10 Tips for Choosing Quality Supplements
Supplements have become as confusing as picking out the best cereal! There is so much choice and it has become overwhelming to the point people find themselves making choices based on saving money or time and picking them up in bulk at convenience stores. Or worse, they don’t do anything at all!
Please read on to learn the why and how to supplement shopping.
Before we begin, let’s figure out your beliefs about supplementation.
Some believe you need to supplement and others believe that your nutrition should come from food alone. Your doctor might even tell you not to waste your money and there is good reason for that!
We should be able to get all of our nutrients from food, but the fact is, our modern day society is not set up in a way that makes this possible.
Do you need to supplement?
Yes. And here is why.
- this study shows that “in large proportions of the population, micronutrient sufficiency is currently not being achieved through food solutions for several essential vitamins and minerals.” The vitamins and minerals referenced are A, C, D, E, calcium and magnesium.
- modern farming practices have stripped our soil of nutrients, which means fewer nutrients end up in our food. Other studies have confirmed these findings as well.
- it takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks for food to travel from the farm to your local grocer, especially in Canada! And then it might sit in the store (1-3 days) and get sprayed over and over again with chemicals designs to make the food last longer. This lag from farm to plate means that there will be a significant degradation in key micronutrients.
- the quality of our diets has significantly declined as we have moved away from whole, unrefined foods to highly processed, convenience foods. In North America, processed foods now make up 70% of our diet. Compounding this issue is that fact that only 13% of Americans eat enough fruit and only 8.9% eat enough vegetables. I’d argue that we are not far off this in Canada.
- certain groups of people may require extra nutrients, as some factors deplete nutrients, while others can block their absorption. For example, drinking coffee or tea blocks iron absorption, oxalate in foods like raw spinach blocks calcium absorption, smoking depletes vitamin C, and exercise depletes magnesium.
- You may also need additional nutrients if you; have an illness or injury; are under stress; drink alcohol; smoke; are dieting (keto, paleo); are obese; have poor digestion; have a mental health disorder; are on prescription medications or birth control; are pregnant or nursing; are regularly exposed to toxins or pollution; live in a Northern climate; are elderly. As you can see, this list encompasses pretty much everyone.
So yes, you need to supplement.
One thing we may all agree on is that, not all supplements are created equal.
Some supplements are a waste of money because they aren’t absorbed or contain harmful ingredients like colours. However, after years of research and experience in the health field, we know that we do in fact need to supplement with good quality supplements if we want to be proactive with our health.
Not all supplements are created equal
Let’s talk about your criteria for supplement shopping. First, make it about your health…not about saving money! Taking a cheap supplement that causes more damage long term is not the way to go! Second, make time to find the best supplement. Either do your research or ask someone in the know. Taking your time to find the best means that you value your health and you truly believe it’s right for you.
Here’s what to think about:
1. In Canada, is there a Natural Product Number (NPN)?
This is an eight-digit number that means that the product has been reviewed by Health Canada and deemed to be safe, effective and of high quality. Here is a handout showing essential oils approved by Health Canada.
2. Do your research and make sure that the company is reputable and that it operates with integrity.
This one isn’t important to everyone, but it speaks to a company’s corporate values and how committed they are to doing good in the world. Is the brand you’re supporting with your hard-earned dollars helping others in some way? Companies that give back to charitable organizations demonstrate that they’re not just about the bottom line.
How do you know?
- google to see if there have been any recalls or complaints
- review their website
- ensure that any claims made are backed by research
- make sure that the company follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP
- check to see if they have good customer service policies (like a satisfaction or money-back guarantee)
3. Check for good labeling practices, which means transparency in listing both active and inactive ingredients.
Does the company share all their ingredients or do they hide behind any ‘proprietary’ blends? Also, ensure that the label clearly lists any potential allergens and contraindications.
To the left is an example of a label that meets FDA and Health Canada Standards.
Beware of anything labeled “for research only”, “research chemical”, or similar which can be a way for unscrupulous manufacturers to try and skirt FDA rules while selling illegal drugs in the supplement sphere.
For any supplements that you’re considering buying online, if you can’t see the supplement label or ingredient list, that’s a red flag and it’s best to steer clear completely.
4. Look for third-party testing logos on products as seen in the image to the right.
Third-party testing means that the company has submitted their product to a third party to be tested for purity and/or quality. Some well-respected organizations include Consumer Labs, the Natural Products Association, the United States Pharmacopeia, Informed Choice, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Association, the Banned Substance Control Group, and NSF International.
5. Look at the types of ingredients that are being used.
Again doing your own research is important but I get that you don’t have time! Stick with professional brands recommended by your favourite Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Nutritionist because they’ve done the work for you. Here is a blog explaining just some additives to look out for. You also want to make sure that the inactive ingredients are of high quality (avoid artificial colours, sweeteners, msg, preservatives, sugars, wheat, lactose, stearic acid, titanium dioxide, and hydrogenated oils).
6. Make sure that the supplement contains the appropriate dosage so that it will have the desired effect you are looking for.
This is especially true if you are using supplements therapeutically rather than for maintenance purposes or to ‘cover your bases’. Generally, a one-a-day multi from the drugstore is not going to provide you with the quality nor the quantity of nutrients you are looking for.
7. Make sure the supplement is right for you!
We are all unique and may require different things. Is your supplements in the form that works best for your body?
Ask yourself. Will you take it? If you have to drop liquid into a cup and then drink it…will you do this? Compliance is one reason people don’t see results more quickly.
Can you absorb it? Is it in liquid form for those with gi issues? We prefer powder and liquid for many supplements like vitamin d and vitamin c. You get the idea. There is no one sized fits all solution here and that’s why we do what we do!
8 Don’t Expect Quick Fixes!
Dietary supplements aren’t drugs and taking something only a couple of times and expecting an immediate or dramatic response isn’t giving it a fair chance to work. Remember that supplements are meant to supplement other healthy lifestyle choices..
Take your supplement as directed and give it a chance to work before tossing it or sticking it in a cupboard and moving on to something else. (Of course, if you experience a negative reaction, discontinue use immediately and consult your healthcare provider.) Sometimes you’ll only realize how well a supplement has been working if you stop taking it after a while and feel the difference.
9. Be Aware of Over the Top Claims!
That old adage of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is certainly true when it comes to dietary supplements. Companies that make big promises or claim that a supplement will treat, prevent, cure, or mitigate a disease are breaking the law and are likely fly-by-night operations that are putting profits ahead of your health and safety.
10. Bigger is not Always Better
The bigger the company, the more diligent they need to be with following all of the rules. However, the mass-market supplement brands which can be found lining grocery and drug store shelves are also more likely to be produced from low-cost synthetic ingredients instead of ingredients made from more expensive whole foods and botanicals. Finding a company that isn’t too small either, is the recommended.
Not sure where to go next?
Book a free Discovery Call for guidance.
And check out our on-line store…we’ve done the work for you! We’ve sources our favourites that work for most people, most of the time.
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