Food vs Pills
Supplement. Right there in plain sight is the issue many overlook. Vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts - at best these pills are meant to supplement a healthy wholesome nutritious diet of real food. It's wishful thinking or worst to believe that downing a "Centrum silver extra chewable Flintstone fruit flavored energy booster One a Day tablet" will in any way compensate for a crappy diet. That's BS / marketing, don't fall for it.
Study after study show that food is much more than the few nutrients we can currently identify. Give one group 1000 mg of vitamin C daily and the other an orange containing 1000 mg of C and which does better - the orange group every time!
And that's if the C pill really has 1000 mg, many don't. Supplements are a largely unregulated industry. Then there is the issue of synthetic vs natural, which is more effective? And bioavailability, will it be absorbed or pass right through? Some are better taken with a fatty meal, or in the morning, but not with certain foods.
And the 800 lbs gorilla - are supplements really helpful and at what dosage in what circumstances???? For pharma grade drugs there are FDA regulations, clinical trials and double blind studies - and still they regularly get it wrong. With vitamins no such rules apply so it's the Wild west / Buyer Beware.
Pay to Play
Undeterred? If you are still eager to dive in with supplements then break out your wallet because this may very well be worth it - but it's going to cost you. If you ever complained about the cost of buying all organic produce or thought grass fed beef was expensive wait to you see the monthly price tag really good supplements come with.
Don't go cheap here though, buying the very best is the only prudent way to proceed. The difference between cheap drug store fish oil and the best omega 3 rich alaskan krill oil harvested from pristine waters, processed promptly, without heat or chemicals etc - it can be huge. One may actually be damaging and the other very healthful.
Here are my consensus picks arranged from cheap and proven beneficial to expensive and probably helpful. All the standard caveats apply - consult your physician before taking these, etc. Personally, I have never had a doctor raise an eyebrow over this list other than to question if I was wasting my money.
Aspirin 81 mg - not really a supplement but cheap and effective across so many pathways. Google it.
Olive Oil - 2-4 tablespoons a day. No need to put in a pill, use in salad dressings, dip bread in it, cook with it. Delicious and proven health benefits earn it a spot on the supplement list.
Vit D 2 - cheap, almost everyone is way low, critical to good health. They recommend taking 5000 iu per day for a month or two, then get the cheap and easy blood test - optimal range is 50-80, bump dosage up or down to get there.
Fish Oil - Contains DHA / EPA. shoot for 1-2 grams of each per day. Krill oil is the platinum standard with a price tag to match.
Zinc - 25 mg pd immunity etc, missing in factory fish, some veggies, cheap meat.
Vit B complex - helps manage blood sugar spikes amongst other good stuff
Magnesium - 400 mg pd you need it, many soils missing it
Selenium - 200 mcg missing from many soils
OK, these next ones are expensive but still show great promise...
Curcumin - found naturally in an Indian spice called Turmeric, curcumin reduces inflammation etc. Tons of good studies point to its effectiveness. Bioavailability is the challenge here. Either mix 1/2 tsp of turmeric with some olive oil and black pepper and add to steamed veggies etc or choose a supplement, one with enhanced absorption.
CoQ10 - 100-400 mg ubiquinol form - heart and immune booster, often recommended to folks taking statin drugs
Vitamin E - d alpha tocopheryl succinate, 400 iu p/day
Resveratrol - 250 p day.
GLA - 300mg
Reishi or Maitake mushroom extract
Ginseng - getting the real stuff is a challenge, my advice is to consult a good Chinese acupuncturist. Mine is Dr. Shanna Zhang is a licensed Acupuncturist and Oriental Medicine Doctor here.
Personally, I avoid cheap drug store supplements and high end multi-level marketing brands too. A good source I use but have zero financial interest in is here. They have a silly name but their rigorous science based approach, high quality supplements and wealth of free info make it a good place to start. They offer an 800 number with "advisors" on call. They are of course in the business of selling supplements so weigh out the cost / benefit ratio for yourself.
Remember - eat an awesome diet first and foremost. If and only if you have the extra cash and want to / need to cover all the bases then proceed with caution and buy only the best.