Why are vitamin and mineral supplements so popular? For those among us who do not eat a strictly Real Food based diet, there will probably be underlying nutrient deficiencies and you will benefit from a vitamin and mineral supplement. For those among us who do adhere to a healthy diet, unless you are growing vegetables in your own garden, using good quality soil and fertiliser, and not using pesticides etc. you will also benefit from a vitamin and mineral supplement. Unfortunately the quality of our soil and the overuse of chemicals on farms means that we may not be getting the nutrient dense foods we used to.
Ever walked into a health shop / pharmacy to the supplements section and thought “welcome to information overload”. Well, I know I have. There are rows and rows of tins, tubs and bottles, all from different brands, with unpronounceable names and labels with teeny tiny writing. So, how do we make sure we choose the right supplement as well as a quality nutrient that will improve our health?
Here are 4 simple steps to help you:
Step 1. Ask yourself: why am I getting this supplement?
Be very wary if your answer is “because I saw it on <insert name of popular medical show>” and “it is said to be the next best thing.” This is a red flag in my opinion. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A good idea is to double-check the research behind the product from actual medical journals (and yes, these are Google-able), and not just the company website.
There are definitely signs and symptoms of specific nutrient deficiencies that you may be experiencing. Targeted supplementation can help with many conditions, but do consult your medical or healthcare practitioner for their opinion before just going ahead and buying the product all the celebrities are using.
Step 2. Scrutinize the Label
You want a reputable brand when choosing a supplement. Do a quick background check on the company. Of course we want to support local, but supplement quality definitely takes preference. It is also worth knowing what the production/extraction/manufacturing processes are.
More importantly, is the label itself comprehensive? The product should disclose the full list of ingredients (including the form of the vitamin or mineral) as well as amounts/dosages.
Step 3. What Form Are the Vitamins and Minerals In?
Did you know that you could still have a vitamin or mineral deficiency even if you’re taking a multivitamin? This is not because you forget to take it every other day (we all forget once in a while), but rather because the vitamins and minerals are non-absorbable from your supplement. There is a very good reason that the first place we want to get vitamins and minerals from, is food. When nutrients are in their “food form” they are readily digestible and bioavailable. This is where greens powders such as Green Vibrance, Greens First or Barley Green are fantastic.
You can get vitamin and mineral supplements that are absorbable however; you just need to know what to look for. Here are some examples:
|Best Forms||Worst Forms|
|Vitamin D||Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol||Other forms are less potent.|
|Calcium||Calcium citrate||Other forms are less bioavailable.|
Step 4. Purchase the product.
You should be able to make a decision on vitamins and minerals based on the three steps above, but please note that if you are on any medications, it is worth consulting your healthcare practitioner beforehand to alleviate any drug-nutrient interactions (think vitamin K and warfarin).
Do I think that vitamin and mineral supplements are a good idea? A resounding YES. Personally I would recommend a good quality greens powder with the possibility of adding a probiotic and a pharmaceutical grade Omega 3 fish oil supplement as a great starting point. This covers your baseline nutrient needs for a healthy individual, but when it comes to adverse health conditions, seek a healthcare practitioner who knows what she’s talking about when it comes to supplements.
If you have queries regarding supplements, email me on and if you live in or around the Ballito area, the ladies at Lifestyle Health Shop will be able to guide you on choosing a vitamin and mineral supplement.