging into fresh water fish is a delicious way to consume fish oil, most sources advise against eating fish more than twice each week due to heavy metal content.

Enter Sisson’s convincing argument for supplements: “The research on fish oils is extraordinary, showing benefits across the board from decreased risk for heart disease and cancer to lowering triglycerides, improving joint mobility, decreasing insulin resistance and improving brain function and mood.”

While the rules here can be broken without notable consequence, most sources do recommend taking fish oil with food, or while sipping your favorite smoothie. Some research shows that taking fish oil with a high fat meal may really boost absorption.


While this is not a comprehensive list, if there is one takeaway, it is this: the benefit you get from these dietary supplements is directly related to how and when you take them. Be sure to read the directions, speak with your trusted medical profession, and do a quick Google yourself when necessary.

Eat Nutrients & Supplements

About Jamie Bacigalupo

Having first traveled from her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to live in Quito, Ecuador, she decided to give the East a run and is now a resident of Shenzhen, China. She earned her degree in Communication Arts/Literature and Communication and Secondary Education from Gustavus Adolphus College and is enthusiastically exploring Asia by teaching abroad. She digs hanging out with her students by weekday, and relishes finding new restaurants to eat authentic Chinese food and finding new hiking paths on the weekends. In addition to sticking her nose in a book to recover from an intense workday, Jamie also loves exploring all manner of flavors in the kitchen, especially when she is whipping up some recipes for her friends and family.