How to tell which ingredients in supplements are good or bad?
Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to get nutrition from whole foods. Nature always packages vitamins in groups, not isolates, and also includes the other supporting compounds to help your body properly absorb and metabolize them efficiently, like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, phytonutrients, and enzymes.
Taking an isolated vitamin and expecting your body to use it properly is like trying to call someone on the phone when you only have half of their phone number. The message is being sent but it probably won’t be received. What we mean by this is comparing a Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tablet to an orange. You get much more from that orange than you would in a tablet. Plus, your body isn’t used to digesting ascorbic acid on it’s own! Saying this, there is always a case for the need of safe supplementation for you and your family when your body requires certain nutrients.
LOOK AT THE INGREDIENT LIST
Specifically, is there even an ingredient list? Does it list the source of the nutrient? If not, it’s likely synthetic. If solely the vitamin names themselves are listed on the bottle, and not food ingredients, the nutrients are probably not natural.
LOOK FOR “DL” LISTED BEFORE A NUTRIENT NAME
This can appear as “dl-alpha tocopherol”, “dl-alpha tocopherol acetate” on labels, which is synthetic Vitamin E.1
LOOK FOR THE INGREDIENT “SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE”
This ingredient, also known as Nutritional Yeast, means that a yeast was added, and that synthetic vitamins and minerals were fed to the yeast during fermentation.
B12 is not naturally found in nutritional yeast, synthetic B12 is added in. Only bacteria can grow vitamin B12, which can be absorbed by yeast in nature. So, because nutritional yeast is produced in a monitored, controlled setting, this bacterial interaction will not occur, unless synthetic B12 is added6.
Some companies will add synthetically derived vitamins and minerals to yeast while it’s growing, and claim the vitamin’s are from a whole food source. This is not the case. If the ingredient says ‘saccharomyces cerevisiae’ you know it’s not entirely from a whole food source.
LOOK FOR THE PHRASES “FORTIFIED WITH”
If something is fortified, a synthetic nutrient has been added into the product. Food ingredients such as cereals, breads, and even milks (dairy AND non-dairy) can be fortified.
LOOK FOR COMMON FILLERS AND ADDITIVE INGREDIENTS
In addition to isolated, synthetic nutrients, there are some other ingredients you may want to avoid in pills, tablets, or capsules:
- Magnesium stearate, or stearic acid, which is a flow agent used when making pills, which may decrease immune function as stearic acid has been linked to suppression of T cells. The filler also stimulates your gut to form a biofilm, which can prevent proper absorption of nutrients in your digestive tract
- Carnauba Wax, which is also used in car wax and shoe polish
- Titanium Dioxide, which is a carcinogen