Finding the best supplement brands can be a big headache. After taking nutritional supplements for a few decades now, here’s what I’ve learned.
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Why Take a Multivitamin Supplement?
Your specific needs certainly vary. However, the main reason for taking supplements usually starts with a nutrition-depleted diet.
The nutritional value of your diet depends on many factors – some in your control and some not. Some of these shouldn’t be a surprise to you. Others might be.
The main factors in your control include:
- Consuming whole vs. processed foods. Processed foods are often nearly completely devoid of nutritional value.
- Eating certified organic foods (and I mean officially certified!) vs. foods potentially loaded with nutrition-depleting toxins (in other words, just about all foods not certified as organic).
- How you cook your foods. Yes, really. Just a little peek into how cooking can ruin the nutritional value of foods appeared in my earlier post here: Foods That Speed Up Aging. Pay particular attention to the highly technical term I coined in that article – burnt crap in foods).
The main factors (seemingly*) not in your control include:
- Existing wellness challenges. This could be anything out of whack with your health, especially any challenge supposedly ‘requiring’ prescription or over-the-counter medications. For example, in my age group (Baby Boomers), this means an average of five prescriptions to keep you alive (as opposed to actually being healthy). Overcoming wellness challenges simply demands more nutrition.
- Your eating pattern. If you’re eating three meals a day, you’re in major violation of human evolutionary adaptations about when we’re supposed to eat. If you also snack between meals or after dinner – woe unto you! Sad to say, no amount of nutritional supplementation can reverse the consequences of this pattern.
- Your 24-hour lifestyle. Humans are diurnal animals. We are supposed to be active and awake during the day and asleep during the night. Meaning 7-8 hours, in the dark, at night. (That’s just a hint about a huge topic, circadian rhythms. You can get a basic biology introduction to it here on Wikipedia. It’s HUGE, I tell you!)
By saying *seemingly I mean you have a lot more control over your health than you might think.
Ultimately, your need for nutritional supplementation is therefore going to be on a sliding scale. Where you are on that scale depends on those main factors listed above. (On many others, too. This is just a snapshot to get you thinking about what you might need to start with.)
So, assuming you will need something, here’s how to find a really good brand.
Characteristics of the Best Supplement Brands
Before getting started, let me point this out: Cheap supplements are worth every penny.
Generally you get what you pay for. If your buying a two-month supply of mutivitamins for $10-$15, you’ll get very little nutritional value. (However, you WILL get a bonus of several ingredients whose names only a chemist like me could love. Polyethylene glycol (aka, anti-freeze) is just one example. I am not making this up.)
Nevertheless, I do realize cost is a factor. The good news is, the top manufacturers generally deliver excellent value for what they charge.
Besides price, here are the four main criteria I look at:
- Active Ingredients. I look for the ingredients I need, in the most absorbable forms available, in dosages matching those used research studies.
- Other Ingredients. The fewer the better. No artificial flavors, colors, fillers, or preservatives.
- Certifications. Must be manufactured in a facility that is GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified.
- Quality Control. Ingredients are tested for purity and screened for pathogens (e.g., mold), yeast, staph, and salmonella.
A Top Example Brand of Multivitamins
Since so many brands and so many different kinds of supplements are out there, let’s start by just looking at a basic one – a multivitamn.
Taking a multivitamin is the starting point for a good supplement program.
Many, many good brands meet criteria #2-#4 above. This means, for me, the differentiator is the ingredients list.
Putting my old professor’s cap (c’mon – not THAT old!), the best way to show you what I mean is with an illustration, such as the ingredients list below.
It’s from a product called Healthy Resolve, by Advanced Bionutritionals.
Here’s the Supplement Facts label from that product. I’ll have some commentary about this list immediately below it. I’ll explain, for example, why I indicate certain ingredients with blue arrows or a big blue asterisk.
Vitamins and Minerals
First off, it has a good amount of all 12 of the 13 vitamins normally included in a multivitamin formula. (Vitamin K is almost never added, which is a story for another time.)
Secondly, each vitamin is in an amount sufficient for addressing fundamental nutritional needs.
Thirdly, multivitamin formulations generally come with minerals. Technically, this means they are multivitamin-multimineral supplements.
Regardless of what you call them, the list of minerals should include the main ones lost due to a century’s worth of soil mineral depletion by industrialized agriculture. These include the minerals added to Healthy Resolve.
As a sidenote, the low Daily Value of potassium is important for two reasons. One is that it’s got a very high Daily Value – 4,700 mg. The other is its abundance in our diet. It’s still one of the ‘Big 3’ of NPK fertilizers (nitrogen [N], phosphorous [P], potassium [K]) widely used in modern agriculture.
What About the Blue Arrows?
The blue arrows emphasize what I especially like about this ingredients list.
Arrow #1 indicates two vitamin A sources. One is an ester of palmitic acid (vitamin A palmitate). The other is a green alga, Dunaliella salina, which produces a high level of the vitamin A precusor, beta-carotene.
Arrow #2 lists the main form of vitamin E, plus ‘mixed tocopherols’ to include other forms. Vitamin E is a family of ingredients whose benefits accrue better when they’re all together.
Arrow #3 highlights an issue the public is generally unaware of. The beneficial form of folic acid is as a folate, not as the free acid. I would never take a supplement containing free folic acid. Although that may seem like chemical mumbo-jumbo, it’s important to make sure your multivitamin has the folate form of this vitamin.
Arrows #4a-c show my bias. These are all flavonoids. The reason I’m biased stems from my 50+ years studying them. They’ve been at the heart of my research ever since I was a young biology student. Their health benefits have been known for more than a century – most notably starting with Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, who first pointed out their role in vitamin C metabolism way back in 1937.
Arrows #5a-c point to carotenoids, whose benefits for eye health have been widely known for decades. Out of about 600 or so known carotenoids known in nature, these are the only three specifically deposited in the eyes. Gotta love ’em!
What About the Great Big Blue Asterisk?
The old-time plant family name, Cruciferae (now Brassicaceae), includes a raft of veggies everybody knows and loves. Some of these comprise the ‘cruciferous vegetables’ ingredients in Health Resolve.
As a group they contain a powerful set of phytochemicals called glucosinolates. Research on their health benefits really picked up in the 1990s. Now PubMed, the medical database at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, lists nearly 4,000 research articles about them.
If you’re like me and get burned out even thinking about eating cruciferous veggies every day, having a dose of them in this supplement gives you an alternative. (Whew!)
You can already tell I’m enamored of Healthy Resolve as an excellent example of one of the best supplement brands I’ve found.
It’s packed with all the goodies you’d expect, plus the ‘bonus’ ingredients I pointed out.
So go ahead and give it a shot. You can get it by clicking here:
Finding the best supplement brands is easier when you follow the few guidelines I’ve given you here.
All the best in natural health,
Statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.