When you want to maximize your health, you know that one of the first things you should do is eat a broad spectrum, emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and other foods high in fiber. This is true whether you’re healthy or you suffer from a malady such as heart disease, diabetes, any form of cancer, or other illness. And if you have one of these conditions, then you should also seek more prescriptive dietary advice from a certified nutritionist or medical doctor to learn which nutrients are particularly beneficial for your condition or diagnosis.
In addition to following a healthy diet, you should include frequent exercise as you are able and emphasize supplementation of nutrients that will particularly benefit you because of your lifestyle, diagnosis, or family history—the last is one of the most accurate predictors of future health regardless of your current status.
With that in mind, here’s our list of 10 supplements that will help you stay healthy or address a condition you may already suffer from. In addition, many of these supplements also support enhanced activity for a more robust lifestyle.
This water-soluble vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, must be consumed frequently, because the body is incapable of manufacturing or storing it. While vitamin C is plentiful in many fruits and vegetables (e.g., citrus, broccoli, red and yellow peppers), many people do not consume enough of this vital nutrient every day.
Health and nutrition benefits: Vitamin C boosts immunity, helping to stave off small infections such as colds and flus. Research demonstrates that it also helps prevent many forms of cancer. This nutrient neutralizes free radicals, harmful chemicals generated by stressors that cause cellular damage.
Activity and performance benefits: Research shows that supplementing with vitamin C supports energy and activity for both sedentary people and those who exercise regularly.
Our Pick ∗ Irwin Naturals Vita-C Plus Urgent Rescue offers 1,000 mg of vitamin C per serving.
This fat-soluble vitamin can be made by the body in the presence of sunshine and stored for future use. However, levels of vitamin D decrease in the winter, when people have less exposure to sunlight.
Health and nutrition benefits: Vitamin D, particularly the cholecalciferol (D3) form, is crucial for the production of hormones necessary for general health and sexual function. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that destroys harmful free radicals, and research shows that vitamin D supplementation helps reduce the risk of colon, breast, and other types of cancer.
Activity and performance benefits: Vitamin D3 supplementation improves the leanness of muscle tissue (yes, even muscles contain fat), and it may help increase strength.
Our Pick ∗ Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 gives 5,000 IU in extra-virgin olive oil
These are the tiny healthy “bugs” that live in your gastrointestinal (GI) system. These healthy bacteria are necessary for fighting infection, and supporting digestion.
Health and nutrition benefits: Probiotics act as mini food-processors, breaking down the foods you consume so that your body is better able to absorb the nutrients it needs to support growth and repair while fighting harmful stressors. Supplementing with probiotics helps those who have challenges digesting specific foods. There are many different strains of probiotics, and you should look for a product that supports digestion of foods you have trouble with (e.g., Lactobacillus helps you better absorb and process dairy protein). You can also seek out a broad-spectrum probiotic product that contains many different strains of probiotics for general production of microflora.
Activity and performance benefits: While activity is healthy, it can often impact digestion (and vice versa). Supplementing with probiotics also supports immune function, important for those with health issues and those who want to successfully increase activity or improve performance.
Our Pick ∗ Bio-Kult Probiotic Multi-Strain formula is a 14-strain probiotic with a minimum 2 billion micro-organisms per capsule.
Essentially, prebiotics are the forms of fiber that encourage the growth of healthy probiotics in your GI system.
Health and nutrition benefits: Prebiotics encourage your body to produce more
probiotics—this fiber is the “food” that feeds your microflora. In addition, taking in more fiber promotes health by mitigating insulin release, and it supports body fat reduction and decreases appetite. You can supplement with a prebiotic product and/or boost your consumption of prebiotic foods such as vegetables, fruits, and beans and legumes.
Activity and performance benefits: Prebiotics primarily provide long-term benefits for those engaging in strenuous activity by promoting the production of probiotics.
Our Pick ∗ Arthur Andrew Medical Floraphage prebiotic supports the proliferation of beneficial microflora with 1 billion IU per serving.
Collagen is a peptide (a short chain of amino acids), and it is the most abundant protein in the human body. While we used to consume plenty of collagen in our diets (mostly from less desirable parts of animals), we now consume far less. This makes supplementation of collagen more important for health and maintenance as we age.
Health and nutrition benefits: Collagen supports mobility and joint health, crucial for all seeking an ideal quality of life. Many people also supplement with collagen for its benefits in supporting healthy skin, hair, and nails. Getting plenty of collagen also supports the repair and maintenance of connective tissue such as
tendons and ligaments.
Activity and performance benefits: Those who exercise regularly—or those who suffer from joint pain due to torn ligaments or tendons—may benefit from collagen supplementation. This helps provide the raw materials necessary for repair and maintenance before or after injury.
Our Pick ∗ NeoCell Collagen Type 2 Joint Complex offers 2,400 mg of collagen per four-capsule serving.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant also known as ubiquinone because it is prevalent throughout the human body. While it’s found in many foods, most people do not consume an adequate amount of CoQ10. Ubiquinol is a specific form of CoQ10 that is easier to absorb.
Health and nutrition benefits: Levels of CoQ10 lessen as you age, and they are often low in people with medical conditions such as heart disease and Parkinson’s, making it a good idea to supplement. CoQ10 helps destroy free radicals generated by disease and other stressors, supporting health as we age.
Activity and performance benefits: Found primarily in the mitochondria within your cells, CoQ10 helps your body generate more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy that fuels short-term intense activity. This is particularly beneficial for those who perform vigorous exercise.
Our Pick ∗ Doctor’s Best High Absorption CoQ10 contains 100 mg of CoQ10 per serving.
This form of microalgae has been consumed for centuries for its nutritional and health benefits. While it looks like a plant, it’s really a bacteria, even though it has photosynthesis capability.
Health and nutrition benefits: Nutrient-dense in minerals and many B vitamins, spirulina provides benefits for those with diabetes, heart disease, and even ALS. Its amino acid content (more than 60 percent by dry weight) makes it a good source of protein as well. It’s also used for weight control and to support immunity as an antioxidant.
Activity and performance benefits: As with many other supplements on our list, spirulina helps athletes and those engaging in higher levels of activity recover more quickly for better performance or improved health through regular activity.
Our Pick ∗ Nutrex Hawaiian Spirulina contains 94 trace minerals and elements in each teaspoon serving.
This fraction of milk protein is digested much more slowly than other types of supplemental proteins because it is a much larger molecule that “clumps.” Think of casein as a large chunk of ice as compared to little chips—an analogy that helps you understand why casein takes longer to digest.
Health and nutrition benefits: Casein provides a slow steady flow of amino acids that minimizes the spiking of insulin, important for diabetics or those seeking to reduce stored body fat. It also helps prevent the catabolism of lean tissue when you’re trying to maintain muscle. In addition, it provides satiety for those trying to lose weight and/or control Type II diabetes.
Activity and performance benefits: Athletes and those trying to recover from activity should consider supplementing with casein shortly before bedtime to spur faster recovery and encourage muscle protection and growth.
Our Pick ∗ Ascent Protein Ascent Micellar Casein has 25 g of casein protein per scoop.
This source of protein is both green and vegan. It’s a great choice for those who choose to avoid milk protein based on lifestyle choice or allergy. Pea protein is one of the best vegan sources of protein because it has a broader spectrum of amino acids than many other plant-based proteins.
Health and nutrition benefits: A nutrition program high in protein is beneficial for those with wasting conditions or obesity. In other words, consuming plenty of protein helps support an ideal weight. Amino acids from pea protein are readily absorbed to support lean tissue (muscles, essentially), which break down when you consume too few calories with an inadequate supply of protein.
Activity and performance benefits: Pea protein is also an excellent choice for athletes or those seeking to include more activity in their daily lives. It supports recovery and accretion of lean mass.
Our Pick ∗ Plnt Pea Protein natural protein powder offers 25 g of pea protein per serving.
Whey protein is the fast-digesting fraction of milk protein. In fact, it’s one of the fastest digesting proteins because the molecules are small. To speed absorption, reduce consumption of fats and fiber — which slow digestion — before consuming whey protein.
Health and nutrition benefits: Whey provides the protein your body needs to support lean muscle tissue, and it also supports immune function, helping you fight off short- and long-term health problems. Whey protein can be consumed more than once a day to support healthy weight management and immune function.
Activity and performance benefits: Those who perform activity should consume whey protein after exercise to hasten recovery and boost muscle repair.
Our Pick ∗ Garden of Life Sport Grass Fed Whey contains 22 g of grass-fed whey protein per scoop.