The 3 Supplements This Celebrity Nutritionist Never Leaves Home Without
I'm a big believer in getting most of your nutrients from food. However, some can be a challenge to get from even the healthiest diet. That's why I recommend a few well-researched supplements for nearly everyone. Specifically, the nutrients that support critical functions like solid sleep, digestion, and stress management.*
Consider that last one. No doubt, the year 2020 dialed up our stress a few notches. When you're stressed, over time every area of life is affected: sleep, relationships, mood, and even your gut. What you eat, how you move, and your mindset all affect stress levels as well as sleep and digestive health.
When you're doing all of these things correctly, in my experience, these three key supplements create a strong foundation for rock-star health:*
Magnesium is the aaaah mineral. Especially when I'm having a stressful day (looking at you, all-day Zoom meetings or a three-hour flight delay!), I reach for magnesium.*
What's more, energy production, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation all depend on sufficient levels of magnesium.*
Stress and magnesium insufficiency goes hand in hand. Stress can deplete magnesium levels, which dampens the body's ability to manage stress. Conversely, having sufficient amounts of magnesium can help your body better handle anxiousness and stress.*
Most of us are low in magnesium; in fact, at least 60% of people in the United States don't get the recommended daily amount of magnesium through foods alone.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium varies by age and gender. For folks ages 19 to 30, the RDA is 400 mg (men) or 310 mg (women). For those 31 to 50, you'll want to get 420 mg (men) or 320 mg (women).
While good sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, the reality is, getting sufficient magnesium from food alone is challenging. That's why I recommend magnesium supplements to nearly everyone; I prefer an option with magnesium bisglycinate, which absorbs much better than other forms.*
When you're stressed out, you don't sleep nearly as well. Subsequently, poor-quality sleep can dial up stress levels throughout the day.
In one study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, workers who slept for five or fewer hours experienced increased amounts of perceived stress. Perceived stress is the thought or idea of something threatening rather than actually experiencing something threatening.
Stress can make falling or staying asleep a real challenge, but a targeted sleep supplement can help you meet your ideal eight- to nine-hour sleep quota.* One of my favorite supplements is melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. Supplementing with melatonin may benefit certain sleep challenges, including abnormal circadian rhythm patterns and jet lag.*
Melatonin levels decline gradually with age. Researchers suspect that may be one reason why quality sleep also declines as we get older.
It's worth noting that a melatonin supplement may help you fall asleep but doesn't necessarily improve sleep quality or duration.* That's why I prefer taking melatonin combined with other nutrients. L-theanine, found in green tea, is one of them. Research shows that this amino acid promotes quality sleep by reducing anxiety and promoting calm.*
Sleep hygiene is also critical. For me, that means turning off electronics a few hours before bed (that email can wait till morning!), sipping chamomile tea, and taking a hot bath (and bringing along a novel!). Find a routine that works for you, and stick with it.
What and how you eat matters for digestive health. If you're eating quickly or eating while you're stressed out, you're not going to feel great after a meal. But even healthy eaters experience post-meal challenges. Stress is a big reason why: It can affect digestion, including your body's ability to manufacture digestive enzymes.
Age is another one. Your body's own digestive enzymes, especially your stomach's hydrochloric acid (HCl) secretion, slow down by the time you're in your 30s. That means you can't efficiently break down your food. You might also be low in digestive enzymes or stomach acid.
That's why I recommend a digestive enzyme supplement to nearly everyone. I recommend a supplement that combines digestive enzymes and select botanicals to help break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.*
When you're digesting food well, getting A+ sleep, and managing stress levels, life gets better. And key supplements have been a real help to me in achieving these health goals.*
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert who helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food intolerance. A certified nutrition specialist, board certified Holistic Nutritionist, and Certified Exercise Physiologist, she is the author of the New York Times best-sellers The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days and The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast.