Have you ever walked into a health food store and gone into their supplement section, looked around and walked right back out? This was me a few years ago. Walking into a health food store can be very overwhelming, let alone trying to find a supplement with hundreds of bottles on the shelves.
As a holistic nutritionist, food is always my number one go to for helping people restore back to balance, but sometimes supplements are needed and can be very beneficial. For example, someone with weak digestion and absorption may not be able to have certain foods, but a supplement could work for them. Or if an individual needs a high dose of a certain vitamin or mineral, just getting it through food may not be sufficient. However, in a world where everyone is so busy and often people “forget” to eat or don’t take the time to eat whole food meals, they think “I’ll just take a supplement and be good to go.” This unfortunately does more harm than good. Supplements are meant to supplement nutrients we’re already consuming from food, not replace them. You cannot eat poor quality foods and take supplements to be “healthy.”
There are SO many brands out there and I’m forever finding new companies and brands with better quality products. Just as there are a lot of quality and reputable brands, there are a lot of poor quality and full of junk brands too. Here are five things you should consider when making your way to the world of supplements;
1. Don’t fall for all “pretty” marketing.
Some companies have a large budget set aside for marketing their products. They could be spending more on making their products esthetically pleasing and on tons of advertising, but haven’t necessarily done enough research, testing or quality checks. Sometimes you need to look past what looks the best.
2. Support small and local (if possible).
I’m all for supporting small and local companies, but some bigger companies and brands are just as good. However, I suggest staying away from very large brands. They’re often owned by pharmaceutical companies and we all know that they aren’t thinking about your best interest, but rather what fills their pockets up faster.
3. Do they disclose all research, testing and quality checks?
Most of the time, you’ll be able to go onto a brands website and find this information. If not, you could send them a quick email asking about these things. It’s important to know that all their products are thoroughly researched, go through extensive testing and have regular quality checks. If they do not give you this information, they’re hiding something. If they don’t reply to you, that’s an even bigger red flag and you should definitely not be purchasing their products.
4. Be wary of celebrity branded lines.
This kind of goes with #1. You know those ads you see all over the place of celebrities promoting a certain brand or line of supplements, making all sorts of huge claims? “Lose 5 pounds in 2 days” or “boost immune system with just one pill a day”. It all sounds great, but these celebrities are getting paid more than you want to know to promote this line and unfortunately, they (some, not all) couldn’t care less about the testing and quality of the product they’re endorsing. I’m not saying all celebrity promoted brands are bad, but do your own research to ensure they’re good quality and have been well researched
5. What’s listed under “other ingredients”?
This is the first thing I look at when I pick up a supplement bottle. More often than not, there’s always something I can’t pronounce and don’t even know what it is. That’s when that bottle goes right back onto the shelf. Here is an example of a supplement label:
Something that needs to be considered when buying supplements is budget. You get what you pay for. Thankfully, there are some brands that aren’t going to cost a whole pay cheque and that are decent quality with little to no additives.
Watch out for things like “maltodextrin” or “sucralose” or any sort of colour or flavouring. My rule of thumb is that if you don’t have an idea of what it is and if it’s harmful or not, or you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it! We want to stay away from fillers and dangerous synthetic ingredients. Also, the bottle should have the full ingredients list on it. If it doesn’t that’s another red flag.
I know it can still be overwhelming, even with information and guidance. Just remember that what looks pretty isn’t always the best, do your own research and always read ingredient labels, that goes for supplements and food.