Ian Spohn, ND, is a staff naturopathic doctor on the Bold Botanica Team who enjoys challenging the dogmas of both conventional and alternative medicine. He is a passionate supporter of the paleo diet and classical homeopathy.
With so much health advice out there, and so many supplements to consider taking, it can sometimes be overwhelming trying to decide what to prioritize. You can't take everything, and no one is perfect in their health habits, but the good news is you don't need to be. Even taking a few small steps towards better health can have a huge impact. The following are, in my opinion, the top five supplements and health practices that will make the biggest difference in staying healthy:
-Vitamins A, D, and K: maximizing your levels of these three vitamins has an untold impact on almost every aspect of your health. Vitamin D affects the function of more than 250 genes, and vitamin A more than 500. The modern diet has become sorely deficient in each of these three vitamins, so it is important to supplement each of them, or consume traditional foods that are high in them, like liver.
-Magnesium: this mineral is necessary to activate about 300 of the body's enzymes, and due to its depletion in the soil through agriculture, many foods contain less magnesium than they used to. Getting additional magnesium from a dietary supplement is important and can help with stress, sleep, and detoxification.
-Avoid processed vegetable/seed oils: though obesity has increased and general health has deteriorated significantly in the last hundred years, sugar consumption has NOT increased during this time. What has is consumption of oils high in polyunsaturated fats, especially soybean and canola. Not only do these fats reprogram the body's fat cells to store more fat, they also contribute to higher levels of inflammation and deplete vitamin E, an antioxidant crucial to preventing aging. Avoiding processed foods that contain these oils is probably the single greatest dietary step one can take for better health.
-Minimize screen time: spending time on our devices is not inherently bad, but really depends on how we are using them. For instance, you can use youtube to enjoy a symphony orchestra from the comfort of your living room, or acquire knowledge from the experience of unbiased people thousands of miles away, or you can waste hours scrolling through ads on facebook and watching pointless videos on tik-tok. Consuming trash with your mind is fully as bad as consuming it with your body, and not only are these media designed to be addictive, but research has repeatedly found that our typical patterns of media consumption cause depression and attention deficit disorders. Minimizing screen time, or using it in positive ways to broaden your mind when you can, can have a huge impact on improving your mental health.
-Exercise daily: amazingly, sitting for more than eight hours a day almost doubles your risk of diabetes, as well as increasing your risk of cancer, heart disease, and death from all causes. Research has found some of the best predictors of remaining lifespan are walking speed and lean muscle mass. It has been found that people who cannot stand up aided from sitting on the ground are likely to die within a year. These are all reasons not to underestimate the impact of regular movement and exercise. You don't need to be an athlete or obsessed with attaining a particular body image to benefit from regular exercise, even simple forms like walking regularly. Even if you don't like to torture yourself at a gym, you should make it a point to move in some fashion for an extended period every single day.