The Super Six
An alarming number of studies have shown that a majority of us are running low on vitamin D, says Elson M. Haas, M.D., an integrative physician in San Rafael, Calif., and author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Since D protects us from cancer and cardiovascular disease and supports healthy brain function and bone health, these low levels are a big problem. The newest research concludes that many of us have lost our ability to produce vitamin D because we repeatedly block ultraviolet rays—which spark D production in the body—with sunscreen. Getting some sun exposure sans sunblock (15 to 20 minutes a day) can boost vitamin D production.
Take 1,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (what your body naturally produces) every day. Increase that dose if your vitamin D levels are seriously depleted.
Quick tip: Up your vitamin D intake during cold winter months, when you spend less time outdoors and stay mostly covered up.
If you’re a woman headed toward menopause, there’s a good chance you’re taking a calcium supplement to keep your bones strong. If so, you should be taking magnesium, too, says Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., author of The Magnesium Miracle. “Calcium stimulates muscle contraction and nerve cell activity, and magnesium relaxes those functions,” says Dean. “When calcium and magnesium aren’t in balance in the body, too much calcium can cause muscle and nerve irritability.” Other symptoms might include anxiety, depression and high cholesterol. Dean suggests eating magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy greens and nuts, plus taking a supplement daily.
Take 400 milligrams to 600 milligrams of magnesium citrate daily in powder form. (When mixed with water, it’s more readily absorbed than capsule form.)
Quick tip: Don’t worry about overdosing— the only major side effect of getting too much magnesium is that it acts as a laxative. Cut back if that happens.
Even if you’re eating right and taking all of the recommended supplements, it still pays to take a well-rounded daily multivitamin. A good one can help fill in the gaps that that can appear in even the healthiest diet, says Haas. “It’s like insurance; think of your multivitamin as a base for everything else.”
Take a multivitamin formula that contains at least 100 micrograms of selenium and chromium and 2.5 milligrams of manganese. Also, make sure your multi includes zinc, copper, iron and vitamins D and B.
Quick tip: Opt for food-based vitamins if you can, which can be more easily absorbed.