I recently reviewed a liquid multivitamin that not only offered well above 100% of the daily needs for certain vitamins & minerals, but also offered a copious amount of added sugar. My eyes rolled instantly.
A supplement is a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, herb, and/or botanical taken alone or in combination with others (or with food) to help enhance your health.
Unfortunately, though, not all supplements may do this important job and others (like the aformentioned liquid multi or some products sold to you by your friend or supplement store) may actually detract from your health goals.
So which supplements are the ones that can help? I've got you covered with what makes a BETTER supplement.
“Better” supplements are:
B: Better Supplements are Built Around Food
Supplements should “supplement” (not replace) a healthy diet. If what you eat is based around quality ingredients, you should set the same standards for your supplements, too. I prefer supplements that offer nutrients sourced from whole foods (like Mega Food’s multis!) so that the body can know, recognize, and utilize the nutrient at hand. I do not recommend supplements with artificial colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, or large amounts of added sugar.
E: Better Supplements are Effective
The supplement should be tested through science to be important, to participate in a known key function, and have confirmed health benefits. If not, why take? It may be surprising to learn that, while drugs on the market require studies evaluating their effectiveness, supplements do not. Turns out that not all supplements you pick up at your local health food store may do what you’d like them to do! Work with your healthcare practitioner who can help you determine which supplements may be appropriate for you.
T: Better Supplements Offer Top Absorption
Not all supplements are created equal, including those that may have a same or similar sounding name. Say, for example, you’ve learned that magnesium can help support a myriad of systems – from blood pressure to digestive health. (It can!) If you visit your local health food store to pick up some “magnesium,” you’ll be met with a variety of choices. It’s important to note that different forms of magnesium, like many other vitamins/minerals, offer differing amounts of “bioavailability” (aka: the quantity of it that will actually be absorbed by the body). For example, studies have demonstrated that magnesium citrate (found in Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm – one of my "honor roll" supplements) will be more readily absorbed than a supplement offering magnesium oxide or magnesium sulfate.
T: Better Supplements are True and Tested for Purity
Does the supplement contain what it says it contains on the label? Unfortunately, some do not and instead contain fillers (including potential allergens) as shared in 2015 by the New York Times, or, may contain unwanted harmful ingredients (like microbes or heavy metals) as shared by this recent article in Consumer Reports. How can you know if what you’re taking is legit? Look for the USP and NSF label, groups who do the job for you to ensure purity.
E: Better Supplements offer the Evidence-based dosage
Just as the supplement must be effective, you should also be taking the evidence-based dosage required to potentiate your desired health outcome. Dosing and the length of time you take a certain supplement should be dependent on whether you’re an adult or a child, what health outcome you’re looking to improve, and what has been supported for your age/desires in the literature. In addition, some supplements may offer a safe dose that's not effective or an effective dose that's not safe. "How much" of a supplement matters, which is why R (the last letter in Better) follows next.
R: Better Supplements are Right On in Terms of Quantity
Remember, the total amount of the nutrient is not simply the amount found within your supplement but also derived from how much is found in the food you eat. Just as it’s concerning to not get enough of a certain nutrient, it can be equally concerning to get too much. Dietary supplements should not provide large overages of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for many vitamins and minerals, so that the vitamins and minerals that you also meet through food don't take you too far over your needs.
Remember, your supplement should “supplement” your healthy diet and should, at the very least, offer the same quality of the foods you’re eating. Have supplement questions? Ask me by leaving a comment here or schedule an appointment to determine which supplements are most appropriate for YOU!