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Some nutrients are absolutely essential for good health, and with a healthy, balanced diet, it is possible to get enough of them to avoid any health issues. The Standard American Diet (SAD), which most people in developed first world countries consume on average, is not a healthy balanced diet, instead being high in sugar, acellular carbs, heavily processed and oxidized oils, unknown additives, and more. Additionally, modern agricultural practices have reduced the micronutrient loads of most fruits and vegetables over the past 50-100 years. What’s one to do?
When switching from a SAD diet to a happier and healthier diet consisting primarily of micronutrient rich unprocessed foods, there is usually an awkward transition period where calories are reduced, yet unprocessed foods still don’t make up the majority of the diet. It is during this period, or if you’re really trying to optimize your health, that I recommend taking the following base supplement stack to cover common nutrient imbalances and deficiencies. Overall the goal should be to get all nutrients from your diet on a weekly basis, but with modern lifestyle being a factor, intelligent and appropriate nutrient supplementation can allow for a healthier lifestyle that’s easier to control on your terms.
Optimize Your Health with this Supplement Stack
All values listed for the minerals are in reference to the elemental form. The weights listed on a supplement bottle are always in reference to the elemental weight per serving, not the overall chemical weight per serving.
Take every morning/early afternoon (with a meal):
5000 - 10000 IU Vitamin D3
15:1 mg Zinc:Copper
500 - 1000 mg EPA + DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil or algae oil)
Take every evening (with a meal):
So why those five supplements? Read below!
Vitamin D is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide, affecting an estimated 50% of the global population. Even “healthy” adolescents are commonly vitamin D deficient, and that’s a big deal when vitamin D is critically important to the growth and development of a person during adolescence. A vitamin D deficiency can have wide ranging negative effects on your health, such as increased risk of infection, fatigue, depression, muscular pain, bone loss, hair loss, and more.
A Note on RDA’s: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU’s of vitamin D a day for adults, and 800 IU for those 70 and older. Keep in mind though that the RDA for a micronutrient isn’t set based on optimal health outcomes, but rather the bare minimum of that micronutrient required to prevent disease for 97.5% of the populace. Preventing disease =/= optimal health, as anyone can tell you. For example. the RDA for vitamin D is the amount needed to prevent rickets.
So what is optimal then? The Vitamin D Council recommends vitamin D blood levels between 40 and 80 ng/mL to be optimal. 40 to 20 ng/ml are classified as normal, and levels below 20 ng/mL are deficient. Vitamin D levels beyond 80 ng/ml are not achievable naturally, instead requiring supplementation, and levels beyond 150 ng/ml are classified as being toxic. After testing your vitamin D blood levels, use the graphic below to determine the amount of vitamin D needed to reach the recommended 70 ng/ml via supplementation.Without blood testing, most people average vitamin D levels of 15 - 30 ng/ml.
I recommend taking the vitamin D in the morning, as vitamin D is typically synthesized via sun exposure. As a result, it can often be stimulating, and taking vitamin D at night might impact sleep quality. I take Nature’s Bounty Vitamin D3 5000 IU supplement. If you really want to be healthy, buy a vitamin D3 pill that uses extra virgin olive oil instead of soybean oil, though the amount of oil, good or bad, is negligible in my opinion.
Zinc + Copper
Zinc deficiency, defined as a lower intake than the RDA, can be caused through reduced dietary intake, inadequate absorption, or increased body system utilization (i.e. muscle building). The most common cause of zinc deficiency though is reduced dietary intake, which illustrates just how little of this micronutrient most people consume. Remember the RDA is the bare minimum needed to not enter a diseased state.
Copper and Zinc are synergistic and antagonistic, and if too much zinc is consumed, a copper deficiency can occur, or vice versa. Typically an excess of copper happens though, with zinc being deficient. An excess of copper can lead to a variety of serious health issues, and a zinc deficiency leads to many of the same health issues:
Copper Excess Health Issues
Acne, Hair loss
Poor Immune function
Poor concentration and focus,
Chronic fatigue, and much more.
Zinc Deficiency Health Issues
Compromised immune system
Psychological and cognitive disorders
Decreased testosterone levels
Loss of appetite
Wounds that won’t heal
Lack of alertness
Increased rates of anorexia.
Copper and zinc are absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system, and an imbalance of copper and zinc throws those systems out of balance. The optimal ratio of zinc to copper to 10:1, but in the context of a copper rich diet, a supplement containing zinc to copper at a 15:1 ratio is more desirable. Jarrow’s Zinc Balance supplement (pictured above) contains 15 mg of zinc and 1 mg of copper, and I recommend to most people to take it daily to mitigate any zinc deficiencies and to help balance out their immune and endocrine systems. Have digestive issues? Zinc will help with that too.
I find zinc to have a slight stimulating effect, so it’s best taken in the morning, and also with a meal. Zinc taken on an empty stomach can cause nausea. The higher the dosage, the greater then nausea, and that’s one of a few reasons why I’m not a fan of 50 mg zinc supplements. 50 mg is above the tolerable upper limit (TUL) of 40 mg, and paired with zero copper can quickly lead to a copper deficiency. Even with a zinc-demanding lifestyle (intense exercise, regular sex, frequent sauna usage), 15 mg supplemented is sufficient, and paired with a zinc rich diet, one zinc balance pill a day should balance out zinc and copper levels nicely.
Magnesium is the second most common micronutrient deficiency behind vitamin D, and it’s critically important for a variety of processes throughout the body, such as cognition, high blood pressure, asthma, osteoporosis, muscle cramps and twitches, fatigue and muscle weakness, and an irregular heartbeat. In fact, low levels of magnesium have often been found to be a contributing factor for people with chronic diseases.
The RDA of magnesium for adults is 300 mg for women and 400 mg for men. I like to take the RDA of magnesium from a supplement daily as I know with all the exercise I do my body needs it. Magnesium citrate (pictured above) is a common supplemental form of magnesium, but magnesium citrate can cause diarrhea at higher dosages of 200+ mg. Magnesium glycinate is a better alternative, and taken before bed can also help get the body relaxed and ready for sleep. Both magnesium and the amino acid glycine have been shown to increase deep restorative sleep when supplemented with. Start with 200 mg of magnesium glycinate per night and see how you feel after a couple weeks, then bump to 400 mg and if there is a noticeable improvement, stay at that nightly dosage.
Luckily magnesium glycinate is a cheap, widely available supplement. I use and recommend Doctor’s Best High Absorption Magnesium Glycinate Lysinate.
Boron, as discussed in my in-depth research article on boron, is the second most common micronutrient deficiency in plants, and therefore likely deficient in everyone else up the food chain. That matters a lot because even though the research on Boron is limited, we knows it’s essential for the growth and maintenance of bone tissue, it greatly improves wound healing, beneficially improves hormone levels (estradiol and testosterone), improves vitamin D status, and is cancer protective, just to name a few.
On average most people ingest about 2 mg of boron a day, which is under the 3 mg or greater ideal dietary intake as shown via the scientific research. For a person with a diet low in plant products such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, their dietary intake of boron could be much less than even 1 mg boron per day.
As more research is done on Boron, its importance as a trace micronutrient will better understood. In the meantime, take zero chances and add boron to your daily supplement stack. The easiest way to do that is via borax, or sodium borate. Sodium borate is just as safe as table salt (similar LD50 as NaCl for Rats, and by extension, humans), and since it is a salt, borax is highly bioavailable. Buy a box from 20 Mule Team which is nicely refined and pure, and save a small jar for personal use. Use a 0.5 ml scoop (G82 Ultra Small Measuring Spoon), to dose ~10 mg boron per scoop.
Most studies on boron supplementation use a dose of 3 mg of elemental boron often through a compound like borax. Occasionally boron fructoborate has been used in studies on boron, but I prefer borax as it orders of magnitude cheaper, easier to use, and extremely bioavailable. 10 mg a day is what I’ve supplemented with for years, and that amount covers all the scientifically supported beneficial effects boron has.
EPA + DHA Omega-3’s
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and there are three main types of Omega-3 fatty acids: α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The two Omega-3 fatty acids that humans require are EPA + DHA. ALA is an Omega-3 fatty found in plant foods such as flax meal and chia seeds, and while it’s not necessarily bad for you, only approximately 5% converts into EPA and DHA, the primary Omega-3’s shown to have wide ranging health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a necessary and incredibly important fatty acid needed throughout the body, from the cardiovascular system to the brain. DHA and EPA have slightly different functions throughout the body, but overall Omega-3’s are essential for pre- and postnatal brain development, have a major influential on behavior and mood, are critical for cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, and are required for the building of various tissues throughout the body (skin, brain, etc).
In the context of the overall diet, the higher ones Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, the better. A too high of a Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio isn’t something to be concerned with either. It’s already very difficult to achieve a 1:1 ratio in the context of modern society, and it would be nearly impossible to consume a diet dangerously rich in Omega-3’s (over 10:1 possibly). Unless you are already consuming a seafood heavy diet also you also minimize your Omega-6 intake, the best way to ensure a good Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is through supplementation.
I wrote an in-depth price and quality comparison between 15+ different Omega-3 supplement brands, and the best bang for your buck Omega-3 supplement is Kirkland Signatures Fish Oil 1000 mg. Clocking in at $0.011 per 100 mg of EPA + DHA, you can’t find a better price, but it comes at the lowest ratio of Omega-3’s to fish oil. Because each pill is only 300 mg Omega-3’s, to reach the recommended 2000 - 3000 mg of EPA + DHA daily, you’ll need to supplement with 6.66 to 10 pills daily (split morning/night). If you’re looking for a higher Omega-3 per pill option, then Nature’s Bounty 1400 mg Fish Oil (pictured at top of article) is the best balance between price and purity. At $0.022 per 100 mg EPA + DHA, it’s still relatively well priced, and 980 mg of every 1400 mg pill are Omega-3 fatty acids. I like to split my Omega-3 supplementation up between morning/night, though you can take all the pills at just morning or night if you wish.
Of course, please consult your physician before starting supplementation of the above micronutrients, and ideally get blood work done for reference to see if you are below the levels suggested for optimal health. If your vitamin D, zinc, an omega-3 levels are low but your magnesium is fine, then you can skip the magnesium supplementation!
There are a few ways to implement this supplementation routine. If you really wish to feel the unique effects of each supplement, and learn the most about how each of these compounds can improve your general health, energy, and mood, introduce a new supplement into your routine weekly. Take notes of how you feel and any positive or negative symptoms you experience. I would introduce them in this order.
Week 1 - 5000 IU Vitamin D
Week 2 - 200 mg Magnesium Glycinate
Week 3 - 10 mg Boron
Week 4 - 15 Mg Zinc + Copper
Week 5 - 2 grams of EPA + DHA Omega-3’s
If supplementation like this is too big of a jump for you, and you haven’t trained body and mind awareness towards your nutrient intake yet, I recommend taking all five supplements simultaneously at their prescribed dosages and timings. All five working synergistically should cause a noticeable effect, just like you can feel the caffeine from a coffee.
Stefan Burns is the creator and main author of Wild Free Organic. A swimmer in high school, soon afterwards he discovered a passion for the health, wellness, and fitness fields. Stefan is a jack of all trades, expertly knowing how to use all the different wellness “tools” available to radically and permanently transform one’s health, from fasting and sauna usage to calisthenics and powerlifting.