How do I know if my health supplements are good quality?
What's in your health supplements?
Do you take health supplements or are you considering taking some? If you are, it is really important to be sure that the ones that you are taking are doing your body good, rather than doing it damage.
Nowadays, more people in the UK and around the world are turning to alternative medicine and natural remedies to support their health and well-being, or to help them achieve their health goals. This is great news, however, we do need be knowledgeable about what we are taking.
If you walk into any supermarket, health shop or pharmacy nowadays, you will more than likely find a huge (and confusing) selection of vitamins, minerals and other supplements - often with wide ranging price points - some very cheap, some very expensive.
The question is, are they all the same? And, if not, how do you know what to choose so you get the best results?
As with many things, when it comes to health supplements, you get what you pay for.
One important differentiating factor is the quality of the ingredients used when making the supplements and the process that is used to make them. It would seem logical that, in supplements that are designed to support your health, that the quality and purity of them should be of highest importance.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Some vitamin manufacturers focus on high profit margins and low retail prices, rather than on the quality and effectiveness of their products. So, if your supplements are suspiciously cheap, take a look at the ingredients list. You may be in for a nasty surprise and you most likely will not get the results you require or deserve!
Why take supplements?
Unfortunately, the food that we eat nowadays does not give us the necessary nutrients that we need in order to thrive. Mass produced foods do not have the same nutrients that foods did 50 or so years ago. Even though many women feel overweight and want to lose weight, many are walking about malnourished because they are not getting what they need from their food. Many are walking around in a daze of exhaustion, carrying excessive weight and feeling like rubbish. Because of this, many women are looking for a way to feel better and sometimes to quite literally get through the day. Many choose to support our body’s with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in supplement form, to help ensure that we are meeting our body's daily nutritional requirements.
However, there is little point in taking supplements that are actually putting more harmful substances into your body. Unfortunately, believe it or not, this is exactly what can happen if you are not careful in your selection and don’t know what to look out for.
Tablet form supplements
Watch out for vitamins, minerals or herbs in tablet form. Very often, the active ingredients (the actual nutrients) can make up as little as 15% of the tablet! The remaining 85% comprises additives, preservatives and other added 'nasties' such as fillers, binders, excipients, solvents, artificial colourings, sweeteners, disintegrants, dilutents and more.
The lower the price of the tablets, the more likely it is that a high level of these undesirable ingredients have been included. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. What is even more frustrating, is that some companies put high price tags on these kinds of supplements, trying to fool people into thinking they are getting high quality supplements, but when you look at the ingredients, they are no better than the cheaper ones.
When it comes to your health, isn't it worth spending that little extra so it means you are getting a purer, more effective product? If not, you may simply be wasting your time and money on products that either pass through your body with little effect, or worse, could actually be harmful.
If you are currently taking supplements and not really feeling the benefit of them, ask yourself the question - what is really in the supplement that I am taking.
I have had clients over the years, come to me and tell me that they are taking supplements. When I ask them why they feel the need to come to me, they answer that they aren’t feeling “just right” or “they feel that something is missing”. When we look at the supplements that they are taking, many of them have undesirable ingredients in them and some even have ingredients that may cause harm.
When clients like this come to me, I always recommend swapping to SMASH supplements for 28 days to see how they get on. Yes, I know they are more expensive than was you can buy in a supermarket, but when all of the clients have come back to me and said that they feel amazing within a matter of weeks, they realise the value and importance of taking high quality, food form supplements. Remember it is not what you eat or take, it is what your body absorbs that is important.
Reasons to avoid cheap supplements
Apart from the fact that you will be paying for a poor quality product that can have little, if any beneficial effect on the body, there are some other very practical reasons why you should avoid cheap supplements.
For example, there have been reports of cheap tablets either passing through the digestive tract undigested (which means that there has been no benefit to the user) or, more worryingly, that they get stuck in there - neither disintegrating or passing through.
Vitamin C Supplements
Another common example is that of ascorbic acid, often used in cheap vitamin C supplements.
Ascorbic acid is actually a man-made chemical, which is manufactured in chemical plants by applying heat, pressure and chemicals to glucose (sugar), which converts the glucose to ascorbic acid.
Contrary to popular belief, ascorbic acid and natural vitamin C are not the same. Vitamin C is a naturally-occurring nutrient, found in a variety of fruit and vegetables, while ascorbic acid is an artificial, reduced form of the natural vitamin. When it is heated, the vitamin itself breaks down and can become largely ineffective.
Ascorbic acid is an isolate, a fraction, a distillate of naturally-occurring vitamin C - basically the “antioxidant wrapper” which protects the functional parts of vitamin C from rapid oxidation or breakdown.
In addition to ascorbic acid, vitamin C must include rutin, bioflavonoids, Factor K, Factor J, Factor P, tyrosinase, ascorbinogen and other components. In addition, mineral co-factors must be available in proper amounts.
If any of these are missing, there is no vitamin C and, more importantly from a health perspective, no vitamin activity.
When only some of them are present, the body will draw on its own stores to make up the difference, so that the whole vitamin may be present. Only then will vitamin activity take place, provided that all other conditions and co-factors are present - but this is, of course, a drain on your body's own reserves - and therefore not ideal.
You also need to consider, isolated ascorbic acid is not absorbed or used by the body in the same way as food, and (as an acid) can actually upset the stomach and irritate the digestive tract, and even worsen medical conditions.
In the same way, alpha-tocopherol is not vitamin E, retinoic acid is not vitamin A and so on through the other vitamins.
Another key difference between whole food vitamins and synthetics, is that whole food vitamins naturally contain within them many essential trace minerals necessary for their synergistic operation. In contrast, synthetic vitamins contain no trace minerals, relying on, and depleting, the body’s own mineral reserves.
It is telling that the man who coined the word "vitamin", Dr. Casimir Funk (a Polish biochemist), stated that synthetic vitamins "... are highly inferior to vitamins from natural sources, also the synthetic product is well known to be far more toxic.”
Food form supplements - close to nature
We are unable to manufacture most vitamins within our body and therefore, they must be obtained from the food we eat.
The best sources of vitamins then, are obviously natural, minimally processed whole foods, rich in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that are in a format that is easily recognised, absorbed and utilised by the body - what we call "food form" or "food state".
Unfortunately, because of soil depletion, mineral depletion, pesticides, air pollution, erosion and other toxins and pollutants in the environment, foods grown in soil today have only a fraction of the nutrient value of even 50 years ago. This means, a fraction of the vitamins and minerals necessary for normal cell function and overall health and vitality are available for our body to use.
The food that we are often left with in the supermarket, is a choice of empty, highly processed 'dead' foods of commerce. This is one of the main reasons why so many people now choose to support their nutrient intake with natural food form supplements, where you can be sure of what you are getting.
Natural, minimally processed, organic food is what our bodies are best able to break down and absorb; in contrast, they struggle with synthetic vitamins, chemically polluted and refined/highly processed foods.
What is a food form supplement?
A "food form supplement" is one which has been specially prepared to be as similar to the real food as possible, to ensure that the body can absorb the nutrients more easily and utilise them more effectively.
Food form supplements usually come in capsule form. Not only are capsules easier to swallow, they help to increase the absorption of the product and you will not find a capsule passed through the digestive tract - it is designed to dissolve. This means that the supplement's nutrients can be efficiently released into the system and absorbed much more easily.
What about organic ingredients in supplements?
Today we are being exposed to an ever-increasing number of environmental toxins and chemicals, and therefore opting for both organic food and supplements wherever possible is the ideal means of helping to reduce your toxic load and get the most out of the nutrients in your diet.
Produced from organically grown fruits, vegetables and grains, organic food form supplements will not have had any chemical compounds (such as additives) introduced into their plants at any point.
Health supplements that are organic and natural may also have a higher content of vitamins and minerals and contain lower levels of toxic metals (including mercury, lead, and aluminium) than their non-organic counterparts.
What about the milligrams and dosage of the supplement?
Don't obsess about the milligrams!
Try not to be overly concerned with ingredient milligrams on the labels. Some companies will use the milligrams as a marketing tool but in reality, if the supplement is of poor quality and not bio-available for the body to absorb, it really does not matter what level of the nutrient is in the supplement.
While you will, of course, want to know the concentration of nutrients in your vitamins and supplements, synthetic vitamins are refined, high potency chemicals, and therefore may be accurately measured in milligrams, just like drugs.
This has nothing to do with vitamin activity or nutrition (except in a negative way), and is actually much more difficult to measure in natural food form products. This is not a reflection of their efficacy - quite the opposite.
It is more important that your body absorbs the correct nutrients from your food form supplements rather than them pass through your body in the cheaper synthetic format.
Fish oil supplementsThe quality of fish oils on the market can leave a lot to be concerned about. As with food form supplements, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to fish oil supplements.
The extraction process of the oil from the fish can be a process that does a lot of damage to the oil, making it toxic to the body. Many chemicals tend to be used and the process can make the oil rancid. If you are burping “fishy burps” after taking your fish oil supplements, it can be a sign that the oil in the capsule is rancid. You need to be aware of the processes that are used to ensure that you are getting the best quality oil possible, one that is lowering the inflammation in your body, rather than causing inflammation.
Another thing that you need to be aware of when it comes to fish oils, is the source of the oil. Is the company using large fish or small fish? Are they fishing in seas and oceans that are clean or in areas that are highly polluted?
The bigger the fish, the more toxins it will have been exposed to, the more processing and chemicals that are needed to clean the oil - you do not want this!! If the area from which the fish are taken from is highly polluted, there will also be more toxins that will need to be cleaned from the oil.
This is why I recommend the Norsan Omega 3 fish oil products. Small, wild fish like anchovies, mackerel and sardines are used and sustainably caught in the Atlantic. Production in an oxygen free environment in Norway, ensures the freshness and stability of the oil. The fish oil comes from sustainable fishing and is cleaned of pollutants and PCBs according to strict Norwegian regulations. They also combine the fish oil, with extract of rosemary and vitamins D and E to ensure maximum bioavailability and absorption.
Norsan is a specialized Omega-3 brand that is recommended by Doctors and practitioners so you can be assured of its high quality and effectiveness. So yes it is a little bit more expensive, but at least you know that you are getting the best quality for your body and brain.
It took me years to source the highest quality health supplements that I was happy to put my SMASH name onto. Yes they are more expensive than what you would buy in the supermarket, but there is a reason for that - the quality!
To know if your food supplements are of good quality, read the label and understand the ingredients. If the ingredients are not whole food, my recommendation would be to put it back on the shelf. Your body will not benefit from them long term.
In researching supplements over the years and recently, for this blog, I have been horrified at the quality of the supplements that are out there. They are anything but healthy - and yes, even by the big brand names too!! Please don’t be fooled by clever marketing!
Please be aware of what you are putting into your body. If you would like advice any of them, drop me a wee message and I will give you my honest opinion on the ingredients.
Watch out for #SundaySupplements posts on my social media platforms, where each Sunday I will be featuring one of the high quality SMASH Supplements that I recommend to people. You will see the supplement, who can benefit from them and the power of the ingredients in them. They are amazing, and if your body needs extra supplementation, SMASH supplements are definitely the way to go.
If you have any questions, just drop me an email at email@example.com and I will advise.