Mar 18, 2015
by Abby Jean
We’ve all heard the saying “money doesn’t grow on trees,” and I believe we can agree that dietary supplements don’t either.
Why is it necessary to supplement our diet with tiny capsules that, if routinely taken, deliver us “so-called” nutrients? Do we not receive these nutrients from the foods we eat?
Yes, we obtain adequate nutrients from the foods we eat if we’re eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods that are primarily organic and naturally nutrient-dense. However, we do not get adequate nutrients from a diet that is highly processed or lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables.
While getting nutrition from whole foods is ideal, supplementation can be necessary when nutritional deficiencies arise. This can happen due to a lack of whole foods in the diet, poor nutrient absorption, lifestyle factors that deplete nutrients, or even poor soil quality resulting in mineral-poor crops.
With an overabundance of supplements in the marketplace, from vitamins, minerals and herbals to amino acids, probiotics and enzymes, how do you know if what you’re buying is potent and active enough to support your health?
The New York Times recently published an article that brought to light the truth about low quality supplements. The New York State attorney general’s office tested supplements from four major retailers—Walmart, GNC, Target, and Walgreens—and found that 4 out of 5 supplements tested did not contain the herb advertised on the label.
We were pretty shocked at this finding. We knew that there were low quality supplements out there with additives or non-absorbable forms of a nutrient, but to think that the herbs simply weren’t in these product at all floored us.
Since we know a lot of you are concerned about your health and may use supplements to support it, we thought we’d share some of our knowledge on the matter. So for those who want to avoid deceptive labeling and low quality supplements, I put together a simple guide to help!
There are several factors to consider when choosing a dietary supplement.
Supplements that have seals of approval from outside companies have already been vetted to some extent from quality, purity, and potency. Look for seals from:
(Note: Some companies may have valid reasons for not having these verifications, so additional research on the integrity of a manufacturer is always encouraged.)
Think twice about buying a supplement if it has these qualities:
When you read “whole food” over “pharmaceutical”, you’re probably already leaning toward the former, naturally. However, there are pros and cons to each grade.
Pros: Nature created a synergistic blend within whole foods, containing all vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. These nutrients work together to deliver potent nutrition to your body. When you consume whole food supplements, you receive far more benefits, so long as they are quality products.
Cons: Whole-food (or food grade) vitamins do not undergo the same regulations for potency and efficacy as pharmaceutical grade. As mentioned in the New York Times article, the FDA targeted name brand supplements that contained dangerous and unlisted ingredients! It’s best to research when choosing a whole food supplement, so hopefully the guide above can help steer you in the right direction.
Pros: Many integrative MDs and naturopathic doctors prescribe pharmaceutical grade to patients because their quality can sometimes be superior to whole-food vitamins as they offer precise dosages for treating specific conditions, illnesses and diseases.
Cons: Synthetic supplements only offer an isolated (or fractionated) part of the whole. Often times, by taking isolated vitamins, you are getting a “mega dose” of a particular vitamin without the balance of other vitamins, which may cause problems if taken long term. This is why pharmaceutical grade supplements should be used under the guidance of a health practitioner, and are generally taken for a period of time rather than as a daily supplement.
I love a good success story, especially one involving an affiliate of Annmarie Skin Care, the beloved Kris Carr! If you have not heard about this amazing woman’s battle with a rare and incurable form of cancer that she has lived with for over a decade, I’d highly recommend getting to know her! Plants are her allies, and well, supplements are too!
Of course, with a serious diagnosis of any kind of illness or cancer, it’s 100% advisable to work with an Integrative MD who can carefully “prescribe” pharmaceutical-grade supplements specific for your body’s individual needs. In Kris’s case, she worked with Dr. Kenneth Bock, Integrative MD who helped her regain her health through supplementation (in addition to a plant-based diet). From this remarkable victory, Kris continues to actively inspire readers through her blog. She previously interviewed Dr. Bock about nutritional supplements, who shared a ton of great info. You can watch the interview here!
If you’re overwhelmed with all the supplement choices in your health food store, here are a few that Dr. Bock recommends for gentle and effective daily supplementation.