It’s a question I commonly get: “Do I really have to take supplements? I eat a healthy diet.” The simple answer is “yes.” In addition to eating a healthy diet. True, my focus is on diet, and how to maintain and manage your health with real food, however, I agree with the reasoning outlined in this book, that depleted soil health, increased toxicity of our environment, daily stress, food additives and unavoidable processed food have worked together to create a situation in which it is nearly impossible to obtain all the nutrients your body would like on a daily basis. That’s where supplements come in.
The more complex answer involves the personalization of what and how much you should take. The process of personalization can seem overwhelming, and indeed you are certain to come across misleading and conflicting information along the way. To try to simplify the process, I often recommend the Life Extension Foundation (LEF) for well-researched information as well as high quality products. It is certainly not the only source of independent research and reliable information, but it is one (of several) I use both personally and professionally.
The Supplement Pyramid, written by Dr. Michael A. Smith, Senior Health Scientist with Life Extension Foundation, and Sara Lovelady, provides a very accessible, easy-to-read explanation of why supplements are necessary, and how to determine which ones are right for you. The book includes numerous health quizzes so it doubles as a workbook to help with the personalization process. The quizzes allow you to evaluate and reevaluate the best combination of supplements through out your life, since your ideal supplement package is likely to vary as you age and health conditions change. It offers short discussions of many common health conditions (from diabetes to irritable bowel syndrome to cancer) with suggestions for supplements and blood tests to determine your personal needs. Later, the authors guide the reader through four case studies. The book concludes with two useful appendices: a list of eleven recommended nutritional supplement companies (including, but not limited to LEF), and a long list of recommend nutrients with online links for even more information.
Here’s a video sneak peek:
The pyramid structure takes into account three levels of importance when it comes to taking supplements: foundational, personal and optimal. If you can’t take the full pyramid of supplements (for financial or other reasons), this format clearly illustrates which to forego first.
The Supplement Pyramid
effectively explains which supplements fall into the Foundational level (for everyone). The next chapter guides the reader through quizzes (personal history and medical evaluations) to determine which supplements best fit into your
Personalization level. The final level is about health optimization. It includes recommendations for supplements which could help you live longer and healthier, such as additional antioxidants, amino acids, or a newly discovered longevity herb.Build Your Pyramid
If you prefer information online, the book’s authors provide an accompanying website, My Supplement Pyramid
, with nutrient information and health quizzes where you can take, store and retake (when necessary) your personal information digitally.
In this book, the pyramid shape provides a beneficial structure with which to organize and prioritize your personal supplement regimen. Following the recommendations found on its pages, may result in improved health and/or extended longevity in a solid, long-lasting way not unlike the ancient pyramids (although it is generally believed that pyramids served as monuments to the deceased).
Until recently, the pyramid format was also used by the USDA to help us assemble our meals in balanced combinations from the various food groups. That graphic was updated to a plate (with the clear visual cue in place), in the hopes of encouraging greater numbers of people to make healthy eating choices. Even if you typically fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables (which, according to Smith, is only true for 1 in 10 Americans), it is still unlikely that all of your nutrient needs will be fully met. That is where this very readable guide brings the pyramid back to the table, and aids you in making the best choices for your dietary supplements.
Dr. Michael Smith has kindly given me a second book to offer as a giveaway. This easily digestible, handy reference will be sent to one lucky reader (randomly chosen) who leaves a comment. We are eager to hear about your favorite supplement – the herbal or nutritional supplement you wouldn’t want to go without. I have two at the moment: kelp and chia seeds. Please share yours in the comments below, and good luck!
Life Extension Foundation sent me two free copies of this book through the Life Extension Blogger Program, with the understanding that I would read and review one and offer the second copy as a giveaway to my readers. The opinions in this piece are all mine. Other than being a part of their Blogger Program, I am not affiliated with Life Extension Foundation, nor am I being compensated.