It can be very appealing and simple to think that you can improve your health by quickly popping a vitamin or supplement pill to make you feel superhuman. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
So what should you look for and check before deciding if taking a supplement is worthwhile for you?
1. How Good is Your Daily Diet?
The first thing to look at is what you usually eat, day to day. Before supplements, we all got our required nutrients and vitamins from our food and that shouldn’t have changed.
Supplements are just that; a supplement to boost or top up what we should be getting from our diet.
It’s important to mention that vitamins and nutrients don’t work alone, they often require other vitamins to be consumed at the same time for optimum absorption. So consuming them from food is the best way as you get that required range of vitamins all at the same time.
The easiest way to do a quick check is to think about what you eat each day. The ideal is a mixture of fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, nuts and seeds. By eating a full range of colourful fruits and vegetables, you can be sure that you are consuming the necessary mix of nutrients and vitamins to support a healthy mind and body.
2. What Do You Need?
The next step is to look at what vitamins you could be lower in, or have a higher requirement for. For example, the nutrient intake of an athlete who trains 6 days a week and has a high level of exertion will be vastly different from a 60 year old office worker who sits down most of the day.
So it makes sense that the recommended daily allowance cannot be the same for both of those people, and as a result the athlete would need to have a higher intake of a range of nutrients and vitamins.
For example, they would definitely need more protein but also a range of vitamins.
With water soluble vitamins, such as B and C, if you consume too many of them your body can easily excrete them out through your urine. With fat soluble vitamins, however, that doesn’t happen and your body can store them. If you consistently over consume vitamins such as A, D, E, and K you can actually end up poisoning your body.
In short, it’s a balancing act to make sure you are consuming the right amount for you and your lifestyle. One way to find out how well balanced you are is to take regular blood tests to check your levels.
3. Quality of Ingredients
If you decide you want to take a supplement, the next thing to consider is which ones to take.
Your top priority is to ensure that the ingredients inside the pill are the best ones you can find. There are many manufacturers out there that use low quality ingredients which will not actually do that much good for you.
The other point to note here is that more is not necessarily better. For example, you probably don’t need 10,000% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of Vitamin C. It’s much better to get a smaller dose but a good quality one which can be easily absorbed and used by your body.
And that’s another thing…Just because you consume something it doesn’t mean that your body is able to digest and absorb it to make it available for your body to use and deliver it to where it needs to be.
So bear in mind that vitamins taken in isolation are less likely to be absorbed as well as when taken with other nutrients. For example, Vitamin D is absorbed when consumed with calcium. This is just one basic example, but it holds true for many other vitamins.
4. Which Supplements to Take
A Google search will show you hundreds of thousands of supplements available to buy online, so which do you choose?
First, do some research and find out from some trusted sources which types of ingredients are the best and then check the products you are purchasing to ensure they have the best ingredients in them.
Second, look for added nasties in the capsules. Many vitamins pills have added fillers to make the capsules full and bulk them out. They’re not there for your health or to help your body in any way. So avoid those at all costs.
Another factor to consider is sustainability and environmentally friendly companies. It’s better if you can find products which don’t ship their ingredients halfway around the world. It’s not always possible, so maybe the company offset that transport inefficiency with some kind of carbon footprint reduction scheme.