Choosing the most beneficial supplements for your family and your budget can be a real challenge. How can you decide which to take when you can’t afford them all?
By Kristen Smith, Contributing Writer
I doubt I’m the only one.
You walk into a health food store or visit an online health and wellness shop, start browsing, and begin to wonder if you’re missing out on the prime of health because there’s no way under the great blue heavens you could ever afford to take so many supplements.
Hmm… is that superfood green powder stuff something I should invest in for our smoothies?
I wonder if wheat grass would help me with my energy in the mornings.
My sister-in-law swears by beet juice powder. Maybe that would help me, too?
I love healthy living that focuses on prevention through nutrition. Using supplements is certainly a part of that. But you know what? I’m also working with my husband to raise a large family with a limited budget, and the bottom line is that most supplements are expensive.
What’s a family to do when you can’t afford them all?
The Real Purpose of Dietary Supplements
When it comes to choosing dietary supplements, one of the best things we can do is to remember what they can and can’t do.
No supplement can take the place of a healthy diet that limits processed foods and focuses on real, whole foods instead. All of the liquids, powders, pills, and capsules promising revived health can be helpful to fill in the gaps, but none of them should ever be our main focus.
When frugality and limited spending need to be a priority, focusing first on nutritious foods will do so much more for your health than any supplement can.
Then, with whatever extra is available for supplements, you can consider some of these based on your needs and those of your family.
Best Supplements for General Health
A Quality Probiotic
Maintaining good gut microbes is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Poor gut flora is linked to all sort of health concerns, including mental health, immunity, skin conditions, and more! I like to choose probiotics that are kept refrigerated, contain a wide variety of strains, and are free from other additives.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
Processed, modern foods tend to be very high in omega 6 fatty acids and low in omega 3s, and that imbalance can lead to inflammation in the body. Inflammation in turn can lead to a host of chronic health conditions. Supplementing with a concentrated source of omega 3 fatty acids, like a quality fish oil, can help keep the right balance of essential fatty acids and prevent inflammation.
A Food-Based Multivitamin
Ideally, we’d all get every bit of needed nutrition from our diets, but that’s typically not the case for the vast majority of us, no matter how hard we try to eat well. Adding in a food-based multivitamin is a great way to just fill in the gaps of where our diet might be lacking.
Herbal Adaptogens and Liver Support
Stress and motherhood go hand in hand. Goodness, stress and adulting go hand in hand! Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help the body deal with stress. These herbs, like astragalus, holy basil (tulsi), and goji berries, can all be taken daily to combat stress and boost general immunity.
Many adults also benefit from a quality liver supportive herb or blend. Our livers are our detoxifying organs, and with a multitude of toxins in our environment, encouraging prime liver function is wise! Dandelion and milk thistle are two fantastic herbs that are very effective and can be taken long-term.
Choosing Supplements for Pregnancy and Childhood
Pregnancy brings with it additional health concerns that can be helped with some key supplements. Along with a quality food-based prenatal vitamin and the other supplements listed above, drinking an herbal pregnancy tea offers many benefits. A healthcare provider might also suggest an iron or calcium/magnesium supplement, too.
Of course, it’s always wise to verify that any supplements you choose are safe and appropriate for pregnancy and breastfeeding later on! You can consult with your healthcare provider or a trained herbalist for information.
Growing children also can benefit from multivitamins, probiotics, and omega 3s. In the fall and winter, I like to include an immune-boosting Elderberry Plus Syrup as a cold and flu preventative, too. Sometimes I even make a liquid multi-vitamin herbal extract to use in place of a multi-vitamin!