How to Choose the Right Supplements

By June 18, 2020 Nutrition

Walking into a store to purchase supplements can be extremely overwhelming. Any given store has about a bajillion options, so figuring out what is best can be tricky. All of the labels will claim they are the best and what you need, however, there have been independent studies proving otherwise. It can be discouraging. It’s difficult to know if going more expensive is the answer (spoiler: it isn’t always the case) or if one form over the other is best. There are things to look for to help you make your decision, so hopefully the next time you walk into a store, you will have a better understanding after reading this. 

The first thing you want to understand is what type of supplement you are looking for and what support you are looking for. For example, you might have heard magnesium is helpful for constipation, but there are several forms. The most common forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. There are others but typically these are what you will find in most supplement sections. If you are looking for constipation help, you would choose the magnesium citrate form. Understanding what form of supplement you are looking for is step one!

I always advocate quality over quantity. Quality matters when you are purchasing anything, especially when it comes to what you put into your body. Make sure the form of supplement you have chosen is of the highest quality and in a form your body recognizes. While there are benefits to synthetic forms, you might not see the exact benefit you were hoping for. When studies are conducted and results are posted, it will almost always be the purest form available for the specific vitamin or mineral. I recommend trying to get as close to that as possible. Your body will process the synthetic but won’t use it in the exact same way. Try to find food-based vitamins; these will have the accompanying bioflavonoids with it that help your body know exactly what to do with them. For example, Vitamin C is a very commonly taken supplement and there are several forms on the market; however, Ascorbic Acid is the purest form outside of a food-derived source. Making sure that you are taking this form with rose hip included will give you the best form. Always strive for a food based supplement, but short of that, look for the most easily assimilated form you can. Research is key here.

Reading the back label is really important and can be misleading at the same time. The label can claim that it’s food derived, but in reality only has to have 10% derived from food to make this claim. So sneaky!!! Look at the source of the food and look at the other ingredients listed. The amount of additives in the supplement is important. There are all sorts of additives that can cause adverse reactions with the vitamin/mineral, causing it not to work as efficiently as it can. The binders can be a hindrance in absorption. Here are the things to look for that really don’t have a place in supplements: excipients, fillers, flowing agents and lubricants, binders, disintegrates, colorants, flavors and sweeteners, and coating materials. So readying what is added in is just as important as making sure the form is one your body recognizes. Never buy a supplement that doesn’t clearly label everything in the supplement! 

Choosing between capsules, tablets, gel, powder or liquid form is all about your preference. If you have issues swallowing pills, liquid, chewables or sublingual forms are best–just make sure you pay attention to the additives that can be included. Tablets are the most common form but may not be the best form for those with digestive issues due to their pressed form, which may make it more difficult to digest. Capsules are easier to digest so if you have digestive issues, capsules are the way to go. Gel is the easiest to swallow and gets into the system a little faster but is harder to store and can lose potency faster than tablets and capsules. Powder forms are easy to add into smoothies or liquids for fast absorption. Choose the form that works best for you; it is all about personal choice.

The FDA does not regulate the supplement industry, but there are some third-party verification companies out there. The Natural Products Association (NPA) is an organization that has a “true label” program assuring accuracy in label claims. This organization allows manufacturers to become members and register their products to ensure a level of quality control. They must submit the labels for all of their products for quality assurance. The NPA will randomly submit the supplements to an independent lab for testing. If they fail, they will be given a second chance and then if they fail a second time, they are barred from using the NPA label. It’s not much, but it’s something. I always look for their ingredients, how they are sourced, and the forms the supplements are in. If they do not have an expiration date, I will not purchase them either. Supplements are usually potent up to 2 years after their manufacturing date, so if the expiration date isn’t listed, you don’t know the age of the supplement and it could very well be years old.  

Ultimately, doing your research is what will help you decide what is best for you. If you need help choosing the right supplements, I am happy to answer all of your questions! Just ask!

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

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