Posted by Team Jigsaw on January 27, 2015
Deciding which supplements you should buy is a tricky business. There are thousands of options to choose from, but very little reliable information to help you weed out the best from the rest. As you probably already know, not all supplements are created equal. Thats why its so important to do your homework to find out which ones will be most helpful for you.
If amazing deals (Buy 1, get 3 FREE!) OR the idea that expensive MUST equal best tend to be deciding factors for which supplement you buy, remember that price is NOT an indicator of safety or quality. The most important indicator of that is the label.
Thats why the first step in choosing a helpful dietary supplement should always be reading the label. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that manufacturers provide a Supplement Facts panel similar to the Nutritional Facts label found on packaged foods. It should always provide the following information (if it doesnt, dont buy it!):
There are certain things you should pay close attention to in order to determine the quality and safety of the supplement:
First things first, look at the ingredients. Know what youre taking and where it comes from.
For example, glucosaminea popular supplement for painful jointscomes from shellfish. That is obviously something that someone who is allergic to shellfish would need to know! Some ingredients could be things you are allergic to make sure you check!
Also note the FORM an ingredient is in. Is it natural or synthetic? Active or inactive? Highly absorbable or not? For example, B-vitamins require an active form for them to be quickly absorbed by your body. However, most B-vitamins are not in this active form and, thus, need to be first converted by your liver in order to be absorbed. For many with chronic conditions, this conversion to the active form is often difficult.
These things are all very important in determining how effective a given supplement will be, but the importance of each factor varies by ingredient so do your homework and youll be rewarded! You dont want to pay good money for a product thats in a form your body wont recognize, absorb, or use well.
Remember: Just because a supplement is inexpensive, that does NOT mean its goodor that it contains ingredients that are active, potent, and sufficient to meet your bodys needs.
Next, check out the additives. Dont buy products containing unessential stuff. Make sure that every ingredient can be used by your body for some beneficial purpose.
Many manufacturers add fillers, binders, artificial colors and flavors, sweeteners, or chemical preservatives to their products.
While some fillers are necessary to properly manufacture the product, others are not. Also, some natural additives (such as binders) may be present to help the supplement be delivered more effectively to your body. However, you should always avoid these additives:
These are unnecessary additives that dont help the body at all. Worse, they may detract from the effectiveness of the supplement since all that stuff must be stripped away in order to make the good part available to the body
Take health claims with a grain of salt. Avoid products promising a miracle cure.
Its legal to claim that a supplement will promote or support the health of the body, but if a manufacturer promises that it will cure, treat, or prevent a condition, then that should send up a red flag.
Be discerning about the claims made by manufacturers. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Instead, look for products that are backed by research and have been clinically proven to be effective.
Look for adherence to Good Manufacturing Practices. These lie at the heart of quality.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are guidelines that provide a system of processes, procedures, and documentation to ensure that the product produced has the identity, strength, composition, quality, and purity that it is represented to possess.
GMPs include a variety of practices that ensure quality such as:
Check the expiration date. All products should carry an expiration date.
Just as you wouldnt buy milk when the use by date is drawing near, dont buy a supplement that will expire before you can use it. Always try to find the freshest option.
This is especially important for products that are oil-based such as vitamin E and fish oil, as well as for unstableor livesupplements such as probiotics.2
Finally, find brands you can trust. Carefully research the company that manufactures the supplements.
Make sure that they come from a reputable company that has verifiable contact information (physical address, email address, and phone number).
Make sure that company holds itself to high-quality standards and offers customer service.
Buy directly from the company that makes the supplements. This way youll benefit from the companys refund and guarantee policies. Plus, youll know exactly where to go if you have questions and concerns about your supplements.
Also, by purchasing directly from a reputable company, you wont be vulnerable to online scams that will take your money and never deliver your products.
So what ARE the best supplements?
For those with chronic conditions who are likely to be deficient in essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, highly absorbable supplements should be a top priority. Since the digestive system is often in a compromised or stressed-out state, taking supplements that are easily absorbed and utilized is crucial.
Therapeutic levels of certain supplements (as opposed to the Recommended Daily Allowance levels) are also helpful for those with chronic conditions since they need to make up deficits and regain healthy levels.
Certain forms or types of ingredients have been proven more effective than others. Some of these include:
This is the case with many nutrients and vitamins, so again, doing your homework on what is in a supplement will help ensure that you are providing maximum benefit to your body, which is a reward unto itself!
Other important things to remember:
For further reliable information about dietary supplements, check out:
1) Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), SupplementQuality.com
Accessed July 2005
2) Strate, Mary Ellen. How to Choose a Supplement, Natural Health, April 2005.
3) Dash, S.K. PhD. All Probiotics Are Not the Same, The Doctors Prescription for Healthy Living, Vol. 6, No. 9.
4) OShea, Tim DC. Minerals
Accessed July 2005
5) Ashmead, H. DeWayne PhD, Thomas, Charles C., Intestinal Absorption of Metal Ions and Chelates, Chapter 7.
6) Dietary Supplements, Jan. 2002
Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Accessed July 2005