THE BIG 4
Build a solid foundation for vibrant health with these four key supplements.
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- An ideally dosed multivitamin/mineral
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Coenzyme Q10 (as ubiquinol)
The Egyptian pyramids have lasted for more than 4,000 years because of one thing—a solid foundation. Your supplement regimen needs a sturdy base too.
The supplements comprising this level support basic life processes, such as cellular energy production, growth, repair, and regeneration. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, you need the same foundational supplements as everybody else. Think of them as the essential nutrients for living well as a human. They include four building blocks:
1. An Ideally Dosed Multivitamin/Mineral
The very first and most important supplement of your foundation is an ideally dosed daily multivitamin/mineral.
Never think of the basic vitamins and minerals as outdated. From vitamin A to the mineral zinc, your body is totally dependent on these nutrients for optimal health. You can always live without the latest Amazonian herb that claims to cure everything, but you can never live without vitamins and minerals.
It can’t be stressed enough, though, that not all multivitamins are the same. There are your basic, bare-bones multivitamins that provide minimal doses of some essential nutrients. And then there are your robust multivitamins that deliver ideal doses of a full spectrum of essential nutrients.
What is the main difference between these multiples? Dosage. The first type is based on the government’s “recommended dietary allowance,” or RDA, and the second reflects what is called the “ideal daily intake,” or IDI.
To fully comprehend the difference between these two approaches, we have to go back a little bit in time. Have you ever wondered who established the RDAs for all the vitamins and minerals, and how they got the numbers they did?
During World War II, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) had a goal of preventing nutrient-deficiency diseases in the armed forces, in civilians being rationed food, and in children enrolled in school lunch programs. The NAS created a committee, later named the Food and Nutrition Board, to answer questions such as: How much vitamin D is necessary to prevent rickets? How much vitamin C is needed to prevent scurvy? How much vitamin B1 (thiamine) is required to prevent beriberi?
The numbers the committee members agreed to in 1941 became the RDAs, which are specific to life stage and gender. Although they’re updated every five to 10 years, the RDAs haven’t changed significantly over time.
Today, most conventional doctors use recommended daily intakes or RDIs, instead of RDAs. These are basically the same thing, but they’re broader in scope because they establish the daily dose needed to keep 98 percent of people healthy (or, more accurately, free of nutrient-deficiency diseases).
Here’s the point: Both the RDAs and the RDIs are pretty much useless, because they set the bar very, very low. It’s time for our government to stop asking, “What level of a nutrient prevents horrible, disfiguring diseases?” and start asking, “What level of a nutrient will create the most vibrant, optimal health in human beings?”
And that’s exactly what the IDI does. This ideal dosing system is based on research proving the positive benefits of vitamins and minerals in treating various age-related disorders.
Get into the habit of looking at the back of the label—where the Supplement Facts are—not the front. Look at the doses. Are they based on the RDA/RDI or the IDI? The chart on the right can help you identify an ideally dosed multivitamin.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The second supplement of your foundation is a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement. In the simplest terms, omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats. They’re sometimes called “essential fatty acids” because, quite simply, they are essential to health. Yet your body can’t make them, so you have to get them either through your diet or supplementation.
The United States hasn’t set an RDI for omega-3 fatty acids yet, but several other countries have, including Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Japan. It usually falls somewhere between 300 and 500 mg per day of EPA and DHA—the primary omega-3 fats you want.
The recommended 300–500 mg per day, however, is a bare minimum. If you have cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association recommends 1 gm of fish oil daily. And raise that dosage to 2–4 gm if your triglycerides are elevated.
How can you find a high-quality fish oil? Look for the IFOS score. IFOS stands for International Fish Oil Standards. It’s an independent group that measures purity and potency. Purchase only fish oil products with an IFOS of 4 or 5.
3. Ubiquinol Coenzyme Q10
The third supplement of your foundation is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), in the ubiquinol form. What the heck is a coenzyme? Well, “co” means “with” or “together.” And enzymes catalyze all the chemical reactions in your body that sustain life. So coenzymes work together with enzymes to keep you alive. Sounds important, huh?
CoQ10 works with enzymes inside the mitochondria of your cells to produce energy in the form of ATP—energy your cells need to function. If your CoQ10 levels are low, you won’t just feel tired—every cell, tissue, and organ in your body will suffer because they’re all powered by ATP.
CoQ10 is best known for promoting heart health. And that makes sense, because your heart demands more energy than almost any other organ in your body. But CoQ10 has other benefits too—benefits to your brain, nerves, and immune system.
CoQ10 is naturally produced in the body, but as you get older, you make less of it. Tissue samples have revealed that CoQ10 levels tend to peak at around age 20 and then gradually decrease with age.
But it’s not just aging that diminishes CoQ10 levels. Statin drugs, used for lowering cholesterol, are notorious CoQ10 robbers. Just one month of statin treatment can lower your CoQ10 levels by 40 percent!
Finally, people with cardiovascular diseases are prone to having low levels of CoQ10 in their heart tissues, where they need it most.
Most adults probably need between 100 and 200 mg per day of ubiquinol CoQ10.
The fourth supplement of your foundation is a probiotic product. Probiotics are the good-for-you bacteria that inhabit your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. And the truth is, you are only as healthy as your gut. Your survival depends on your gut’s ability to extract nutrients from your food. When your gut health is compromised, it doesn’t matter how healthy a diet you eat—you won’t be able to access all the nutrition it provides.
Not only that, a good portion of your immune system—about 70 percent—is actually located within your GI tract. And the balance of bacteria in your gut influences how well your immune system works.
As long as you have a healthy balance of good-to-bad bacteria—most experts agree 80 percent to 20 percent is ideal—it’s OK, and normal, to host some of the bad guys. If you don’t have a healthy balance of these bacteria, digestive and immune function can suffer, resulting in problems from indigestion to inflammatory bowel disease.
So why are so many of us lacking in these friendly flora? For starters, antibiotics. Sometimes they’re necessary to combat bacterial infections. But they don’t just kill harmful bacteria—they wipe out all bacteria, including the good guys.
Other factors that can lower your levels of beneficial bacteria include drinking alcohol, smoking, stress, aging, and eating a typical, enzyme-deficient American diet.
A high-quality probiotic will provide 5 to 20 billion colony-forming units of two primary strains: Lactobacillus (which includes acidophilus) and bifidobacteria.
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Our Product Picks:
CARLSON LABS Super Omega-3 Gems, derived from cold-water fish, concentrate the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
JARROW FORMULAS Jarro-Dophilus EPS delivers eight probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria species, per enteric-coated capsule.
NATURE’S WAYAlive! Whole Food Energizer Multi-Vitamin Max Potency provides a broad spectrum of ideally dosed vitamins and minerals from whole-food sources.
OVEGA-3 Omega-3s DHA + EPA is a vegetarian/vegan way to take your essential omega-3s—it’s sourced from algae, not fish.
THE VITAMIN SHOPPE Ubiquinol CoQ10 100 mg delivers the recommended dosage (take 1–2 softgels daily) of this highly bioavailable form of CoQ10