30-Day Get Lean in 2018 Challenge Day 26: Do You Really Need Supplements?

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Track your micronutrients in the LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate Calorie Tracker. (Image: Kristen Schellenberg / LIVESTRONG.COM)

It seems like every other week, a new supplement is on the market, claiming to reverse aging, make your hair and nails grow longer or help you lose weight. So what's the deal with these supplements anyway?

For the most part, your healthy diet should provide you with the majority of your nutritional needs — both macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein) and micronutrients (iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamins A, C, D, E and K, just to name a few).

Best Food Sources of Vitamins and Minerals

It's much easier for your body to digest food sources of these nutrients than taking them in pill form. So here are your best bets when it comes to eating your micronutrients.

  • Vitamin A: carrots, pumpkins, spinach, magoes, sweet potatoes
  • Vitamin B-12: meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, fortified soymilk and cereals
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, bell pepper, spinach
  • Vitamin D: fatty fish and fortified milk and cereal
  • Vitamin E: green, leafy vegetables and whole grains and nuts
  • Vitamin K: eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, kale
  • Iron: red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread
  • Calcium: yogurt cheese, milk, salmon, leafy vegetables
  • Magnesium: spinach, broccoli, legumes, seeds, whole-wheat bread

Which Supplements Should You Add?

Sometimes you need a little help filling in any nutrient gaps. Luckily, there are vitamins, minerals and supplements to help you when you need it.

The supplements section in your pharmacy or grocery store shouldn't freak you out — provided you know what to consider and what to avoid. Just be forewarned, just because something is a supplement, doesn't mean it's healthy or that you need it. And if a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

To get you started, here's a sampling of the best supplements:

  1. Omega-3 fats help lower cholesterol and may positively impact learning and brain health as well as reduce the risk of heart disease.
  2. Glutamine is an amino acid that supports digestive health and may help strengthen the immune system.
  3. Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) supports heart health, reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.
  4. Probiotics boost the immune system and promote intestinal health.
  5. Vitamin D reduces inflammation, promotes bone health and boosts immunity — and the majority of Americans aren't getting enough.

When shopping for supplements, keep in mind that they aren't as strictly regulated as regular food, so it's vital that you scrutinize the labels. Any product worth your money should be certified by a trusted third party, such as the United States Pharmacopeia or NSF International.

Look for the approval symbol from either of these when supplement shopping. As with any supplement, you'll want to check with your doctor first before taking because they can interact with different medications.

Figure Out Your Supplement Needs

Track your micronutrients in the LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate Calorie Tracker —available on desktop and for iOS and Android devices — so you'll know how supplements impact your health and what vitamins or minerals you might need.

We want you to be well — and well-informed — so you can be smart about your supplements, maximize your transformation and get the results you desire.

How to Join the 30-Day Get Lean in 2018 Challenge

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Tracking is easy with MyPlate. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

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