Understanding Supplements How to Choose the Right Ones for You
People decide to take supplements for various reasons, whether it’s to boost their health, aid weight loss, build lean muscle, etc. However, unless you’re a doctor, nutritionist, biologist, or someone who has read a ton of material on these compounds, it’s difficult to understand how to select the right supplements for you.
Despite this enormous gap between using supplementation and the knowledge required to choose the right product, as much as 77% of Americans consume dietary supplements. Let’s try to even the odds by giving you the basic information you need to make the best choice when it comes to dietary supplements.
To learn about supplements, you must learn about yourself
- In the teen years, you need to get more vitamin D and calcium.
- In your twenties, you will have similar needs, with the addition of special supplements if, for example, you’re taking on a vegan diet – in this case, you will need additional B12.
- In your thirties, you should be working on reducing the risk of developing heart disease, which can be accomplished with Omega-3 fatty acids.
- In your forties, vitamin D becomes even more important to help prevent conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
- In your fifties, you will need more calcium to fight the risk of osteoporosis.
- Calcium, vitamin D, and B12 remain essential in later life as well.
- Protein supplements are good for athletes to help build and restore tissue.
Which supplements you will choose depends on your nutritional needs. And your nutritional needs depend on your age, medical condition, dietary habits, and health risks you’re prone to. All of these factors are interlinked and can be summed up in the following tips:
Learn to read the labels
You need to carefully read the labels or the descriptions you will find on the manufacturer’s website, not only to see the list of the ingredients but also to see the function of the product and its side effects. This is imperative if you have a medical condition where one ingredient could disrupt the function of your entire system. Because of problems like this, many people decide to use capsule fillers to make supplements from scratch and choose their own ingredients, which is a relatively new possibility.
If you don’t want to go that far, you can consult your doctor. Also, be sure to check for seals of approval on the package. Some of the trustworthy independent organizations that test supplements are US Pharmacopeia, NSF International, and ConsumerLab.com.
Understand the health risks
Health risks related to supplements are a much-discussed topic, and one of the most common objections is that the FDA is not strict in determining their ingredients nor effectiveness. The manufacturers are often misleading when claiming the results of using their products and describing the adverse effects. Note that most supplements are not dangerous if used properly, but in interaction with other factors, they can have a negative effect on your health. Here are some examples:
- Vitamin E can cause nosebleeds and bruising by increasing the action of blood thinners.
- If you’re using blood thinners such as Coumadin, be careful with vitamin K, as large doses can reduce the drug’s effectiveness.
- Combining cancer therapy and antioxidants can be risky for the success of the therapy.
- B6 supplements shouldn’t be used for a prolonged period because they can cause nerve damage.
- Iron and calcium supplements can react with antibiotics, thus compromising their function.
- Iron, selenium, and boron supplements can be toxic if taken for a long time and in large amounts.
- Large amounts of vitamin C can cause nausea.
- In combination with acne medication, vitamin A can lead to vitamin A toxicity.
Choosing between natural, synthetic, and herbal supplements
In most cases, the body handles these types of supplements in the same way. B-complex vitamins are a good example of that, because they function the same, regardless of whether they’re extracted from brewer’s yeast or made as purified chemicals.
There are some exceptions, however. Folic acid, for example, is superior in its synthetic form, while vitamin E is better in its natural variant. Herbal supplements are a bit more confusing, and the best way to choose one is by going through clinical studies examining the ingredients and their effect.
Finally, it’s essential to know that supplements can never serve as a replacement for a balanced diet. They should only be used to complement a healthy lifestyle with a certain purpose, whether that is losing weight, boosting energy, or improving overall health.