Modern times have changed a lot from the turn of the century.
- Our lifestyles have made fast, convenient and budget-friendly foods a priority.
- Modern farming practices that promise yield rather than the health of the crop have made sure our soil lacks diversity.
- And then comes the overuse of chemical-induced fertilizers and sprays that can have tremendous effects on human health and the environment.
The need for fast lives and fast food has compromised our digestive systems, caused stress on our bodies, hormonal imbalances, affected the way we absorb nutrients, and lastly, made us forget how to eat properly.
So, many of us have turned to supplementation to help us find balance, increase our energy, supply us with the nutrients that we’re missing, and in a nutshell help repair the damage that decades of poor food decisions have brought on.
The question is: Do you actually need to supplement?
As a matter of fact, supplementation is the last thing we recommend to our clients, and something we recommend as temporary dietary support until their health is back on track.
If you feel fine, feel great and are mentally and physically healthy, don’t waste your money.
But, if you are struggling, if you eat healthy and still are symptomatic, or if you have specific medical conditions, deficiencies and overall need that extra support, or follow a specific diet that may lack some nutrients (e.g. vegan), it might be time to consider supplementation.
Download our 2018 Supplement Guide, the only supplement guide you will need that directly matches your symptoms to the highest quality and best-sourced supplements out there.
- It’s always best to assess the diet first and then supplement.
THE 1 SUPPLEMENT YOU PROBABLY DON’T NEED!
One of the most common questions we get asked is: Should I be taking a multivitamin?
The simple answer is NO. Why?
Some vitamins and minerals compete for absorption so when we take them in a multivitamin form we absorb less than when we take them on their own. This is especially important if you’re deficient in one specific nutrient, like iron for example. Calcium, zinc and magnesium block iron absorption, so it would be best to supplement with just iron or iron + vitamin C that helps in the absorption of iron from the stomach.
Can you risk overdose?
Yes, we don’t get enough of many nutrients but there are a few that are abundant even if your diet isn’t the best, so when you’re taking a multivitamin, you run the risk of overdosing.
Better from nature.
Vitamins and minerals come with other beneficial compounds in nature that enhance their absorption. With a multivitamin, it’s not necessarily the case. We should not be relying on a multi to provide us with the daily dose of nutrients and aim to get most from whole foods.
Can a multivitamin ever be beneficial? Absolutely, if someone is chronically ill and may lack a lot of nutrients or during times of increased nutrient needs such as pregnancy or lactation, a multivitamin can definitely be useful.
- Some vitamins and minerals compete for the same receptors in cells, so if you’re deficient in one particular nutrient, it’s best to supplement with that as opposed to a multi.
- Supplement based on your own specific dietary needs rather than an umbrella.
- Multi’s are beneficial for those who are chronically ill and lack nutrients or during times of increased needs such as pregnancy and lactation.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST SUPPLEMENT BRANDS FOR YOUR NEEDS: 7 EXPERT TIPS FOR CHOOSING SUPPLEMENTS WISELY*
Thanks to our colleague Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N. for helping us compile this comprehensive expert tip list.
TIP #1: CHECK IF THE PRODUCT HAS A LICENSE
If you’re in a country that licenses or pre-approves supplements (like we are in Canada), then make sure you’re getting the real thing, and not some illegally imported bootleg of a product. There are always recalls and safety alerts issued for contaminated supplements, or products that don’t even contain what they say they do.
In Canada, for example, you can check supplement approval by making sure it has an 8-digit NPN number on the front of the label.
TIP #2: READ THE INGREDIENTS, WARNINGS, CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS
Look at the medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients for things you might be allergic to, or have reacted to in the past. Any credible supplement company will list every active ingredient, as well as the inactive ingredients included. The print may be small, but worthwhile.
Also, make sure to check the label for things like:
- To consult a healthcare practitioner if you're pregnant or breastfeeding (never take any supplements without approval from a Medical Professional).
- If you have certain medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, autoimmune disease, diabetes, ulcers, etc.).
- If you are taking certain medications (e.g. like blood thinners or immune suppressants, etc.).
- If you are taking other supplements that may react together.
- If you shouldn't take it for more than a certain length of time (e.g. 6 or 8 weeks).
TIP #3: CHOOSE THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENT FORM
Supplements come in many forms including tablets, capsules, powder, and liquid.
Tablets and caplets have a very low absorption rate because they’re compacted into a hard rock-like form that sometimes doesn't break down well in your digestive system.
Powders and liquids are easier to swallow and have the highest absorption rate, but they can go “off” quicker because every time you open the bottle, you’re exposing all the contents to the oxygen, moisture and microbes in the air. They can also be difficult to get accurate dosing (especially if they need to be shaken well).
Capsules (our preferred form for most supplements) are powders placed into tiny dissolvable…capsules. You can get vegan capsules or gelatin capsules. They’re not compressed, so they're more easily absorbed (they're still loose powder), and the capsule itself provides an extra layer of protection from oxidation and contamination from the air.
TIP #4: READ THE LABELLED “INDICATIONS” OR “USES” (A.K.A. HOW CAN THIS PRODUCT HELP ME?).
B.S. alert! What is the company claiming that their product can help you with? Beware of people who tell you that this product can help you beyond what’s on the label. If they heard about it, or found it in a book, that may or may not be reliable information.
TIP #5: HOW MUCH/MANY DO YOU NEED FOR A RECOMMENDED DOSE?
This is important to keep in mind because you may not want to take several capsules per day in order to get the recommended dose. Plus, many (but not all) bottles contain a 30-day supply. This helps you see how much you need to take, as well as the real cost per serving/dose.
Is the label information based on one capsule, two…maybe six? The amounts of each nutrient listed on the label may be based on each dose, or the entire daily dose.
For example, if a label recommends you take 2 capsules per day, the active ingredient amounts listed may be the total amount in those 2 capsules, unless it says “per 1 capsule”.
Yes, for this one you do need to read carefully.
Also, make sure that you never take more than the recommended amount on the label.
TIP #6: CHECK THE STORAGE REQUIREMENTS AND EXPIRY DATE
These two go hand-in-hand because the expiry date is based on how that supplement degrades over time at certain temperatures, humidity and light exposure.
And, of course, we wouldn't recommend taking supplements past their expiry date. After this date the manufacturer does not guarantee the quality or dose of the product.
If the bottle says that it should be refrigerated, make sure it’s in the fridge at the store, or shipped in a refrigerated truck.
If it says to refrigerate after opening, then make sure once that seal is broken, you keep it in your fridge.
If it says to keep out of sunlight, make sure the store/shipping company is doing that, and that you do that too. This is sometimes why supplements are in dark or opaque bottles – to prevent sunlight from degrading it before the expiry date.
TIP #7: IF YOU’RE TRYING A NEW SUPPLEMENT FOR THE FIRST TIME, START SLOW
Keep an eye out for both positive and negative reactions, and act accordingly.
You don’t have to dive right into a full daily dose on day 1. Try starting with half-doses, or skipping days for a week or two before ramping up to the recommended dose.
- Check the product license.
- Read ingredients, warnings, cautions & contraindications.
- Choose the right form of the supplement for optimal absorption.
- Read the label indications or uses. How can the product help me?
- Never take more than the recommended dose on the label.
- Check storage and expiry dates.
- Start slow if you’re new to a specific supplement.
Thanks to our colleague Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N. for helping us compile this comprehensive expert tip list.
HOW TO FIND WHAT SUPPLEMENT IS RIGHT FOR ME?
First things first, download our 2018 Supplement Guide to get a clearer picture of nutritionist-approved brands, as well as how to find out what supplement you should be using.
One of our top tips is to write down a list of your top 3-5 symptoms, conditions or requirements*, for example, they could be anything from this list:
- Mental fog
- Skin issues
- Digestive issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation)
- Lack of time = poor food choices
- Hormonal imbalances
- Stress & Anxiety
- Insomnia & poor sleep
- Exercise recovery
- Compromised bone, joint & muscle
- Compromised immune system (get sick often)
- Seasonal Allergies
Check in with the Supplement Guide as it tells you exactly what type of supplement can be helpful based on your lifestyle.
There is a huge world of supplements and often a lot of them work for many different types of symptoms or conditions. For example, Omega-3 fatty acid (one of the most widely studied supplements) has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it great for circulation and heart health, or skin conditions. But, Omega-3 is also a healthy fat, so it gets used by your body and brain as fuel, making it great for energy and mental clarity.
* Remember to always consult with your medical doctor for any ongoing symptoms, health conditions and medication interactions.
SOME SUPPLEMENT EXAMPLES FOR CERTAIN CATEGORIES:
Instead of recommending a multi-vitamin, we usually go more of a whole food route. You can get Greens Powders such as Genuine Health Fermented Organic Gut Superfoods that contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. This means less manufacturing and artificial ingredients go into the supplement, and since they usually come as powders, they’re much easier for your body to absorb.
You can also easily throw them in snacks, smoothies and desserts.
They’re perfect for anyone that wants to increase their veggie and antioxidant intake.
If someone is experiencing high stress or anxiety, supplementation is something we often recommend to gain some control, because stress can contribute to so many imbalances within the body. Formulations, such as CanPrev Adrenal Pro contains many herbs and vitamins that support healthy adrenals.
We’ve also started supplementing with CBD oil, which has so many positive effects and works directly with systems that control the stress response within the body. Jenni’s favourite brand of CBD is this one, if you’re from outside of Canada, we are also crushing on this brand in the US.
This is one of the top contenders for why people supplement, so many of us experience low energy levels, and it’s usually being sourced from many different areas in our lives. Getting adequate nutrition and sleep is of utmost importance for energy, but there are other things that can have a positive effect on our energy levels, like B-complex or iron if you have iron deficiency. Make sure you are using the right kind of supplement and form for optimal absorption.
These are our top 3 supplement categories, but there are so many elements to finding the right supplement, this is why we recommend downloading the detailed Supplement Guide to become more informed on how, what, why and for what purpose.
WHY WE DON’T EVER RECOMMEND WEIGHT LOSS SUPPLEMENTS
Our guess is that weight loss supplements are top of the list when it comes to supplementation for most people, but there are a few reasons why we never recommend weight loss specific supplements.
1) No scientific evidence to support their efficacy.
2) Often loaded with stimulants like coffee bean extract or garcinia cambogia, which can have negative health effects when taken in excess.
3) When was the last time you found a weight loss supplement that worked?
4) Keeps you in the diet mindset.
5) The best way to control and manage weight loss is through food and exercise!
Bottom line: for most of us it’s best to take supplements based on our own unique needs and requirements, where we live, seasons, our lifestyle as well as stage in life.
Don’t forget to download your detailed supplement guide here.
The Naughty Nutritionists
Jenni and Mirna are the founders of The Naughty Nutritionists where they're all about real nutrition strategies for everyday women who want to accomplish their health goals without dieting and with delicious food on their plate. They’re no BS, science-backed, yet fun and cheeky attitude teaches people that they can have a great relationship with the food on their plate as well as their beautiful rockin’ bod.