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On The Paleo Diet®, you focus on eating nutrient-dense foods. Because this is how humans evolved, you will achieve all of the recommended daily levels of every nutrient, vitamin, and mineral you need simply from the food you eat. Supplements, with the possible exception of vitamin D and sometimes omega-3s, should only be required in rare circumstances.

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Research shows that if you eat a diet centered around the most nutrient dense foods—quality meats, fruits, veggies, and fats—you’ll likely already be achieving a therapeutic dose of most vitamins and minerals. So, when you consume a supra-physiological dose by taking supplements (that can never be found in nature,) it can put you at risk of chronic disease.

You may have heard that the soil we grow our plants in today has depleted nutrients, leading to a need for supplementation. While there is some evidence that poor farming practices can lead to nutrient depletion, growing our foods sustainably can avoid this. So, supporting your local farmer’s market is a good way to avoid this concern. Ultimately, supplements should only be needed if there is a deficiency in your physiology, and that should be determined by a healthcare professional.

There are, however, a couple of exceptions. Vitamin D is classically known as an essential nutrient for bone health and immunity, however new research shows this fat-soluble vitamin has much more profound impacts on our health and well-being. Vitamin D is different than other vitamins because it’s created under your skin when exposed to ultraviolet light to form cholecalciferol or vitamin D3. However, exposure to daily sunlight is no longer the norm as we are cooped up in cubicles all day. The deeply ingrained ancestral benefits of light exposure are overlooked.

Extra long-chain fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the omega-3 “all-stars” when it comes to supporting overall health and combating chronic disease. While most people know the benefits of omega-3 fats for cardiovascular health, many don’t realize they also help reduce the risk of diabetes and depression, protect against mental stress, and even support athletic performance by improving muscle protein synthesis and controlling excessive inflammation. Unless you’re eating one to two pieces of cold, deep-water fatty fish daily, you may benefit from adding an omega-3 supplement rich in EPA/DHA.

A Paleo diet is a great starting place for your nutritional needs. However, depending on your genetics, where you live, how busy you are, and your lifestyle, diet may not be enough to correct low or insufficient levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Adding these two supplements into your regime, particularly throughout the winter months, may be the fix you need to improve your health, productivity at work, and performance in the gym.

It is best to get your blood levels tested and work with a healthcare professional if you are considering adding supplements to your diet. And if you come across someone within the Paleosphere challenging this notion and promoting the widespread use of supplementation, check to see that they aren’t the ones selling the “needed” pills.

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Paleo Leadership
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One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
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Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.