supplements simplified

Supplements, Simplified: The Basics by Life Stage

Johanna Arnone
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Talk to a pediatrician about how supplements can complement your child's healthy diet. Studies show that kids tend to consume too few essential fats (such as ALA, EPA, and DHA), which affect brain and eye development. Probiotic supplements support a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, important for immune health. Experts recommend that everyone ages 1 to 18 take in between 600 and 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.

Extra credit: Consider chewable supplements if your child doesn't get enough fiber.

Young Adults

Start with a multivitamin to fill in nutritional gaps. Teenage girls may benefit from a formula containing iron. Unless they eat two or more servings of oily fish each week, teens and young adults are likely to benefit from supplemental omega 3s--these essential fats even contribute to healthy skin. Adequate calcium and magnesium are crucial for strong bones (the magnesium may also ease leg cramps and promote relaxation).

Extra credit: Add antioxidants and super greens to a diet low in fruits and veggies.

Expecting Moms

Consult your healthcare practitioner for advice about supplementation during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. She is likely to recommend a prenatal vitamin containing adequate folic acid and iron. Ask about healthy fats: Studies indicate that children born to mothers who consumed essential fatty acids during pregnancy have fewer allergies.

Extra credit: A knowledgeable practitioner can recommend herbs that safely promote healthy digestion, mood, and lactation.


Be sure to take a multi formulated for women. Since even the best multivitamin/mineral can't contain all the nutrients needed for optimal health, consider adding a bone-supportive formula (including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K) and omega-rich oils or capsules. Daily probiotics help maintain bacterial balance and keep yeast in check.

Extra credit: Work with an herbalist for hormone help (chaste tree, black cohosh), stress support (green tea, holy basil, rhodiola), or other health goals.


A men's multivitamin/mineral provides a healthy foundation. In addition to key nutrients, it may contain lyocpene, selenium, and saw palmetto for prostate wellness. Vitamin D helps reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and some forms of cancer; many men don't get enough. Turmeric or its powerful component curcumin, therapeutic enzymes, and omega-3 fatty acids combat inflammation, another chronic health risk.

Extra credit: Turn to medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha for stress management and immune help.


Choose a multi that matches your needs (postmenopausal women, for example, need less iron than they did prior to menopause). Fiber, probiotics, and digestive enzymes support regularity and optimal nutrient absorption, especially important as the digestive system slows. Omega 3s, citicoline (a B vitamin), and herbs such as gotu kola and bacopa help keep the brain sharp.

Extra credit: Boost eye health with lutein, zeaxanthin, and bilberry.