Not All Supplements Are Created Equal–Choose With Care

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago what supplements I took, the answer would be simple: None.

I didn’t think too much about the nutritional value of my food choices, much less proactively supplementing deficiencies. It just wasn’t on my radar.

But, nowadays I understand the importance of choosing food that will meet my body’s nutritional needs, and I do a decent job of that. It is widely accepted by nutritionists that it’s really best to get your vitamins and minerals through your food, but this can be tough sometimes. I certainly try, but like everyone, I am by no means perfect. Striving for complete perfection is not only unrealistic, it’s boring!MP900315449[1]

I am still learning about supplement choices and experimenting with things to understand what works best for me. But, one thing is very clear from all my research: You get what you pay for. Quality supplements can be expensive, however, getting cheap with your selections can cost you more in the long run – either providing no benefit for your health or even producing negative effects.

Because they are not regulated by the FDA at the same level as prescription drugs (the content labels don’t even have to match what’s inside the pills!), you really need to be careful when choosing supplements.

Let me state that another way: It is better to thoroughly research your supplements and only buy those you know are high quality than to just buy whatever is available on the drugstore shelf. Here is a great (and simple) article that covers what to consider when shopping for supplements. And, here is a great website where you can check the quality of your supplements based on independent lab testing.

As I have monitored my health needs over the past year or so, I have settled on the following supplements which address specific deficiencies I have in my diet. I really do try to keep it simple and minimalistic. If you have better recommendations for these items that you have had good luck with, I am all ears, please leave the info in the comments section.

  • Nordic Naturals Fish Oil – This fish oil is proven to be toxin-free, and, I can vouch that it does not produce “fish burps.” Since it is hard to get the RDA of Omega 3s through food alone if you don’t eat a lot of fish or grass-fed beef, I started taking this supplement to cover my bases for heart and brain health. I am happy to report my hair is shinier, my nails are stronger, and my skin clearer than it’s ever been. I’m sold on these!
  • Digestive Enzymes – Whole Foods 365 Brand. You are born with a full supply of digestive enzymes to break down the food you eat. But, over time, these enzymes die off, and your body can have a harder time digesting food, especially cooked food and proteins. I started taking these enzymes after reading multiple recommendations that adults over 35 could benefit from them, especially because my diet has not been stellar since we bought our most recent fixer upper. I am making an effort to counterbalance the inability to always get a varied diet full of fruits and veggies with these enzymes. I have also noticed a huge improvement in my ability digest beans while taking these supplements. I don’t need to tell you why this is a good thing!
  • Natural Calm Magnesium Plus Calcium – It seems up to 80% of adults are magnesium deficient! Since our bodies can’t produce this mineral, it is really important to get it from foods or supplements. I really like this powder, which I pour into a cup of hot water and drink like tea. It makes me fall asleep quickly and sleep through the night (something I have issues with – I am a restless sleeper). I chose this variety with calcium because I wanted to supplement with calcium, but supplementing with calcium without magnesium can actually strip calcium from your bones (weird, right?). Here is more information about why it’s good to supplement magnesium and calcium together.
  • Vitamin Code B Complex – You guys know that I strive to eat a mostly vegetarian diet, which while it has many health and environmental benefits, can be lacking in B vitamins. I really like Garden of Life products (of which this is one) because they are committed to providing quality products throughout their entire line.
  • Amazing Grass Amazing Meal – This has turned into my go-to breakfast (combine with 1 scoop natural protein powder and one cup of coconut milk). It tastes good, it has a large “greens” footprint, and it is very convenient for me to take in a mixer bottle to drink on may way to work. I did a little write up about the various Amazing Grass products a couple of weeks ago. I like to have this greens powder in my day in case I can’t seem to get a salad or raw greens into my day in other ways.
  • Protein Powder – I’m still working this one out and experimenting. I have tried Garden of Life Raw Protein(good, but earthy – not for everything!), Jillian Michaels’ “Natural” Protein (I kind of question how natural it was but it did taste good), Jarrow Formulas Whey Protein, among others. I just ordered a tub of Sun Warrior Raw Protein that I will write up a review for you guys on once I use it a while. I generally try to find protein with as few ingredients and as little sugar as possible.

Supplements I am planning to add/try in the coming month or so:

  • Iron. Since I started using MyFitnessPal, I have seen a gaping hole in my iron intake. I usually net out at about 50% RDA or so. This isn’t terribly surprising. It is hard to meet the RDA of iron without eating red meat. I have been anemic in the past, so it is time to focus on this critical element. I am still researching this one but will let you know if I find something good here.
  • Algae. Yes, algae! It is a super food boasting many health benefits. I have wanted to try this for a while, so I am going to try out some Energy Bits and will report back to you guys! 2Chili will think I am insane, but he pretty much already does, so this may not be as odd to him as I think.

And, that is pretty much it. I would like to close by saying I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or in any way qualified to provide advice on which supplements are right for you. However, I hope you found something interesting in this little look into my medicine cabinet/pantry and will think twice before you just “grab something off the shelf” when selecting your supplements. Just because it’s at a “health store,” doesn’t mean it’s healthy and it’s worth the bit of time it may take for you to research the brand/ingredients before committing.

I would love to hear your input on this topic. What supplements do you take and why?

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