We’ve all heard the hype about various health solutions: vitamins, supplements, herbs, and “superfoods.” It’s easy to believe that natural herbs, leafy plants, and bright-colored fruits and vegetables are good for us, but it’s not always easy to know which ones are best for our particular needs. And the science always seems to be changing: one day this is the “superfood,” the next day that is; one day this supplement is absolutely necessary, the next day it’s unnecessary.

So how can you choose the right supplements? It may not be as tough as you think.

Start with the basics

Let’s assume that you’re already doing your best to diet and exercise. These are the most important things you can do to keep yourself at a healthy weight, but they’re not always enough for your total health. Being in good shape isn’t the same thing as being healthy – it’s a part of being healthy, but it’s not the whole story.

That’s because your body needs a lot of vitamins, nutrients, and other substances to keep itself functioning properly. Your body fat percentage is almost entirely a function of calories in vs. calories out, so being skinny doesn’t mean you’re eating the right kinds of foods, only that you’re not eating too much food. So the next step is to eat healthy: a variety of foods, lots of plants, and all the other stuff you already know.

But getting all of your required nutrients is still tough. “Superfoods” are a good solution – they earn their name by having tons of great nutrients and other essentials crammed into them. But you can’t eat kale all of the time, and even healthy diets aren’t always going to be perfectly balanced. So you’ll need some supplements. And the best place to start is with the most basic supplement of them all: a multi-vitamin.

A daily multi-vitamin will give you a nice broad selection of key vitamins and minerals. It’s the perfect companion to a healthy diet. It’s worth comparison shopping a bit, but any multi-vitamin is better than none.

Expanding your supplement plan

After you have your daily multivitamin, consider adding to your supplement plan. Start with popular supplements that are as well-regarded by doctors as they are by your local health food store manager. That means fish oil, probiotics, and antioxidants, among others.

Then, consider any of your particular needs. There are supplements known to help with diseases as diverse as parkinson’s and depression. Do your research online and speak to doctors as well as supplement sellers; you’ll see that not all supplements have the same quality of reputation.

Finally, you can experiment with other supplements and see what works for you. The internet and your local health food store are both good sources of advice. While supplements aren’t as heavily regulated as medications, they’re generally quite safe, so for the most part your only risk is the loss of a few dollars on a supplement that doesn’t affect you!

By building off the base of a healthy diet and a simple multi-vitamin, you can quickly develop a custom supplement plan that makes sense for your particular needs.

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