It’s commonly known that you can’t get all the vitamins and minerals you need from food alone.
Our modern farming methods don’t utilize nutrient rich soil. Fruits and vegetables are harvested too early as a means to satisfy our desire for year round produce. Even cooking depletes nutrients in our food. Which is why a lot of us take nutritional supplements. Vitamins, amino acids, herbs to support our immune system… there’s a ton of supplements out there.
There’s also a lot of myths and some flat out lies about vitamins and other supplements.
1. They only have good ingredients
Have you ever taken a vitamin where you had to eat beforehand or you’d get nauseous? That’s because your body KNEW it was full of toxic, synthetic ingredients and wanted to get rid of it. Even if your brain didn’t have that knowledge.
So, let’s catch your brain up.
A lot of minerals and vitamins can’t be easily (or cheaply) obtained from natural, healthy sources. Which is why the majority of companies manufacture synthetic versions of vitamins you know.
We don’t want these toxic substances in our air or our water but they’re the base ingredients for the majority of vitamins. Both in the supplements we take and in “enriched” food.
Solution: Food sourced supplements derive their ingredients from, wait for it… FOOD. shocker. That’s how our bodies are designed to take in vitamins and minerals anyway. Plants absorb nutrients from the soil and from the sun and water. Then we eat plants.
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2. Your body absorbs them
People who think supplements are a waste of money often dismiss them by saying your body flushes them right out without absorbing them. And they’re not entirely wrong. Most vitamins aren’t delivered in a way your body CAN absorb them, even if it wanted.
Several things affect how well our body absorbs the nutrients in supplements, whether it’s a plastic coating, synthetic ingredients or a poor combination of nutrients. Many companies even grind up rocks to derive their mineral ingredients.
Absorption test: If you want to see how well your body absorbs a supplement drop it in a cup of warm vinegar. After 30 minutes see how much (if any) of it has dissolved. This is intended to show how your stomach is able to break down a supplement, though it doesn’t take into account what your intestines are able to absorb or how other factors effect absorption (like how healthy fats improve the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K). But if it doesn’t dissolve at all (as many over the counter, cheap vitamins don’t) then your body isn’t really absorbing anything.
Solution: Again, your body is designed to derive it’s nutrition from food. So, it will best absorb vitamins and minerals that are derived from food. Especially minerals! It’s referred to as bioavailability and many supplements companies will have information about the bioavailability of it’s supplements.
3. Labels don’t lie
They’re not supposed to lie. In fact, the FDA has rules in place to prevent companies from mislabeling products. The problem is, they don’t require proof of ingredient amounts (or quality) before a product is sold.
So, a label could say that there is 50mg of vitamin A in each pill. But there could be 5mg or 500mg; there could be 50mg in one pill and 25mg in another. Not because the company is malicious or careless. They just probably don’t have any standardization.
Unless an ingredient is synthetically produced, and therefore easily controlled, there’s no way to KNOW how much iron is in that leaf of spinach. Standardization tests product to verify the dosage and quality in the bottle matches what’s on the label.
The FDA doesn’t require standardization. It does, however, have “current good manufacturing processes” designed to make sure proper controls are maintained in the development, production and testing of products. And NSF is an organization that tests supplements to verify how effective a product is based on it’s claims.
Look for the NSF seal or another third party verification when considering a supplement. Not just to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth but to protect your safety.
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4. Cheap is still better than nothing
You make think that taking a cheap supplement will give you at least more nutrients, even if your body doesn’t absorb all of them. But with the lack of regulation, you could be taking unhealthy amounts of some ingredients, such as when supplements containing ephedra resulted in several deaths.
Also, cheap vitamins likely have synthetic ingredients which will do more harm to your health than good.
It’s impossible to get all the nutrients you need from food alone. Which is why we all need a good, standardized, food sourced multi-vitamin (and possibly other nutrient supplementation). While they can be affordable, they aren’t your $10/bottle vitamins.
I made a choice long ago that the best place I can spend my money is on my body and my health.
Clothes, shoes, houses, movies, books, whatever else you spend your money on, it can be bought and it can be sold. You make money and you spend it and you make some more. But your health can’t be bought or sold. It will impact how you enjoy the rest of those things and your life. The food you eat, the supplements you take and if you spend money on fitness may be the most important money you ever spend.
And if you’re not in a place where you can afford a good, food sourced multi-vitamin then you’re likely better off investing in organic food where you can rather than taking a cheap supplement made with petroleum and tar.