What to Look for in a Supplement

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In an ideal world, supplements probably wouldn’t be necessary. BUT, given that for most of us our modern lifestyle is far from ideal, supplements are something that I believe the vast majority, if not all, of us should consider taking.

A good quality supplement will help you to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet and support your body during times of increased stress (and who doesn’t have that at some point in time these days)! When you add to this the fact that there has been a decline in the diversity of our soil, an increased consumption of processed foods and an increased exposure to potential toxins it’s easy to see that supplements can play an important role in ensuring that we stay healthy.

Unfortunately though, not all supplements are created equal.

So what does a health conscious individual such as yourself need to be on the look out for when purchasing a supplement?

1. Take supplements in their naturally occurring form where possible

Real food naturally contains enzymes, co-factors and a whole lot of other things that allow us to properly absorb and utilise the nutrients within them. In other words, real food has natural intelligence.

Synthetic vitamins with isolated nutrients don’t contain these synergistic components so it’s harder for your body to utilise them and they may not have the same effect on your body as the real version would.

Look out for supplements that either use real food ingredients or nutrients from naturally occurring sources.

Folate is a good example of this. The naturally occurring form of folate is not folic acid, but tetrahydrofolate (THF). Whilst many use these two terms interchangeably or consider folic acid and folate to be the same nutrient, this it not the case.

Folate is the term used to represent the group of water-soluble vitamins known as B9 where as folic acid refers to the synthetic compound, which is typically used in supplements or to fortify various foods. Folic acid requires a specific metabolism process in the liver that is different to naturally occurring folates, which are metabolised to THF in the mucosa of the small intestine. Unfortunately, humans have a low activity of the enzyme required to convert folic acid to the active THF form. Therefore high levels of unmetabolised folic acid can enter our bloodstream and some studies have identified excessive intake of folic acid with an increased risk of cancer.

Luckily, folate from naturally occurring sources doesn’t have these risks and is obviously well known as an important nutrient, especially in the prevention of neural tube defects in newborns.

Look for products that contain 5-MTHF as opposed to folic acid.

2. You pay for what you get

There’s a reason why good quality supplements are more expensive. The ingredients they use are higher quality, better able to be utilised by your body without negative consequences and don’t tend to include ingredients that may be harmful to your body.

If it’s cheap then it probably uses poor quality ingredients and / or poor quality manufacturing processes, which may affect the quality of the final product.

Your body is like a Ferrari… it’s a high performance vehicle. Putting diesel into your Ferrari would cause significant damage and wouldn’t allow it to operate at it’s best. So if you’re going to go to the trouble of taking a supplement, then be sure to choose one that your body will actually be able to benefit from. Not much point in taking them otherwise.

3. Check the Labels

Just like processed foods you want to check the ingredients label to see what’s actually in the product.

Red flags include things like artificial colours and flavours, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, added sugar and any other additives or chemicals.

4. Buy your supplements from reputable companies

Purchase your supplements from a company that has a good reputation and your best interests (your health) at heart. Companies, which purchase the best ingredients possible, ensure that their products meet labels claims and contain no contaminants.

If you are unsure then you can also contact the company to ask any questions that you may about their products.

Dr Tammy Hume is a Chiropractor and Holistic Nutritionist

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