Healthy Eating Made Easier: Supplement Assists That Work!

As we turn the page on a new year, many of us look to reset unhealthy eating patterns or counteract a season of holiday indulgences with a fresh diet. That might mean taking on keto to shed stubborn pounds, adopting a FODMAP protocol to finally solve lingering digestive health issues, or cutting out animal products to improve heart health or address climate change concerns. Whatever the reasons we may have for adopting a new eating plan, getting started can be challenging, but natural products retailers are in an ideal position to set their customers up for success as they start their diet journey. 

One way to help them get a healthy jumpstart: When customers are in your stores stocking up on produce, protein bars, and other diet staples, it’s worth encouraging them to take a trip down the supplement aisle, too. “I’m a huge believer in intelligently targeted supplementation,” says Board Certified Nutrition Specialist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, aka The Nutrition Mythbuster. Depending on the diet type, he notes, there be may nutrient gaps to fill, supplements to support healing, or savvy metabolism boosters to speed slimming results. Read on for top diet doctors’ takes on what your customers should be stocking up on before starting the most popular diets of 2024. 

The Keto Diet: The Fat Burning Favorite

Keto continues to be one of the most popular plans around for good reason: It can burn fat, reverse insulin resistance, and sharpen thinking. The plan calls for limiting carbs to approximately 20 grams per day and getting about 70% of calories from fat and 25% from protein. This shifts the body into a state of burning fat for fuel known as ketosis. 

Supplement Assists 

While keto is incredibly effective at taking off the pounds, the severe carb restriction can lead to fatigue, blue moods, irritability, and other symptoms often referred to as the “keto flu.” However, supplementing with certain nutrients can help to abate or even prevent these symptoms, notes James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., author of The Salt Fix and Superfuel. Here’s a few that may help. 

Electrolytes: When you’re burning fat for fuel, it creates a byproduct of water and carbon dioxide and the body has to get rid of the excess water. But electrolytes—the essential minerals potassium, sodium and magnesium—are flushed out along with it in the urine. “A keto diet is very low carb which lowers insulin levels, which will cause salt loss out in the urine, so there will be an increase in the need for salt on a keto diet,” explains Dr. DiNicolantonio. “A high-protein diet will increase the need for magnesium, so that is a nutrient that needs to be taken into consideration when consuming a diet that is high in protein.” Keto-friendly electrolyte products can be mixed into drinks to help replenish electrolytes. Two to consider: Natural Vitality Calm Magnesium Powder and Trace Minerals Keto Electrolyte Drops.  

Mineral water: “It’s important to offset the acid load of a high-protein diet by either consuming fruits and vegetables, or drinking mineral waters that contain bicarbonate or citrate, or supplements that contain bicarbonate or citrate,” adds Dr. DiNicolantonio. Bottled alkaline water, like Life Water or Essentia, can be a great on-the-go options.

Green powder: “There’s tons of flavonoids and catechins and all kinds of wonderful plant chemicals in vegetables and fruits, and you’re probably not getting a lot of those on a keto diet,” says Dr. Bowden. “It makes sense to supplement with a good green powder or a quality multivitamin to make sure you’re getting any trace minerals or antioxidants you might be missing.”

L-glutamine: Cravings are normal when starting out on keto. Dr. Bowden’s suggestion: “This is a really good old trick from Dr. Atkins that is quite remarkable for dealing with sugar craving: Take L-glutamine powder and stir about 1 teaspoon into water or he used to stir it into cream and drink it.” This amino acid is quickly converted to glucose in the brain, which works to satiate sugar cravings without spiking blood sugar cravings. NOW and Jarrow Formulas both offer l-gluatmine. 

The Whole 30: The Total Reset

For 30 days, dieters who take on this challenge eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, caffeine, dairy and all ultra-processed foods. Instead, the focus is on filling up on whole, unprocessed foods including meat, seafood, eggs, fruits and vegetables and healthy fat sources. People like that this protocol doesn’t require any calorie-counting or measuring, and it’s proven to be a great way to reset unhealthy patterns and identify food sensitivities. 

Supplement Assists 

The restrictive nature of this plan–especially the removal of many important fiber sources including beans and nuts and calcium-rich dairy can set you up for nutrient shortfalls that are important to bridge with supplements, cautions Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., MPH, FACP, FACSM, a member of the Scientific Advisory Team for Solaray. 

Calcium: “If you’re not consuming dairy products or enriched grains, you’re going to be missing some calcium,” says Dr. Peeke. “Why is that important? Well, you’ve got bones and the same thing goes with vitamin D. Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium in the human body. If you’re not getting calcium and vitamin D through dairy—and you better know what your levels are—and make certain your calcium supplement is something you’re taking regularly.” Dr. Peeke advises a high-quality supplement, ideally formulated with vitamin D and magnesium for optimal absorptio, like Solaray Cal-Mag Citrate with Vitamin D. 

Fiber: When you cut grains and legumes, you eliminate the most common sources of prebiotic fiber, and most people don’t get enough fiber in their regular diet, says Dr. Peeke. “That’s one when you can really screw up your microbiome, right? If you’re eliminating all prebiotics except for fruits and vegetables, there’s a good chance you’ll be low in fiber.” Dissolvable prebiotic fiber powders, such as SunFiber or pure psyllium husk, can bridge gaps and promote regularity on Whole 30. 

Quality multi: “You want to protect yourself from crazy days. Sometimes you start the day pretty good, but your schedule gets away from you and all you get is a protein bar at lunch and now you’re going to be missing all those nice micronutrients and macronutrients. That’s why I recommend taking a really good multivitamin,” says Dr. Peeke. “I like the liposomal multiple vitamins because they tend to be able to give you higher levels of absorption of the micronutrients and other vitamins in it.” Solaray offers Liposomal Multivitamin Universal. 

Plant-Based/Vegan: Planet-Forward Eating 

Whether your customers take on a plant-based diet for improve their health, to lose weight, or for ethical reasons, such as concerns over animal well-being, global warming or pollution, they sure to see big benefits, promises Joel Furhman, M.D., President of the Nutritional Research Foundation and author of Eat for Life. Dr. Furhman has followed a strict vegan diet himself for over 30 years, and credits the way of life with helping to slow aging and prevent age-related diseases. For optimal results, he stresses the importance of filling your plate with beans and greens and other fresh produce and avoiding ultra-processed vegan junk food that is full of sugar, oil and salt. 

Supplement Assists 

“There are some nutritional advantages from animal products that you don’t get in a plant based diet but you could make up the difference to idealize your diet and brain health and your future with health supplements,” asserts Dr. Furhman. His picks: 

Vitamin B12: “Most people are aware that vitamin B12 is missing on a plant-based diet,” Dr. Furhman. “B12 only comes from animal products, and B12 deficiency from eating only plants could lead to mental illness, dementia, and other permanent neurologic deficits that are really serious. So B12 deficiency on a plant-based diet is a significant, serious issue that has to be supplemented robustly, because when you are a strict vegan, you’re only taking the supplement once a day instead of getting a little at every meal.” He advises aiming for 50 to 100 micrograms of vitamin B12 (5-10x the RDI). One to try: Solaray sublingual B12 has been formulated for better absorption. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: “There are more than a dozen studies that all corroborate each other that show that a low omega-3 index is associated with brain shrinkage and cognitive impairment later in life,” says Dr. Furhman. “If you’re eating a healthy plant-based diet, you’re going to live longer, so you’ve got to protect your brain when you’re younger. Don’t wait to supplement when you’re older. If the brain shrinks, it’s harder to build back up growth that the brain has lost.” He sells a plant-based DHA/EPA supplement made from algae at DrFurhman.com. Barleans and Carlson Labs also offer high-quality plant-based omega-3 supplements. 

Zinc: “Zinc is an important nutrient relating to immunosenescence but it is poorly absorbed from plant foods compared to animal products or meat. Vegans absorb only half the zinc present in food,” says Dr. Furhman. That’s because phytates in zinc-rich plant foods like beans and nuts bind to the mineral and block absorption. “Vegans need about double the amount of zinc that’s recommended for the RDI. Zinc supplementation is associated with lower risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer and lower risk of dementia, and higher function in later life and low risk of infectious disease, like pneumonia.” 

Iodine: Dr. Furhman advises limiting salt, and as table salt is the main source of iodine for most Americans, it may help to supplement with 100 to 150 micrograms of iodine daily. “Studies demonstrate that low levels of iodine could cause hypothyroidism and excessive amounts of iodine can also cause hypothyroidism,” says Dr. Furhman. “The thyroid shuts down if you take too much. There’s a little window of excellence there.” 

Vitamin K2: This nutrient, found in fermented foods and cheese, has shown great promise in promoting strong bones and preventing calcifications from being deposited in joints and the heart, says Dr. Furhman. “K2 directs calcium toward the bones and away from the heart and it’s linked in many studies to a reduction of osteoporosis in women as they get older. So if you’re not eating fermented foods or cheese, it’s important to supplement.” 

The Low-FODMAP Diet: The GI Fix  

This plan is an elimination diet that aims to reduce exposure to a specific type of carbohydrates that are harder for people to digest. These carbs include fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (aka FODMAPs). High FODMAP foods to avoid include fruits and vegetables like onions, garlic, apples, and artichokes, legumes, wheat and rye-based cereals and breads and some nuts and seeds like cashews and pistachios. 

“I see this approach really benefiting patients with digestive problems ranging from dysbiosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO),” explains Kristen Bentson, DC, author of The Cool Girl’s Guide to the FODMAP Diet and thefodmapdoctor.com. “The way that I explained it to patients is that in the gut, the  fermentable carbohydrate load can be like a pot that’s on the stove about to boil over. What we’re trying to do is kind of bring that whole pot down to a simmer by lowering that load. And as we do that, it really reduces a lot of symptoms, including gas, bloating, distension, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation.” 

Dr. Benston notes that this is a clinical plan that’s best done under the supervision of a nutritionist or doctor. But the FODMAP App from Monash University can be a great helping hand for those looking to get started on the plan. 

Supplement Assists 

Because the low-FODMAP protocol involves avoiding many otherwise nutrient-dense foods like certain fruits and vegetables, high-fiber whole grains and dairy products, supplements can be especially beneficial for bridging nutrient gaps. Plus, Dr. Benston recommends certain supplements that can support the gut-healing goals of the plan. Her picks: 

Probiotics: “Let’s say 99% of people are going on a low-FODMAP diet because they have digestive distress of some sort. We see that a lot of patients who have digestive disorders have changes in that gut ecology that are dysbiotic,” says Dr. Benston. “There’s not enough good bacteria, too much bad bacteria and often not enough diversity of bacteria. Overall, that can contribute to a lot of digestive problems. So generally speaking, probiotics can be helpful for a lot of patients.” 

The caveat: Some probiotic products include prebiotics fibers like inulin or fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which fall under the FODMAP umbrella and can cause digestive distress. It’s important to read the label of probiotics and look for brands without added prebiotics or one formulated with FODMAP-friendly prebiotics such as partially hydrolyzed guar gum (branded as Sunfiber) or a bacteriophage-based prebiotic (branded as PreforPro from Deerland). 

Fiber: People who struggle with constipation on a low-FODMAP diet may need a fiber supplement like Sunfiber or pure psyllium husk, advises Dr. Benston. “It should be just pure psyllium husk—not psyllium husk plus additives and junk you find at the drugstore,” she notes. “I recommend starting with a very, very small amount, like ½ teaspoon, and slowly working up till you have comfortable bowel movements.” NOW, Health Plus, and Source Naturals offer additive-free psyllium husk. 

Multi: “I am a big fan of a high-quality multivitamin that covers the bases. A lot of patients who have dysbiosis and digestive issues trend more towards malabsorption, so they’re not really absorbing all of the vitamins and minerals from food,” says Dr. Benston. “These patients tend to benefit from better energy, stronger hair, skin and nails, and other broad health improvements when they take a high-quality multivitamin.” It’s important to read the label to ensure products don’t contain sneaky binders, fillers or high-FODMAP ingredients. Pure Encapsulations is one she recommends. Bluebonnet Nutrition, Solgar, and Solaray also offer quality multis. 

Herbal antimicrobials: “Patients who are dealing with more bad bacteria—the opportunistic or potentially pathogenic bacteria—can benefit from herbal antimicrobials including ingredients like oregano extract, berberine and allicin,” says Dr. Benston. Allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, has been shown to be effective at combating bad bacteria in the gut. “Garlic is a high FODMAP food, but there are pure allicin supplements where they get rid of all the fermentable components.” 

Digestive enzymes: High-FODMAP foods should be re-introduced slowly. To continue to manage symptoms, some people benefit from FODMAP-specific digestive enzymes, says Dr. Benston. “There is a product on the market called FODMATE [from Microbiome Foods] that contains digestive enzymes that can help to break down some of the higher FODMAP foods. Patients take 15 to 30 minutes in advance of eating a meal, and it can be really helpful, especially when patients are eating out or not having as much control over their food preparation.” Also check out options from Enzymedica.

DASH Diet: The Heart-Healthy Plan 

Dubbed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), this flexible low-fat, low-sodium, calorie restricted diet is endorsed by the American Heart Association and is frequently recommended to improve health health risk factors by health care professionals. It encourages limiting saturated fat, red meat, sugar and salt, and emphasizes filling up on fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein like fish and poultry. One recent study in The American Journal of Cardiology concluded that following a DASH diet was associated with a 10% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

Supplement Assists 

This moderate diet approach does a good job of covering most nutritional bases, but supplements can still lend a helping hand—especially where heart health is concerned, notes Dr. Bowden. Some top picks: 

Co-Q10: “If you’re on a statin drug, high-dose Co-Q10 is a high priority,” says Dr. Bowden. This potent antioxidant is thought to improve cellular energy production and help protect against blood clots. It can help prevent certain side effects such as muscle pain associated with statins. 

Flaxseed Oil: “For general metabolism and overall health, flaxseed oil is a great addition,” says Dr. Bowden. “It really does seem to have miraculously wide ranging effects on blood pressure on all these metabolic parameters like blood pressure and blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. I recommend one that’s formulated by Barleans, which has the studied combinations.” He also recommends fish oil as a foundational supplement as it’s one the most anti-inflammatory compounds on the planet. 

Blood orange extract: A standardized extract of Sicilian blood oranges (branded as Morosil from Bionap) may help improve weight loss results. “Morosil has been found to give you a little metabolic edge if you’re looking to be able to kind of optimize your body composition,” says Dr. Peeke. Look for Morosil in supplement blends like Solaray’s Her Life Stages Postmenopause and Life Extension Body Trim and Appetite Control. WF

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