Supplements can support good health and wellness when used wisely. The right ones can boost mood, fill in the gaps of daily nutrition, and be a natural alternative to traditional medication. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is unregulated. Without the oversight of a governing body, consumers are left to fend for themselves to determine which ones to spend money on, which are the highest quality, and which ones to avoid. But, choosing good quality supplements is possible with the help of the right information.
What are supplements?
Supplements are part of a broad category that Healthline describes as “products that are taken by mouth and contain a ‘dietary ingredient,’ such as vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants, or other nutrients.” Most of these nutrients are available through a healthy diet, but supplements can provide additional support for the body, including benefiting brain health. Supplementation is not a replacement for food. Whole foods provide stronger support overall, supplements can fill unmet nutritional gaps in a daily diet.
Who can benefit from supplements?
Some populations will benefit from good quality supplements. Included in this group are:
- women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (with caution and supervision)
- exclusively or partially breastfed infants
- adults or children with diagnosed nutritional deficiencies
- individuals with conditions causing nutrient malabsorption
- those who have undergone bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass
- adults or children with restricted access to foods
- some vegans and vegetarians
For people in these categories, choosing good quality supplements to support their health is important. Most of the US population is vitamin D deficient, so supplementation of this vitamin can be beneficial for most. A discussion with your healthcare provider will determine if this is the right choice for you and provides more assurance of choosing good quality supplements.
What to look for when choosing good quality supplements
Because the industry is unregulated, consumers don’t know if the product does what it says it does or, in some cases, if the product is dangerous. Here are some things to look for when choosing good quality supplements:
- For all users: Look for third-party testing certification. Third-party testing agencies will make sure that what’s on the label is in the product and in the advertised amount, check standardization for each batch, and test for contaminants or any undisclosed ingredients.
- For athletes: Look for the NSF Certified for Sport label. It’s crucially important to look for the NSF label to avoid the over 270 banned or prohibited substances of almost all competitive sports organizations.
- Ask your doctor: Consulting with a healthcare provider is the best way to choose good quality supplements. Doctors can also help you decide which form is best for you, powder, liquid, or pill. Some may work better than others for your body and condition.
Who should avoid supplements?
It’s best that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid most supplements, except a high quality neonatal vitamin. Anyone on other medication should be cautious as well since interactions are unknown with some drugs. Patients who are under treatment for cancer should avoid supplements that can interfere with treatment.
With some careful research and better information, choosing good quality supplements can support your overall health and wellness by boosting your mood and filling the nutritional gaps in your daily diet.