The Life of Your Dreams In A Pill

I get lots of questions about what, when, and how much food to eat in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle. As your nutrition coach, I know that even with a balanced diet and your meals planned for the week, you sometimes need a little extra support. Enter nutrient supplementation. This is where dietary “rubber” meets the nutritional road. At this point nutritional supplements take on the role of bit players to your healthy diet. With a lifestyle of constant motion and the on-the-go demands on your busy schedule you may feel the need to grab food wherever you can get it, including the fast food lane. I get that this is a real-life experience for many of you, even your best intentions may result in missed meals or worse yet, incomplete or inadequate nutritional support. For this reason I generally recommend taking a multivitamin with antioxidants, calcium and iron (for women of child bearing-age) as an insurance policy to protect against poor food choices.

So why is this important to you? African Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and conditions such as lactose intolerance, at disproportionate rates, compared to other groups, and therefor may benefit from supplements along with the inclusion of specific foods to prevent or treat these illnesses.

supplementsThe first line of defense for nutrition should always be food, but because many people fall short, supplementing your balanced diet may be in order.


If you choose to take nutritional supplements, check with your doctor to confirm that they will not interfere with any medications you may be taking and DO NOT exceed the recommended daily allowance of the nutrient.

Here is my short primer of nutrient supplements and the reasons they should matter to you:

Magnesium– needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including a healthy immune system. This macro-mineral helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function helps to keep your bones strong, protects the heart, helping it to beat steadily, regulates blood sugar levels, and steadies blood pressure. These functions are especially important to African Americans who routinely have higher than average rates of type- 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high-blood pressure. In fact, there is continued ongoing research underway on the role of magnesium in preventing and managing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes disorders.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Magnesium:

Adult females: 310 – 320 milligrams/D

– Pregnancy: 350 – 400 milligrams/D

-Breastfeeding: 310 – 360 milligrams/D

Adult males: 400 – 420 milligrams

Your Food Rx for Magnesium:

Include more magnesium in your diet with dark, leafy green vegetables, and fruits: bananas, dried apricots, and avocado; include nuts: raw almonds, pine nuts, and cashews; peas , beans, seeds like pumpkin seeds, and legumes such as peanuts, and whole grains such as millet, and fish (think mackerel).

Calcium- needed not only healthy bones and teeth, but calcium may also be helpful in the prevention of heart disease and there is good evidence that calcium is also useful in the prevention an control hypertension, obesity and it helps protect against breast and colon cancer, all diseases and conditions with which African Americans struggle at greater, often 2 or 3 times the rate of white Americans.

Adequate Intakes (AI) for Calcium from food:

Adults 18 years: 1,300 mg/D

Adult Women: 19-50+ years: 1,000 mg/D

Adult Men: 50+: 1,200 mg/D

Tolerable Upper Limits (UL) for Calcium from Supplements:

Adults and Children over 1yr. old: 2,500 mg/D

* Take calcium supplements with food and break into 500 mg doses for best absorption.

Your Food Rx for Calcium:

Include more low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, kale, bok choy, calcium-fortified juices

Vitamin D- needed for bone health, a healthy immune system, even fighting depression. Its primary source is the sun, but there are a few foods that provide good amounts of vitamin D as well. Most people in the U.S. are known to have sufficient vitamin D, but studies show that African Americans have lower blood levels of vitamin D compared to other groups. The latest NHANES –III data found that 54%-76% blacks in the southern region of the U.S. had low blood levels of Vitamin D compared to 8%-33% of whites. One reason that may explain the disparity in part is the fact that melanin, responsible for our skin pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin. But another reason has everything to do with diet. From puberty well into adulthood, black people are well below the recommended vitamin D intake at every age group. This is probably related to the problem or in some cases, the perception and self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance, an issue easily rectified with lactose-free milk, or lactaid capsules (taken with meals and before consuming dairy products). 

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D:

Adults up to 70: 600 IU/D

Adults 70+ years old: 800 IU/D

Your Food Rx for Vitamin D:

Include more low-fat milk and cheese in your diet. If you are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies, try and vitamin D-fortified nut milks such as almond and cashew, or coconut milk. Other options are canned salmon with bones, packed in oil, canned tuna in water, mackerel, cod liver oil (generally 1 tsp/D) , beef, egg yolks, and calves liver.

With Love and Happiness,


Rovenia Brock, Ph.D. is a medical advisory board member and contributor to the “Dr. Oz Show,” where she helped more than a half-million Americans lose more than 5 million pounds. She is the author of “Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets To Livin’ Healthy (Bantam). For more health, nutrition, and fitness tips, join Dr. Ro and her social media community and get a FREE Download of her new eBook of super-easy tips, “You Healthy and Happy” at