Seven supplement shelf staples
You may have heard of the “capsule” wardrobe—a minimalist wardrobe comprised of practical basics that are easily mixed and matched. Here, we’ve narrowed down the basics for your supplement cabinet. With countless supplements perched on shelves in stores and markets, it can be overwhelming to figure out what you actually need in your personal capsule cabinet. You could literally fill your entire bathroom (and then some) if you purchased everything in sight.
Luckily, we’ve tapped two of our favorite experts—Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, and Kelly LeVeque, a certified holistic nutritionist, wellness expert, and health coach—to give us the real spiel on natural supplements that everyone should keep stocked in their cabinets. It’s like taking the guesswork out of the equation—so take note and start perusing the aisles with your newfound knowledge!
1. A Multivitamin
Like the little black dress every woman needs in her closet, a multivitamin is a must for your natural medicine chest. But not all multivitamins are created equal, so it’s important to do your homework and make sure you’re buying a high-quality formula. “Just because a multiple contains vitamin E doesn’t mean it’s the best form of vitamin E,” says Bowden. The same goes for many additional nutrients on shelves. Adding a multivitamin into your daily regimen will allow you to “fill in the gaps” by adding things you may not normally take separately (think selenium and folic acid)—and cover all the supplement basics.
LeVeque suggests seeking out a multivitamin rich in B vitamins and CoQ10. “The B vitamin family consists of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), and B12,” she says. “Known for their effect on cellular energy, each B vitamin has a different specific function like reducing inflammation, supporting hormonal function, supporting nerve and heart health, and maintaining a healthy metabolism and digestive system.”
Omega-3s, found predominantly in fish oil, should be on everyone’s radar when it comes to supplements. “Virtually everyone can benefit from more omega-3 in their diet, and fish oil is the best way to get it,” says Bowden. “Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, help lower triglycerides and blood pressure, and are good for the brain and the heart,” he notes.
“Due to large doses of industrial seed oils, most of which are almost exclusively omega-6, Americans now have an average inflammatory ratio of 15:1 (omega-6: omega-3) instead of the ideal 1:1 ratio,” states LeVeque. Look for omega-3 capsules containing both EPA and DHA omega-3s. LaVeque recommends cod-liver oil (which contains both EPA and DHA) stored in a dark bottle to prevent oxidation, or an algae-based omega 3 with vitamin E added to prevent oxidation.
Insider tip: Concerned about unpleasant fish-oil burps? Store fish-oil capsules in the freezer to solidify, take them right before eating a meal, and, most importantly, make sure you buy a top-quality brand.
In addition to omega-3s, Bowden also touts omega-7 supplements—which can be found in fish and sea buckthorn (although he prefers those that come from fish). “In one study at the Cleveland Clinic, omega-7 was found to lower inflammation by over 40% (as measured on the hs-CRP test, a standard test for systemic inflammation),” he relays. “The dose used in that study was 210 mg, which is the dose I recommend.”
Often referred to as “good bacteria,” probiotics are responsible for keeping your gut and skin healthy, while also boosting the immune system. “[It’s] one of the biggest areas of research in nutrition right now,” says Bowden. “We know that the health of the microbiome affects just about everything and is related to obesity, schizophrenia, depression, and probably many more conditions yet to be uncovered.”
Shopping for probiotics, however, can be tricky. You’ll want to research different types of strains. Most good formulas include a blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. And make sure they’re in proper packaging. Look for an opaque container to protect against damage from light.
Another often overlooked supplement is magnesium. “[It’s] needed for over 300 biochemical reactions [and] almost no one gets the optimal amount,” says Bowden. It opens up the arteries, lowers blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, and helps with muscle cramps, to name a few benefits.
Additionally, LeVeque notes that “[magnesium] is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione, responsible for boosting our immune system and fighting inflammation.”
If anti-aging is a top concern, you’ll want to add resveratrol supplements to your arsenal. As one of Bowden’s top 10 supplements, it packs a punch when it comes to fighting signs of aging—and also acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
“Most companies standardize their resveratrol to 10% trans, meaning that only 10% of what’s on the label is the kind of resveratrol you actually need,” says Bowden. So a
500 mg capsule “standardized for 10% trans” would deliver only 50 mg of the bioactive compound. It’s best to seek out a brand that uses 100% trans-resveratrol to reap maximum benefits.
Resveratrol packs a punch when it comes to fighting signs of aging—and also acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is often overlooked as a must-have when it comes to supplement staples, but is something everyone should keep handy for a bevy of standout reasons. “More than 100 million Americans are deficient in vitamin D,” says LeVeque. “Every cell in the body has a receptor for vitamin D, and it has the ability to affect up to 2,000 genes. [It’s] a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for immune regulation, absorption of calcium and phosphorus, maintenance of healthy bones and protection against multiple diseases including cancer,
type 1 diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and the flu.”
“[Vitamin D] is more like a hormone than a vitamin,” states Bowden. “Low levels are associated with more diseases than you can count—from seasonal affective disorder to MS to cancer—and almost no one gets enough. Ask your health practitioner to check with a blood test and try to get your levels up to at least 50 ng/ml.”
Supplements 101: First-Aid Hacks
So your cabinet is stocked with all the right supplements for everyday well-being and general health. What about treating minor mishaps? Take note of these helpful first-aid hacks. Here, Kelly LeVeque and Jonny Bowden share at-home tips that involve kitchen ingredients and supplements you most likely already have lying around the house.
Scratchy throat? As soon as first signs arise, LeVeque suggests mincing a garlic clove and mixing with a pinch of salt and one tablespoon of olive oil. Add in a zinc tablet, and voilà—kick your sore throat to the curb.
Whether a result of too many cocktails at happy hour or dehydration, LeVeque’s headache cocktail is one to write home about. “I normally take an extra strength dose of omega-3, drink 20 ounces of water, take a shower, and (if I can) lie down in a cool room until it’s gone.”
Muscle cramps can be downright painful. Bowden suggests using a powdered magnesiÁÁum formula at night if you feel muscle cramps coming on. “It gets right into the bloodstream and works like a charm,” he says.
Stuffy sinuses are a common occurrence when temperatures drop. Instead of buying over-the- counter medicine (which doesn’t actually fix the issue in the first place), turn to what you’ve most likely already got. “Rinse the nasal cavity with warm salt water using a Neti pot (nasal irrigation device available at supplement stores), and then lightly lubricate the inside of your nose with coconut oil to add an antibacterial barrier and lubricate the dry, cracked skin,” says LeVeque.
Muscles feeling tired and achy after a vigorous workout? LeVeque recommends taking a nice, hot Epsom-salt bath, then stretching out the muscles using a foam roller or yoga balls.