Choosing Quality Supplements
Updated: Sep 17
There are so many different supplements out there, both different types for different things, and different brands and variation of specific supplements. Many brands make claims about why their supplement is better than others. It can be daunting to choose which supplements to get. And many supplements are quite expensive. It is natural to want to be sure that you're spending your money well, buying supplements that not only meet your health needs, but are also easily absorbable and readily available within your body.
So what should you look for? How do you know if the supplement is a good one, if it is safe for you to take, and if you will benefit from it?
Let's start with the safety question. First, you always want to check with your healthcare provider. Whether you are seeing an MD, DC, ND, DO or other healthcare provider, check with them before you begin a new supplement. It may seem silly, maybe you're thinking "it's just calcium, why would I speak to my doctor about that?" But there can be interactions between supplements, or supplements and medications, and different supplements can have different outcomes with different pathology. So to be safe, a consultation is always recommended.
The next question I want to address, will you benefit from a particular supplement. This also may be a question for a healthcare provider. While it may not hurt to experiment with different supplements for a condition, a healthcare provider has the training to help find the best supplement for your specific need. For example, if an individual has high blood pressure, there are MANY supplements that claim to help reduce high blood pressure. These different supplements will work through different mechanisms in the body. Is the individual's blood pressure high because they are dehydrated? Is it because they are chronically stressed? Is it because the walls of their blood vessels have lost elasticity? Depending on the cause of high blood pressure, different supplements will work for different people and a good healthcare provider can help you get to the right supplement more quickly!
So the last question, how to choose a good quality supplement? This question I want to answer in more depth today, as there are some standard guidelines that will generally get you a good quality supplement. So here are some of the top things that I consider when I choose a supplement.
My first consideration is what company makes the supplement. I divide them into 4 tiers of supplement companies.
The 1st tier is the supplements branded and sold by large companies like Costco and Walmart and other big stores that put their label on supplements. These companies likely just "private label" other supplements, and the quality is unknown.
The 2nd tier is the supplements sold by companies like The Vitamin Shoppe or GNC. They have a huge variety of supplements and I don't tend to trust their quality, although I expect it is better than those in the first tier. I suspect that these companies manufacture some of their own supplements and private label others.
The 3rd tier is the supplement companies where they formulate and manufacture their own supplements. They may have supplements in different categories, but they will not have the same selection as the 2nd tier stores. Sometimes they will special or focus on certain types of supplements. These are brands like NOW, Nature's Way, Nordic Naturals, Puritan's Pride and many more. You will find these online as well as in stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts.
The 4th tier is the supplement companies that sell through healthcare providers. You can sometimes find these supplements online for sale direct to consumer, but that is usually because someone is violating the terms of the company. These supplements are generally of even higher quality and undergo a greater level of testing. This is important for some specific supplements, but not all.
I purchase supplements from last 2 tiers only. They are more expensive (although not always, and not always by much) but I find they are much more consistent and reliable.
My second consideration is the method of delivery of the supplement. Is it a capsule, gelcap, tablet, powder, sublingual tablet, or liquid? Unless you plan to chew your tablets (and this can be a bad idea depending on the supplement), the capsules dissolve better. If it's a powder or liquid, what has the company added to make it taste good? Have they added a sweetener? If the supplement is an oil that can go rancid, I find a gelcap packaged in an opaque bottle, stored in a cool dry place is best. Otherwise I prefer capsules as a general rule.
The final consideration is the bioavailability of the supplement. There are probably 15 different types of calcium on the market. They aren't all equally beneficial. This is true for many supplements out there. And this is too much information for this post so I will be writing about specific supplements in the future. In those posts, I will discuss my considerations and what I do to find the best supplement when I'm looking for a specific nutrient. If you have a supplement that you'd like to hear about send me a message and I'll do my best to work it into the blog quickly!