Two key words are bombarding our lives in many news stories, headlines and ads you receive on all platforms: Vitamins and Supplements. You can’t open an email or click on a health related article without sources from everywhere telling you that you need more of this vitamin or that mineral, this supplement is best for you, that one is bad. It’s a complete health information overload! With so many reports, some contradictory, what vitamins are the best? Is one supplement brand better than another brand? The best source to answer your questions about this is ALWAYS your personal physician, but as we look at this topic today in a generic, across the board way, what do we need to know and look for when buying vitamins and supplements?
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are nutrients that are essential to keep your body functioning properly and to maintain good health. Vitamins fall into two categories:
- Water-soluble vitamins – These types of vitamins break down in water and are not stored within the body. Vitamins B and C are water-soluble
- Fat-soluble vitamins – These types of vitamins break down in fat and are stored within the body. Vitamins K, D, E and A are fat-soluble
- Minerals are properties found in food and on the earth that our bodies must have to function correctly, to grow and to develop in the way they were created to do so
Supplements are, simply put, only there to supplement what you may not be getting through your diet. Even though you may be taking a supplement, it is not intended to be your main source of nutrients. That is still the main role of healthy foods within your diet.
How To Choose The Right Vitamins
There is not a huge amount of regulation on vitamins and supplements on the market today so it can be quite alarming to know if the ones you are buying, or want to buy, are good quality and will be good for you in the long run.
- Do your research on the vitamins and supplements you buy. Make sure there are research studies available on the specific brand you are looking to purchase. A good source to look for this is the National Institutes of Health database: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
- Be leery of brands that are made outside of the United States, where there are no real regulations on supplements as some are made in unsanitized manufacturing plants, places where contamination is a real threat
- Choose a supplement where the manufacturer has voluntarily undergone third party testing, meaning they have allowed their products to be tested and received a certificate of analysis (COA) saying that their supplements are: free of harmful levels of drug contaminants, what the label says about ingredients and amounts of measurements is true, their product is the same from one batch to another, and there are not any added ingredients to the product that are not listed on the label
- Check for a USP verified mark. USP stands for United States Pharmacopeia, a non profit organization that tests the quality, reliability, and viability of ingredients in vitamins and supplements
- Check out the Office of Dietary Supplements page within the National Institute of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/
- Skip any vitamin or supplement with the following ingredients: Bitter orange (contains synephrine that can cause strokes and heart attacks, especially when taken by itself or with caffeine), kava (can cause liver damage), chromium (when too much is taken it can cause kidney failure and anemia), and contaminated L-tryptophan (can give neurotoxic reactions)
Be Vigilant For Your Health
In a “vitamin obsessed” society, why do we need them? Research shows that, ideally, we should be getting our vitamins, minerals and nutrients from the healthy foods we eat. Whether it be poor diet choices, food allergies, or weight loss induced eating, a lot of us aren’t able to get the adequate amount of nutrition our bodies need from the foods we are currently eating. Pair that with a global pandemic, and we are desperate to make sure our bodies are strong, healthy, and ready to fight off any illness that could come our way. Your best source is first and foremost your doctor. If you have a pharmacist you trust, their advice would be good to add to your investigative findings. As we close, don’t forget these IMPORTANT points as you look to purchase your vitamins and supplements:
- Check with your doctor to see if you really need vitamins and supplements, and if so, which ones do they recommend for you
- You MUST read the label and investigate the company that manufactures the ones you are looking to purchase. You don’t want to take too much of something and you don’t want any extra added ingredients
- The brand you buy matters, it matters SO MUCH! The brand you choose should be one recommended by your doctor and approved by national health organizations and studies
- If you choose to buy your supplements online, make sure the site you purchase from is legit, has a good reputation, and is approved by viable health standards and organizations
Your body is your gift and also your responsibility. How you take care of it and what you put into it matters. It’s a lot of work and often requires a lot of research, but your health is worth every minute. YOU are worth it!
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