Why You Need to Be Careful and Picky
When Choosing Supplements
The use of supplementation among the general public is steadily growing in popularity. It is now estimated that over 85% of Americans take a multivitamin on a daily basis. We’re bombarded with the idea that what we’re doing for our wellbeing isn’t enough – from TV, magazines, browser ads, and even social media. Influencers rave about the benefits of one product or another, and more often than we should, we give in to the pressure.
In theory, it’s a good way to stay healthy. After all, why wouldn’t we replace the old apple with a magic pill that has the superpower to keep us in great health and shape? Moreover, what’s there to lose if said pill can boost concentration, increase sports performance, or make us sleep better?
But what we often disregard is that not all supplements are good for us. The fact is, some can be downright detrimental to our health, especially when it’s us, and not a medical professional determining the dosage. With the huge variety of products available for purchase, it can be difficult to choose one which is good. People wanting to get the best will reach for the most expensive product on the shelf, but the sad truth is, it may be just as bad as (or worse than) the off-brand supplements you’re looking to avoid.
Taking this into consideration, it becomes obvious that choosing a supplement should be a process that’s well thought out. Being careful and picky aren’t signs of not knowing what you want. Rather, they’re the guarantee that you’ll be getting exactly what you’re after.
What the ingredients can tell you
When used correctly and combined with a healthy lifestyle, supplements can do a great deal to boost your health, mood, and performance. Unfortunately, they can also do harm.
The first thing you should be aware of when choosing supplements is that they aren’t closely regulated by the FDA. This is especially true for products made in China. So, when purchasing, you will want to take a close look at the label. The first word of advice is: if the dosage and ingredients aren’t clearly stated, skip it. It’s not worth the risk.
You should also be wary of any unnecessary ingredients. For the most part, this includes additives, sweeteners, and colors. According to Consumer Reports, some ingredients can even cause organ damage or can compromise the health of those with preexisting medical conditions. Furthermore, try to stay away from:
- synthetic vitamins
- magnesium stearate
- silicon dioxide
- high levels of trace minerals
- heavy metals
Be careful with the dosage
Too often we’re led to believe that more is better. Unfortunately, in the case of multivitamin pills, that’s hardly true. While in theory, it does take serious abuse to overdose on a certain micronutrient, it is sometimes quite difficult to determine exactly how much you’re ingesting in the first place.
Remember, most of the foods you eat already provide a number of vitamins or minerals. Combining those foods with megadoses of any micronutrient (a megadose being anything more than 100% of recommended dietary allowance) puts you at risk of suffering side-effects. Or it can simply cause your body to become overwhelmed with one type of micronutrient and unable to process another that is just as important.
Be aware of the interactions
The reason why daily multivitamins don’t work is that they stuff all the micronutrients into a single pill. What people don’t know is that this is actually quite counterproductive. See, the majority of vitamins can’t be processed by the body when taken on their own. That’s why you usually have them with breakfast. Some vitamins are water-soluble (Vitamin C, for example), which means you can have them on their own, but others are bound to protein or fat.
Furthermore, it’s important to have an idea of the way vitamins interact with each other. For example, Vitamin C plays nice with Vitamin E (restoring oxidized vitamin E) and Iron (increasing iron absorption). However, Calcium and Zinc reduce the absorption of Iron, while Zinc inhibits Vitamin B9 absorption.
Now, you probably won’t go ahead and get a Ph.D. in microbiology so that you can finetune your supplementation regimen. But, a little bit of research does go a long way. Don’t be afraid of being picky – ultimately, it’s what’s going to ensure you’re getting what’s best for your body.
Advice for vegans and vegetarians
If you’re on a plant-based diet, you have probably heard of the micronutrient deficiencies you’re risking by skipping animal products. Although these facts are highly biased, and most risks can be avoided through eating a varied, wholesome diet, it’s still not a bad idea to look into supplementation – especially for B12, vitamin D (which most people aren’t getting enough of due to sitting in offices throughout the day), and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Other things to look out for are the already mentioned fillers and dyes including magnesium stearate, carmine, and caprylic acid. Additionally, you should be aware of the fact that soft gel capsules are made with gelatine, which is derived from pork and beef tissues. Luckily, there are vegan alternatives, so be sure you’re carefully reading the labels.
Are supplements worth the cost and risk?
With all this information, you might be wondering whether supplementation is worth the cost (and risk) involved. Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer to this question other than It depends.
The best way to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need is to work with a medical professional. With some bloodwork and a comprehensive look into your eating habits, you can do a lot to improve your general wellbeing. Combining these practices with other beneficial lifestyle behaviors such as sufficient exercise and sleep, as well as reducing stress levels, will undoubtedly yield excellent results. If you’ve covered the basics and you still want to take a pill that will offer your system a slight boost, you can then opt for a supplement that’s safe for consumption and plentiful in the micronutrients you truly need.