It’s a sea of supplements out there! And while our team of health experts support the use of supplementation, that advice comes with a lot of fine print. Supplementation can be extremely effective and helpful when working to improve your health and wellness, but it’s important to make sure you’re taking the right, high quality supplements to ensure effectiveness, safety, and also to avoid wasting your money.
There are several considerations to take into account when adding a new supplement into your routine. Some baseline considerations include: making sure you truly need the supplement, potential medication interactions, if you’re pregnant or nursing, and appropriate dosage for your individual needs. Additionally, while most people can benefit from supplementation, we recommend getting lab work done regularly (at least annually) to best guide what nutrients could best support your body and your goals.
If incorporating a new supplement makes sense, the next step is to find a supplement of good quality. Supplements vary widely in terms of quality and cost. Choosing a reputable manufacturer is important to ensure safety and quality. However, completing the leg work to determine if you’ve found a trustworthy product can be a lot of work. A good starting place is to begin by looking at the quality of the nutrients and ingredients in the supplement you’re considering. This can at least tell you some information about the quality of supplement.
Here are some basic guidelines to stick in your back pocket when shopping for five of the most commonly used supplements:
- Avoid artificial colors and sweeteners
- Look for Vitamin E in the form of DL-alpha-tocopherol
- Look for a minimum of 1000 IU of Vitamin D in the D3 form
- Make sure there is an indication on the label that says GMP (good manufacturing practices)
- Look for folate in the form of “methyl-tetra-hydrafolate” instead of “folic acid”
- Be wary of one a day formulas, as they often contain a lot of binders and fillers and aren’t well absorbed
- Avoid brands that use artificial sweeteners or colors
- Ideally only use whey protein post workout, and if you suspect a dairy sensitivity avoid whey protein altogether
- If using whey protein, try to find a brand that sources from grass-fed cows
- Choose organic when possible
- Choose a probiotic that delivers a minimum of 15 billion CFUs per serving
- Look for “live and active cultures” versus “made with active cultures”
- To help ensure that the probiotics make it to your gut and can colonize, look for strains of bacteria such as Bacillus coagulans, Saccharomyces boulardii, Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bacillus clausii
- Try to choose an option that also contains prebiotics
Omega 3 Fish Oil
- Aim for brands that source their omega 3 from deep water fish like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel
- Avoid brands that contain soy
- Aim for a minimum for 1200 mg per serving
- While they are not unhealthy, brands that use flaxseed or chia seeds do not provide the same anti-inflammatory benefits as omega 3 from fish sources
- Choose non-GMO brands that sustainably source their fish
- Choose Omegas in the triglyceride form
- Choose brands that follow good manufacturing practices and are third-party tested
- Make sure vitamin D is taken in the D3 form (as opposed to the D2 form)
- Aim for a minimum of 1000 IU per day for adults
- Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which means you store it in the body. While it’s typically hard to over-do Vitamin D, getting your levels checked at least once per year is wise to make sure that your levels don’t become too high to the point that they become toxic.
We hope you find this list helpful when navigating the supplement aisle, or online dispensary.
If you’re feeling like you could use some additional support, a nutrition expert can help take the guesswork out of these questions to make sure that you are investing in products that truly support your health, don’t cause harm, and are effective. If you’re working with a Wellness Advisor, they will be able to support you with specific supplement recommendations for your goals, handpick products for you, or give you an expert opinion on supplements you’re already using.