Feeling confused when it comes to choosing the best quality supplements? Follow this how-to-buy guide that explains everything from deciphering labels to when to splurge…
Check Bulk Ingredients. Searching out the fillers on labels is tricky - unless you know what you are looking for. As a general rule, if you don’t recognise the name as a vitamin or mineral, then it could be a bulking agent. “Magnesium stearate – that limescale slime you see around your bath tub, is commonly used to bulk out products, while titanium dioxide is a powder substance that lends vitamins the colour white - it does the same in household paint,” says Aimee Benbow, Technical Manager at top vitamin company Viridian Nutrition. “Both have no health benefits but are used by companies to be more cost effective. If needed, good quality vitamin companies use a nutrient-based food to fill their capsules like spirulina, alfalfa or bilberry instead.”
Price Counts.You don’t have to buy the most expensive ingredients, but you should definitely be avoiding the cheapest. “It would be difficult to have a good quality supplement cheaply priced,” says Benbow. “It takes time and money to source and test raw materials, making sure all the mixture is uniform and using a manufacturer that is reputable.” Viridian, Advanced Nutrition, The Organic Pharmacy and Bodyism have some of the highest standard vitamins in the UK.
Pick Purified Oils.The supplements that say ‘pure’ fish oils on the label might contain contaminated ingredients, so sticking to bottles of oil that says ‘purified’ would be better - although Benbow warns that some companies use chemicals or high heat to clean the fish oil while still claiming it is purified. “It is best to contact the manufacturer with this question - the chemicals are not good for your body and the high heat will damage the oil,” explains Benbow. Make sure it comes from a sustainable source - look for a ‘Friends of the Sea’ logo on the packaging.
Lay off the Cod Liver Oil.“It is best not to take cod liver oil,” explains Benbow; “it provides vitamins A and D, but not Omega 3. Liver is an organ of detoxification so there are better ways of getting A and D and Omega 3 from other fish oils.” Viridian 100% Organic Scandinavian Rainbow Trout Oil is the UKs first organic fish oil. “Organic seed oils are a plus for the vegan market, however you don’t get the EPA or the DHA breakdown components of Omega 3 that naturally occur in fish oils and that are especially good for brain and heart health. Also, watch out for bulk ingredients like sunflower oil in these products too,” she says.
Pick Plant based Capsules.Capsules can cause concern. If you worry, the best source is plant cellulose – it’s vegan, there is nothing harmful in there and it dissolves in four to eleven minutes. However, Benbow says that when it comes to oil-based supplements they should be protected by gelatine or else the oil will oxidise. “It is important to know the source of the gelatine as it is an animal product which could be treated with hormones or chemicals,” she says.
Go for Good Additives.Colourings or flavourings are totally unnecessary. There are additives to make the production process flow quicker through the machines (think sugar), but you should really only be opting for additives with nutritional health benefits such as calcium for a double whammy vitamin fix.
A Multi-Vit is Minimum.Always start with a multi-vitamin which covers the whole protocol and then add to it. This is your foundation. People are often concerned about taking too many vitamins, but 95% of women in the UK are not getting enough Vitamin A, which works to produce cells and promotes the production of collagen, compact elastin and tightening up skin. “When choosing your multi-vitamin buy from health food stores as opposed to supermarkets so you get the advice you need,” says Benbow. “They will recognise what you need for your lifestyle and age group.”
Maximum Absorption.Fish oils work better if you take them with a multi-vitamin, but for faster absorption, take oils and fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, C and omegas with a meal as your body will be in its food state, releasing digestive juices that help your body to assimilate the goodness from supplements.
Learn the new Lingo.NRV Nutrition Reference Value % is the new RDA . This means you won’t get a deficiency disease if you take the % recommended. Do your homework if you’re suspicious and only buy from companies making health claims that are supported by science and approved by regulatory authorities.
Don't do Collagen.“Collagen gets broken down when you ingest it and very small amounts get to the skin,” explains Benbow. “Instead, give your body the building blocks for collagen production - it needs Vitamin A to promote it and Vitamin C to make it stronger.” Grapeseed extract is also highly recommended as it prevents the breakdown of collagen.