Nowadays, everyone is a supplement rep or “influencer” who swears by the product they’re pushing. We are inundated with supplement marketing everyday, which can make understanding supplements and choosing the right ones extremely challenging. But are supplements necessary?

Supplements are just that – supplements. Substances you consume to remedy a deficiency in your diet. If you are eating a plant-based, nutrient rich, diet and don’t have a deficiency then you probably don’t need supplements. Always consult your doctor or Dietician for your specific needs based on your individual factors, risks, or situation. Otherwise, stick to the below supplements.

A common question we receive is “why are supplement serving sizes way bigger than your RDA?” A serving size is often provided in an amount much larger than what the body needs because of absorption rates – aka bioavailability. Bioavailability is the degree of which a nutrient is absorbed into your system. Different vitamins and minerals have different absorption rates regardless of whether they come from a tablet, liquid, powder, or food. Calcium, for example, has an absorption rate of about 25 to 35% but other minerals may be less than 10%. The delivery form does not make a significant difference, but tablet form is generally the best option due to its greater stability. Absorption can depend on age, digestive system integrity, overall health, gender, time of day, and if they’re taken on a full or empty stomach. Therefore, it is always best to try and get your nutrients from food, which has greater bioavailability.

Protein Powders – Help to provide essential amino acids for cell growth and repair. They can be a quick way to get your macros in on the go or provide some extra flavour and texture to smoothies and baked goods.

Creatine (Monohydrate) – Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that helps with short-burst activity. Supplementing can help increase performance, especially in power lifting.

Iron (Carbonyl) – The most common mineral to be deficient in, especially for vegetarians. It helps with the transport of oxygen as hemoglobin and myoglobin, as well as promotes immune function. Low iron can result in anemia, fatigue, and increased infections.

Omega-3 (ALA, EPA, DHA) –  This fatty acid is essential for growth and development including heart and brain health. The RDA is 1.0 to 1.6 grams/day, which should include ALA, EPA, and DHA.

Probiotics – The word “probiotic” means “for life.” They are good bacteria that play a vital role in healthy digestion. We’re all born with good bacteria in our guts, but diets and stress can disrupt your natural balance of good bacteria. Having the right gut bacteria has been linked to weight loss, enhanced immune function, healthier skin, and reduced risk of some diseases.

 B12 – Helps with heme synthesis (iron) and the production of red and white blood cells. In vegetarians, it is common to be lacking in this vitamin (pernicious anemia) because the most common sources of getting B12 are animal products. Fortified foods such as nutritional yeast, tempeh, almond milk, and cereals can provide additional B12.

 Vitamin D – Helps with the uptake of calcium in the gut and promotes bone formation. Increases the release of serotonin (can be synthesized via sunshine on the skin).

Magnesium – Critical for energy production and metabolism, muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, and bone mineralization.