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The Nutrients You Need Most At Every Age

From your 20s to 80s (and beyond!), nutrient requirements change. Learn how key supplements—customized to your age group—can help you feel your best every day.

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Are you starting your first job and wondering how to repay that mountain of student loans? Retired and hoping that health problems won’t force you out of your home? Or somewhere in-between?

At any time of life, dietary supplements can enhance the way you function and feel. The nutritional quality of American food has been getting worse and worse in the past few decades. So essentially, the younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ve been nutrient-deprived—at least to some degree. And the best time to catch up is right now.

In Your 20s

Building a career, establishing relationships, and taking on new responsibilities all demand a lot of energy. For women, birth control can interfere with the normal peak bone-building process that lasts until the early 30s, and folic acid should always be taken during child-bearing years, to protect against birth defects in case of pregnancy.

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For women: For energy and overall health, calcium and vitamins D and K2 for bones; folic acid (5-MTHF is the most absorbable form); among the B vitamins, B6 and B12 are especially important, as both are depleted by birth control pills.

For men: Higher doses of B vitamins (25 mg or more of key B vitamins such as vitamin thiamin, niacin, and B6.) in a multi, for more energy.

For both: To reduce the odds of colds and flu, extra vitamin C (adding an effervescent form to a water bottle is one easy way), especially if you do intense exercise, which can lower immunity.

In Your 30s

The 20s regimen is just as important. Around the middle of this decade, natural levels of CoQ10, essential for energy production in the heart and other muscles, begin to decline. In the later part of the decade, levels of reproductive hormones gradually begin to drop.

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For women: If you’re planning to get pregnant, start taking a prenatal multivitamin with extra folic acid (the 5-MTHF form) and take all the Essentials (see p. 86). Later in this decade, natural progesterone cream can help tame hormonal fluctuations.

For men: If you want children, a multivitamin with extra antioxidants can enhance fertility, as can the herb Tribulus terrestris.

For both: DIM (Diindolylmethane) or indole-3-carbinole (I3C), derived from cruciferous vegetables, help to maintain a healthy hormonal balance. And in your mid-30s, start taking 30–50 mg daily of CoQ10.

In Your 40s

Along with hormone-balancing supplements and the Essentials (see box below), CoQ10, fish oil, and magnesium for heart health become more important. And there are additional heart-healthy options.

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For the heart: Increase CoQ10 to 100 mg daily and take at least 1,000 mg of fish oil daily. Aged Garlic Extract has been shown to enhance heart function and help to prevent atherosclerosis. An extract of the herb hawthorn has been shown to help lower blood pressure.

For women: Standardized herbal extracts of chastetree berry (Vitex agnus-castus) or black cohosh can help to balance hormones.

For men: For a healthy prostate, take saw palmetto. To enhance sexual function, focus on heart-healthy supplements, as these also enhance penile blood flow (and thereby help prevent erectile dysfunction).

In Your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s …

Heart-healthy supplements become just as important as the Essentials (see p. 86). Maintaining strong, healthy bones, to prevent fractures, is another concern, and requires staying physically active—easier to do with nutrients that enhance energy production. In addition, chronic inflammation becomes more common and underlies many health problems.

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Using the 40s regimen, be vigilant about getting at least 1,000 mg daily of the key omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, and increase CoQ10 to 100-300 mg daily.

For more energy: Try 5 grams daily of ribose. The powdered form can be added to cereal, juice, smoothies, or water.

For bone health: In addition to minerals, add a protein powder to your diet, such as whey or pea.

To calm inflammation: Take curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, the curry spice. Meriva, Theracurmin, and BCM-95 are three proprietary forms that have been tested in studies.

Essentials At Every Stage

Lack of important vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and enzymes saps energy, immune function, overall wellness, and sets the stage for chronic diseases. At any stage of life, these supplements help solve these problems.

MULTIVITAMINS/MINERALS: Look for age-specific formulas, for example, with iron for younger women, and without iron for post-menopausal women and men, or with approximately 1,000 IU of vitamin D. If you don’t get about 1,000 mg of calcium daily from your diet and multi, cover the shortfall with an additional calcium supplement or bone-health formula.

See Also What’s New In Multivitamins

MAGNESIUM: Necessary to utilize calcium in bones, extra magnesium can also help promote muscle relaxation; prevent leg cramps; prevent or lower high blood pressure; help maintain a healthy heart rhythm; reduce stress; and improve sleep. Powdered forms can be easily added to a water bottle.

OMEGA-3 FATS: Vital for the healthy functioning of every part of the human body, omega-3 fats (e.g., fish oils, algae-based DHA and EPA, flax oil, krill oil, chia seeds) are typically in short supply. Take a fish oil supplement daily (consistency is key); if you’re vegan, try a plant-based version such as Ovega-3 DHA+EPA or Barlean’s Total Omega 3-6-9 Vegan Swirl.

See Also 5 Omega-3 Health Benefits

ENZYMES: Healthy digestion lays the foundation for efficient energy production, strong immunity, and overall good health. Look for formulas with a combination of enzymes to break down different components of food, including protease (for protein), amylase (for starches), and lipase (for fats).

PROBIOTICS: Rare is the person who has never taken antibiotics, which kill off healthy gut bacteria and can create a lifelong imbalance of these ”friendly” bacteria. This disrupts digestion and reduces defenses against seasonal bugs and even allergies. A daily probiotic formula helps to repopulate the gut with beneficial bugs and supports
immune function.