The Paleo Diet is one which aims to nourish our bodies in as natural a way as possible so that we are prepared both physically and mentally to cope with the day to stresses of 21st century life. To do so, eating a paleo diet involves choosing healthy, locally sourced fresh food instead of processed options. When we eat a balanced diet following the paleo regime we are giving ourselves the best chances of keeping our bodies enriched with the wide variety of vitamins and minerals that they need. But sometimes we need some extra help. This is when taking supplements on a paleo diet is necessary.
When we are making the change from a diet which hasn’t been as nutrient rich we may embark on a paleo lifestyle with existing deficiencies. When this happens, despite our best efforts in choosing healthy options now, our past choices can leave us feeling fatigued, stressed and overwhelmed. As we mentioned in our last post, living a paleo lifestyle is more than the food we eat. It also involves reducing stress and making time to enjoy activities that get our bodies moving. Let’s be honest, that can be very hard to do when you’re feeling run down.
If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do as a first port of call is to book yourself in for a blood test. Needles? Yeah, we don’t like them either, but making the time to see your health professional and find out what you’re lacking in will set you off on the right track when you start to make choices about supplementing.
Once you know what you’re deficient in you can make informed decisions about how to increase the amount of this nutrient in your diet. Many people opt for a catch all multivitamin that provides a range of vitamins and minerals for optimal health. These are fine when you want to keep yourself ticking over, but when you’ve made a serious decision to opt for a paleo lifestyle, you will, most likely, want to take a little more control over your supplementation than this approach allows for.
You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are unnecessarily popping pills left, right and centre. To aim for a balanced approach to taking supplements on a paleo diet, identify those nutrients you are only slightly deficient in which you can top up with your diet. Our nutritionally balanced meals should help you to get the best mix of nutrients you need, but to tackle a deficiency you can choose your meals from our options to boost particular areas of your diet.
If your doctor has informed you that you have a significant deficiency in a particular area, then it is reasonable to consider taking a supplement to help correct this.
In Ireland, due to our weather, we do not tend to get as much Vitamin D as those who live in sunnier climates. Exposure to sunshine is the easiest way to increase your Vitamin D intake and getting out and about in the fresh air is one option to consider. However, even if you already spend most of your free time outdoors, you may still find that you’re deficient, 12% of us are. Increasing your fresh fish intake may help, but if it’s a significant deficiency consider a good quality supplement.
Large numbers of people are also found to be deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids. As our bodies cannot make this nutrient which plays an important role in heart health, it is important to get it from our diet. Again, increasing fish intake can help. Many people choose to supplement their Omega 3 levels with Cod Liver Oil capsules. This article from the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute gives some great guidelines on supplementing your levels of omega 3’s.
Other Beneficial Supplements for a Paleo Diet
- Vitamin K2 – Vitamin K is most widely known as the vitamin that helps our blood to clot. However, when it comes to vitamin K, there are actually two types, K1 and K2. K1 comes from vegetable sources, while K2 comes from animal sources. K2 is believed to play an important part in reducing heart disease because it helps to reduce calcification of the arteries. Those who have digestive disorders, such as Coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease may find themselves at risk of Vitamin K deficiency and in need of supplementation.
- Magnesium -This mineral is very important in the body for a whole range of biochemical reactions. It works in assisting blood clotting, energy production, insulin secretion and uptake of calcium. When we’re low in magnesium we might experience regular headaches, fatigue, coupled with trouble sleeping and muscle cramps. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get adequate levels of magnesium through diet alone. Even if you’re eating great sources of magnesium like nuts, there are other foods which can inhibit its absorption. In this case, you should consider supplementing with magnesium if you feel that you are deficient.
- Whey Protein - Proteins are the building blocks of life and so it is very important to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of good quality protein in your diet. Most dieticians recommend that each protein portion should be about the size of your palm. However, if you are leading a very active lifestyle, you will most likely need to supplement your protein intake to help muscle repair. Whey is a great way to do this, research has shown that it helps shed pounds, increases levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) and can result in an improved immune system. Although whey is not a paleo category, if you’re struggling to get quality protein in your diet, you might like to consider it.
Is Supplementing really Paleo?
Some people feel that taking supplements on a paleo diet is ‘cheating’ because cavemen didn’t have access to them. To debunk this myth, the paleo lifestyle is about fostering the type of diet and activity lived by cavemen, but also takes into account the very real need and appreciation for the developments we have in healthcare today.
The best way to approach taking supplements on a paleo diet is to do so only as much as you need to. If you are embracing your paleo diet then you should be getting everything you need from your diet. When you’re not feeling in peak form then see your doctor and take appropriate steps to tackle any issues that present themselves. With a careful approach to supplements, you will be back to feeling great in no time!