The supplement industry is a booming business, with a market that is saturated with products. That can make choosing the right dietary supplement quite an overwhelming task. If you don’t choose your supplements wisely, however, you might end up putting ingredients into your body that it neither needs nor wants.
In this article, I’ll lay out seven guidelines to help you choose your dietary supplements wisely.
- Analyze Your Diet
- Do Your Own Research
- Consider the Manufacturer’s Reputation
- Stay Away From Over-the-Top Claims
- Check the Nutrition Label
- Third-Party Testing
- Check for Medication Interactions
Analyze Your Diet
Before you rush out to buy a supplement, take a step back and analyze your current diet to see if you actually need it. It might be that your eating habits already sufficiently cover the recommended daily value for the supplement you want to buy.
For example, you may have read that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids will provide a host of heart and brain health benefits. However, you may already get enough omega-3 through fatty fish, walnuts, and soybeans.
To know whether you’re getting enough of a certain thing, you need to know which foods contain it. Check out this report from Harvard Health Publishing for an overview.
Do Your Own Research
Don’t rely on information from supplement manufacturers when researching a supplement. Find your own independent sources of information. Ideally, you should refer to government agencies, university websites, or material provided by research institutions.
You can also research via trusted health-related blogs and websites, which often have in-depth reviews of various dietary supplements and supplement companies. For example, if you were looking into taking a nootropic supplement, we have a great review of Alpha Brain by Onnit that would be very useful to you.
Consider the Manufacturer’s Reputation
Large, nationally known companies will be more likely to follow the highest manufacturing standards and to make accurate marketing claims than smaller companies no one has heard of. After all, large organizations have a reputation to uphold.
Make use of reviews from verified online users as you research the product and the company behind it. You can learn a lot about the trustworthiness of a company by the way they deal with customer service issues.
Stay Away From Over-the-Top Claims
You have probably heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That is certainly the case when it comes to nutritional supplements. If you see claims for a supplement such as “miracle cure,” “breakthrough,” or “secret ingredient,” you should be wary.
These types of over-the-top claims are often made by marketers who sell their supplements exclusively from a website. They may use videos that relate heartrending stories about how the supplement managed to save their life or the life of a loved one. Most of the claims made are completely fabricated, and you should click out of these attempts to suck you in.
That doesn’t mean that all supplements are a scam. For example, if you want to boost your weight loss, there are some great natural fat-burning supplements on today’s market.
Check the Nutrition Label
The nutrition label can provide some important information about the product inside. The FDA allows supplement manufacturers to make three claims on their labels:
- Nutrient content claims include phrases such as “high potency” and “good source of.”
- Health claims: These must be supported by medical studies and pre-approved by the FDA.
- Structure of function claims: These claims relate to the supplement’s effect on the structure or functioning of the body.
Structure or function claims do not have to be FDA approved. As a result, they may not be reliable. Some marketers will make claims beyond what the supplement can achieve. However, the law prohibits them from stating that a supplement can be used to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure a disease.
For example, be aware of the distinction between a statement such as “helps maintain a healthy prostate gland” and the belief that it can be used to treat a condition. Or, if you are looking for the best supplements to take in winter, ensure you’re not expecting a cure for depression.
Read through all of the ingredients listed on the label. If you come across something that you are unfamiliar with, take the time to research it. Remember that this ingredient is potentially going into your body, so it’s worth finding out what it is.
You should also check to see what the label tells you the supplement is free from. This is especially important if you have any allergies. Here are five things that you should want your supplement to be free from:
- Artificial preservatives
- Artificial colorings
Check that the label includes contact information, where you can reach the manufacturer if you have any issues with the product. If you can’t find that information, put the product back on the shelf.
Look for a third-party certification seal on the label. This will indicate that high-quality standards were followed during the manufacture and that the product has been independently tested for purity and potency. When you buy a supplement with a certification seal, you can be confident that it actually contains what is listed on the label.
Three of the largest certifying agencies for supplements are:
- U.S. Pharmacopeia
- NSF International
Check for Medication Interactions
When you take a supplement, it is to improve your health. However, if that supplement interacts with a medication that you are taking, it could be detrimental or even fatal to your health.
According to the FDA, certain supplements may cause changes in the absorption, metabolism, and excretion of a medication. That could lead to you getting more or less of the medication than you need. For example, the popular herbal supplement, St. John’s Wort, may interfere with medications for depression, heart disease, and birth control.
As another example, ginkgo Biloba and vitamin C can have a blood-thinning effect. If people who are prescribed warfarin (a prescription blood thinner) take these supplements, they risk internal bleeding or stroke.
Don’t assume that because a supplement is labeled as “natural,” it will not interact with your medication. You should always consult your healthcare professional before mixing medication with supplements.
Smart supplementation will help fortify your nutrient intake so that your body has all the necessary vitamins and minerals to function optimally. Follow the seven tips above to ensure that you’re spending your supplement money wisely and helping rather than hindering your whole-food nutritional intake.