Supplements: Real Food vs. Supplementation

How do you choose where to buy and what supplement to get?

Let’s start out by saying that you should aim to get all nutrients from your diet. Using supplements should not be a long-term fix. They are great while you are healing or fighting an illness, if your diet lacks certain nutrients (vegetarians or vegans), or if you need help stabilizing your blood levels. You should always find out the root cause of the low levels you are supplementing for. Supplementation will help you feel better but can mask a bigger problem, such as an absorption or a diet issue.

You can find a supplement for just about anything. You might purchase a vitamin or herb supplement alone, or as a combination (such as a multivitamin). Not only are there a ton of combination choices, there are a TON of brands and even different forms of supplements (pills, powders, liquids).

To make it even more confusing, supplements are not FDA regulated. This basically means that it is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are made at a safe dose and can deliver that dose to the consumer. This leads to potency and quality issues with many supplements. Most of the values are listed at the time of manufacturing or before it leaves the facility. After this, it is up to the company to decide how the supplements are transported and stored.

The scarier part is many supplements have fillers and chemicals in them. The term “natural” does not mean it’s safe or good for you (this goes for food also). So you can be secretly ingesting drugs, chemicals, or metals. For this reason, I splurge for the higher-quality supplements that I know were handled properly and/or refrigerated. Otherwise it’s kinda a Vegas scenario, and you are just guessing and hoping that not all the nutrients are oxidized or rancid. Sadly, most of our supplements have either issue, and you are just buying a vegetable capsule with little nutrition value.

To avoid bad supplements filled with unknown fillers and chemicals, I suggest buying your supplements from a company that receives their products directly from the manufacturer and transfers them properly. I buy all of my supplements from Emerson’s Wellevate or Fullscript because of their reputation and known quality. Emerson’s Gold Partner brands test every lot of every ingredient in the products they manufacture, far exceeding FDA requirements. Check out the Supplement tab for more info about ordering from these sites.

After reading, I hope you choose a diet change rather than strictly supplementation use. When I was my “sickest,” I was on over 15 supplements under medical guidance. Supplements are great for helping your body function properly at a cellular level, but it isn’t the magic answer. I may have seen slight changes in sleep or mood, but no drastic change until I modified my diet and healed my gut. As always please consult your medical provider before adding in new supplements as they can be toxic or interact with medications.

Why are you looking for supplements?

Your “why” for looking into supplements is the first question. Are you having issues, or are you looking for health benefits that you don’t get by diet?

Many nutrients can be consumed from a good diet. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, only 1 out of 10 adults meet the daily requirement of fruit and vegetable consumption.

On top of our lack of consuming fruit and veggies, most Americans suffer absorption issues because of diet and medication use. If you are not absorbing your food properly, no amount of food and/or supplements will help. If this is the case, you will likely end up deficient in something.

People are either aware of a deficiency or have a hunch they are deficient in something they can get through supplementation. We tend to rely on supplements over the real food source. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that your nutritional needs should be met primarily through your diet, and supplements are just that… supplementary to your diet.

Who needs supplements?

Supplements are for those who cannot get all of the required nutrients through diet. A lot of children (with increasing picky eaters), vegetarians/vegans, and elderly fall in this category. Most people with health issues end up on a ton of supplements because they have misdiagnosed absorption issues.

Generally speaking, if you’re healthy and eat a wide variety of foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish — you likely don’t need supplements. The simple fact is that supplements do not provide the same nutrition, fiber, or antioxidants as real food.

My favorite supplement recommendations

I really believe in food first. Unfortunately our diets have become high in Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and are in most of the trending health foods. We need to pay attention to out fat and omega ratios. As well as increasing quality of our foods adding in variety is important to support a healthy microbiome. Although this should be the goal for each of us to live a healthy life! This being said, I have my “go to” favorites to ensure our cells are functioning properly. Without all the proper nutrients and amino acids, our cells can’t do their jobs properly to provide us energy and detoxification. Here is my list of favorite supplements.

Tips to get more nutrients without supplementation:

  • Chew your food 20-30 times to allow for proper digestion and absorption
  • Eat grass fed and pasture fed animal proteins (meat, eggs, dairy) for more higher quality minerals and omega ratios
  • Limit PUFA’s in your diet that cause inflammation
  • Add in collagen and gelatin to your diet (coffee and soups are an easy way to sneak these in)
  • Buy the rainbow at the store and cook your vegetables and fruits while your gut is healing to absorb nutrients more readily.

Buyer beware facts from Harvard (because you l=will believe there data over my words).

  • Beware of extravagant claims! If it sounds too good to be true… it usually is. Also keep in mind: just because a celebrity endorses it does not make it a safe product!
  • Beware of the idea that if a little is good, more is better. Many can lead to more issues and toxicities.
  • Beware of interactions between supplements and medications. Always tell your doctors and pharmacists about any supplements and herbal medications you plan to take, and ask about the risk of potential interactions with your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Beware of meaningless terms. The list includes “all-natural,” “antioxidant-rich,” “clinically proven,” “anti-aging,” and other vague but seductive claims that a product will promote heart health, prostate health, sexual prowess, energy, weight loss, fat loss, muscle power, and the like.
I hope this was helpful! Feel free to reach out to me for recommendations but always speak to your doctor before starting anything new. Just as we are not all the same, not all supplements are the same. It’s important to buy quality products if you are going to supplement…but remember your diet should always be the first stop to increase your bodies needs.