16 Vitamins (and Supplements) Doctors Actually Take Every Day
Medical professionals share the vitamins and supplements they take, from vitamin D to omega-3, to optimize their overall health.
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Expert-recommended vitamins and supplements
Walking through the vitamin aisle at a pharmacy can be dizzying—it feels like there are supplements for every letter of the alphabet. And people buy them: A third of Americans take multivitamins, according to the National Institutes of Health. With all the options, it can be difficult to decide what to purchase.
Before opening your wallet, remember that the best way to get your nutrients if from your diet—eat healthily, and your vitamin needs will be covered. However, even medical professionals sometimes fail to eat as well as they should; we’ve collected their go-to supplements to make up any shortfalls. You can learn from the pros, but remember to always talk with your doctor before you begin regularly taking any supplements.
$14.99, 5000 IUs, 60 count
“Vitamin D is extremely important for maintaining bone health, but from a mental-health perspective, low vitamin D levels have been implicated in depression. One in ten people in the United States will develop depression, and it causes huge losses in quality of life and productivity. I take 5,000 mg of vitamin D most days, which is a lot, but my vitamin D levels otherwise run low; most people could take 400 to 1,000 mg.” –Gail Saltz, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius.
Here are the signs of a vitamin D deficiency.
$11.98, 300 count
“Zinc is one of the most important minerals to stave off infection. It promotes immunity and helps your body resist invasion by bacteria and viruses. It is also important for nervous system development, and for moms-to-be, zinc is super important for a healthy pregnancy. In addition to recommending it to patients for general prevention, I recommend it to my allergy patients because they are generally more prone to infection. The recommended dietary allowance of zinc is anywhere from 8 to 11 mg per day, depending on your age and if you are male or female. I take a daily multivitamin that contains it.” –Tania Elliott, MD, allergist and chief medical officer of EHE Health, a preventive health company, New York City.
$26.94, 35.2 ounces
“Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient that functions as an antioxidant and boosts the immune system. Vitamin C is, of course, abundant in many fruits and vegetables, but prolonged storage and cooking diminish its content. Besides its well-known protective role against common colds, vitamin C has also been shown to have a significant and positive effect on blood vessels. Such effect has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke in large studies. As a vascular surgeon, I recommend a vitamin C supplement to patients after a vascular procedure for a faster recovery.” –Kerem Bortecen, MD, an endovascular and interventional surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates.
These are the 12 vitamin mistakes you might not realize you’re making.
$24.95, 5oo mg, 240 count
“Boswellia serrata is an herbal remedy from India considered to be the new turmeric, as it has lots of anti-inflammatory compounds. Clinical studies have shown that it can reduce inflammation as well as joint pain and swelling. The standardized extract of Boswellia in the clinical studies—called ApresFlex—is 100 mg, and it’s used in a number of good-quality joint formulas, including mine, Opti-Lite Flex. But always talk to a doctor before taking any products, especially if taking blood thinners or anti-seizure medications.” –Joe Feuerstein, MD, director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital and assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University.
Multivitamin with folic acid
$23.97, 90 count
“Although there’s no clear, direct benefit of taking a multivitamin, particularly in those who eat a well-balanced diet filled with essential vitamins and minerals, I take a multivitamin daily. Why? Well, there are potential benefits and no known risks at this time. A multivitamin can support healthy aging, as well as correct any nutritional deficiencies we may have. Additionally, I choose one that’s rich in folic acid, which is important during the reproductive stages of your life. It can reduce any potential birth defects when you become pregnant.” –Rachel Bond, MD, associate director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Here are simple ways to make your vitamins more effective.
$19.95, 200 mcg, 100 count
“There have been multiple studies on the use of chromium for diabetes, and while there has been no clear, consistent benefit for all patients, the patients who had the best response to chromium were the ones on high doses of insulin. It is thought that chromium works by improving the responsiveness of the insulin receptor to insulin, thus making the insulin work better and more efficiently in the body. As an endocrinologist who does not have diabetes but has a family history of diabetes, I make sure that my multivitamin has at least 50 mcg of chromium.” –Rashmi S. Mullur, MD, an assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism) and associate chief of Integrative Medicine at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
Curious? Learn more about the best and worst supplements for managing diabetes.
The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin
$26.53, 120 count
“Lutein and zeaxanthin are present in high levels in the retina, especially in the macula region, the part of the eye used for fine visual activities. These pigments are thought to protect the retina by absorbing blue and UV light, as well as preventing oxidative damage. A large study called AREDS 2 showed that they protected the retina from developing macular degeneration, [while another study] showed that higher levels of plasma lutein and zeaxanthin were significantly associated with higher cognitive performance. We recommend the AREDS 2 dose of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin. Although antioxidants are present in green, leafy vegetables, the absorption is not very efficient, so supplements may be useful even in people that have a healthy diet.” –Sonal Tuli, MD, ophthalmologist, University of Florida Health in Gainsville.
Find out the vitamin secrets doctors tell their friends.
$17.09, 60 count
“B6 helps with brain function, B12 helps with nerve function and mood, and folate is synergistic with B12 and helps elevate mood. Many people are turning to veganism and vegetarianism, and these people—along with patients who have digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease—do not get enough B vitamins or do not convert them correctly in the stomach. For these patients, I always recommend supplementation. You can purchase a good multivitamin with high amounts of Bs, or a multi-B has the full spectrum of B vitamins and the correct (or higher) RDA amounts. Not to worry: Excess amounts are urinated out, though your urine may be bright yellow and have a distinct smell. On extra-stressful days, I also take an extra B at lunch.” —Elizabeth Trattner, Florida-based acupuncture physician.
$14.99, 60 count
“Taking a daily probiotic supplement can boost digestive health and help to fill in the gaps when we can’t eat as well as we would like. Most people can benefit from a daily probiotic, but it is especially helpful for individuals who may suffer from occasional gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Probiotics are great when traveling, as well. There are hundreds of probiotic products on the market, but lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, the bacteria strain found in Culturelle, is the most researched one with over 1,000 clinical studies to date. There are no significant adverse effects, no drug interactions, and no contraindications to its use.” —Anish Sheth, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the University Medical Center of Princeton and author of The Complete What’s Your Poo Telling You?
$23.98, 16 ounces
“Most people probably haven’t thought much about boosting their brain function because people think it’s not something that they can improve, but they can and should if they want to extend their quality of life. The mineral magnesium is an excellent brain nutrient that I take daily. I recommend 600 to 700 mg daily in a bio-available form taken throughout the day in 200 mg doses with food and in between meals. Unless you have renal failure or kidney disease, magnesium is non-toxic and does not build up. It’s important to note that not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed. Magnesium citrate powder, like in Natural Calm, is a highly absorbable form that can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped throughout the day.” —Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a member of the Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, the Nutritional Magnesium Association’s medical advisory board, and author of The Magnesium Miracle.
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Omega-3 fish oil
$22.95, 90 count
“Research shows that omega-3, a phospholipid found in fish oil, plays an important role in blood pressure and cholesterol control. Other studies have shown it reduces the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients and the progression of age-related macular degeneration, as well as helps with rheumatoid arthritis. Due to its essential role as a structural lipid in cell membranes and its protective effects against cardiovascular diseases, as a vascular surgeon, I am a big proponent of daily omega-3 supplements.” –Dr. Bortecen
$25.64, 200 mg, 60 count
“This superstar amino acid relaxes the mind. It increases levels of serotonin and boosts alpha waves in the brain. The easiest way to get a healthy dose of L-theanine is by drinking matcha, a whole-leaf tea that’s also high in antioxidants and chlorophyll. It’s what Buddhist monks drink to induce an alert state of calm. If you have a caffeine sensitivity, drink decaffeinated green tea instead. In addition to matcha, I get L-theanine in a cortisol formula.” –Dr. Trattner
$22.17, 60 count
“Calcium is essential for many bodily functions, including heart and nervous system activity. It is also critical for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones. The recommended total calcium intake is 1000 mg per day for men and women ages 19 to 50. Women should increase calcium intake to 1200 mg after age 50; men should increase to 1200 mg after age 70. The best source is calcium-rich foods, [and you can] supplement with pills. Calcium supplements should be taken with food to ensure absorption, and divided doses during the day are better than taking the entire dose once daily. I personally get calcium from yogurt, milk, cheese, and ice cream (my favorite), and one chewable supplement per day.” —Joan Lappe, PhD, RD, professor of nursing and principal investigator at the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University, Omaha.
$26.43, 120 count
“UC-II collagen is a natural anti-inflammatory product that most people consume when they eat bone broth. It’s very popular at the moment. In one published clinical study, people who took a proprietary form of UC-II walked further and longer on a treadmill, and range of motion of their joints improved.” –Dr. Feuerstein
Beware of the warning signs your vitamins aren’t going to work.
Apple cider vinegar
$12.99, pack of 2
“The active ingredient in apple cider vinegar is thought to affect blood sugar levels in two ways. It delays the rate at which the stomach empties so there is less of a blood sugar spike after a meal, and the acetic acid in the vinegar may also work to prevent carbohydrate breakdown and absorption, similar to one of the prescription drugs that we use for diabetes. In general, this supplement tends to work better for people with pre-diabetes or a family history of diabetes, rather than for patients with diabetes. I try to use it when I eat a large carbohydrate meal. When I counsel patients with diabetes who want to try apple cider vinegar, I always warn them there is a potential risk that their blood sugar could drop, so I advise them to check their sugar after taking it.” –Dr. Mullur
Find out the ways apple cider vinegar benefits your health.
$23.66, 600 mg, 120 count
“Rhodiola, also known as Arctic root, is an adaptogenic herb that helps in times of stress and is excellent for long-term anxiety. It also helps with depression, seasonal affective disorder, and fatigue. I recommend one capsule of 100 mg, two times a day. Rhodiola has almost no side effects, but it does take some time to work, especially in the case of anxiety.” –Dr. Trattner
Next, find out the vitamin brands that doctors trust the most.
- National Institutes of Health: “Multivitamin/mineral Supplements”
- National Institute on Aging: “Vitamins and Minerals”
- Gail Saltz, MD, psychiatrist and author of The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius
- Tania Elliott, MD, allergist and chief medical officer of EHE Health, a preventative health company
- Kerem Bortecen, MD, an endovascular and interventional surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates
- Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences: “Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent: An Overview”
- Joe Feuerstein, MD, director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital and assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University
- Rachel Bond, MD, associate director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City
- Diabetes Care: “Effect of Chromium Supplementation on Glucose Metabolism and Lipids” A systematic review of randomized controlled trials”
- Rashmi S. Mullur, MD, an assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism) and associate chief of Integrative Medicine at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
- National Eye Institute: “AREDS/AREDS2 Frequently Asked Questions”
- Sonal Tuli, MD, ophthalmologist, University of Florida Health
- Elizabeth Trattner, AP, LAc, Florida-based acupuncture physician
- Anish Sheth, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the University Medical Center of Princeton and author of The Complete What's Your Poo Telling You?
- Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a member of the Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, the Nutritional Magnesium Association's medical advisory board, and author of The Magnesium Miracle
- Joan Lappe, PhD, RD, professor of nursing and principal investigator at the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: “Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers”
- Diabetes Care: “Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes”
- The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: “A Pilot Study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax®) for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)”