Supplements and Your Body: What to Look Out For
Supplements are a lot like food…they’re everywhere and super easy to get your hands on, but we’re not always sure that they’re healthy. Deciding whether or not they are shouldn’t be a mind-boggling experience. Here are a few tips on how to determine if the supplements you purchase and consume are good quality:
When selecting a multivitamin, be sure that the nutrients are naturally derived and not in the synthetic form. Two of the biggest synthesized vitamins in your multi could be vitamin A and vitamin E. To be sure that your vitamin A is naturally derived, look for mixed carotenoids rather than retinol. Your body converts the carotenoids into vitamin A, so taking it in the mixed carotenoid form decreases the likelihood of a toxic dose. Vitamin E is made up of eight different compounds and that’s how it’s found in food. As a cost saving measure supplement manufacturers will often use synthetic versions of only one or two of the eight forms. With your health being the biggest interest in mind, look for a complete naturally derived vitamin E complex. This is listed as a mixed tocopherol, mixed tocotrienol complex.
Also, be sure that your multivitamin contains some vitamin D and be sure it is in the D3 form, this form has greater biological activity in our tissue. Avoid D2 (ergocalciferol) and purchase the form more readily used by the human body, D3 (cholecalciferol). If you are deficient in vitamin D (your doctor tested your blood levels and you were diagnosed with a deficiency) you will likely need more than the amount found in food and contained within your multivitamin. If so, the same rules apply, find a supplement that contains the D3 and not the D2 form of the vitamin.
I also encourage people to avoid iron supplementation unless they are deficient in that mineral. So unless you need it, look for a multivitamin that does not contain iron. This typically means you are purchasing a multivitamin for people over 50 even if you are younger (This is the biggest difference in women’s multivitamins, the ones for 50 plus don’t contain iron).
Also, keep in mind that there are vitamins within your multi that are fat soluble. That means there needs to be fat in your gut in order for absorption to occur. So if you are taking them on an empty stomach, or with a meal that has no fat, you won’t be absorbing them. It is more important to take them when you have fat in your gut rather than first thing in the morning so if you would rather take them right after dinner, go for it.
If you take a fish oil, be sure that it contains a good dose of the essential fatty acids that you want out of it. Those are omega-3 fats and they’re listed on the Supplement Fact Panel as DHA and EPA. This is an example of one where you typically get what you pay for since the more expensive options have potent doses of the DHA and EPA. You should add these numbers together and get 1,000 milligrams or 1 gram of them combined each day. Be sure you are taking into account the serving size, if it is based on 3 gel tabs that is the amount needed to get the total DHA and EPA amounts stated.
Work hard to get your nutrient needs met from food each day, since that is the best way to do it. Supplements won’t compensate you for a poor diet, but they can fill in gaps in a mostly good one. So put your focus on food and use your supplement regimen as your insurance measure.
More about Junelle Lupiani
Junelle is a registered dietitian who specializes in weight management and the integration of nutrition in disease prevention. Junelle believes that nutrition is a fundamental building block to good health and well-being and provides practical and individualized strategies to achieve weight loss. She works with clients to set attainable and achievable goals as they learn how to transcend the enticement of fad dieting and unhealthy weight management.
Other areas of expertise include nutrition for the athlete, proper eating for fertility and nutrition for the treatment and prevention of disease including diabetes, hyperlipidemia and cancer. Her past experience includes cancer research, health education and clinical nutrition therapy. Junelle served as president of the Southern Arizona Dietetic Association in 2009-2010.
Situated in the warm shade of the Santa Catalina Mountains in northern Tucson, AZ, on 400 acres of idyllic land, Miraval is a top-rated all-inclusive destination resort and spa dedicated to helping guests live life in the moment. Since 1995 the property has been consistently ranked as one of the world’s top destination spas by Travel + Leisure, SpaFinder and Condé Nast Traveler. Offering an array of dynamic growth and development programs, one-of-a-kind, luxurious spa treatments, authentic, flavorful and healthful cuisine as well as an expert staff of renowned wellbeing specialists, Miraval helps to open eyes, minds and hearts. In 2012, the resort unveiled the Miraval Life in Balance Spa with Clarins, a state-of-the-art oasis designed to transform guests both physically and emotionally. For more information, visit miravalresorts.com.