While getting all your essential nutrients from natural foods is ideal, it may not be practical in today’s society and many people turn to vitamin pills to supplement their diets. Make no mistake about it however, vitamin supplements are big business and not all manufacturers have your best interests at heart.
There are thousands of supplements to choose from and consumers spend billions of dollars each year – many never get even a small fraction of their money’s worth.
How do you choose a vitamin supplement that won’t just go down the toilet?
There are 3 types of vitamin supplement delivery systems. Capsules, Liquid, and tablets. The trick is to pick one that dissolves properly and does not just “pass through” thus wasting your hard earned money.
The liquid would be the best, but unfortunately there are not many choices out on the market. Plus, the can be inconvenient and they taste like cough syrup. But, they are great if you can’t swallow pills and are good for kids as well.
Tablets are the most common form of vitamin supplement. They are made by mixing in an organic or inorganic cement and compressing them into shape. For the pills to dissolve properly, an organic cement should be used but this costs more and as you can imagine, many manufacturers skimp on this stel. There are also coated tablets that resemble little candy-coated M&M’s. These are very commonly found in the one a day cheap drug store vitamins.
Capsules are gelatin containers that dissolve quickly and in most cases the best choice. Because they’re not compressed like the tablets, you will typically have to take two of them to equal one tablet.
One important thing with vitamin supplements is that you want to make sure you absorb as much as possible, otherwise you are just wasting your money. Studies have shown that individual vitamin isolates found in supplements are only about 10% absorbed while vitamins directly from a fresh plant source are 77% to 93% absorbed. Minerals have an even lower absorption rate – 1% to 5%. But, from plants like raw broccoli, the minerals are 63% to 78% absorbable.
The reason for this difference in absorption is that in nature, each vitamin and mineral molecule is attached to a protein molecule. That’s why you must take your vitamin supplements with meals – unless stated otherwise on the label. During digestion, only about 10% of the vitamin and mineral molecules, aided by enzymes, will attach to the protein molecules found in your food allowing them to be absorbed and used by your cells. Without these accompanying proteins, the body will see the vitamin isolates as a foreign substance and filter it out. That’s why you might have noticed bright yellow urine after you take a vitamin – that’s your bodies way of getting rid of chemicals it thinks it can’t use.
When selecting a vitamin supplement, make sure it has adequate amounts of the vitamins and minerals you want. Remember only about 10% of what is in the supplement will be absorbed. Look for the BP (British Pharmacopoeia) or USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) designation on the label. You will find the USP or BP initials next the the vitamin and this designation means the vitamin isolates are of the highest quality and are easily dissolved in the digestion process.
When looking at the minerals section of the label, look for “chelate” or “chelated”. This indicates that the minerals are attached to protein prior to being added to the supplement. This increases absorption by 400% to 800%.
Look for a supplement with a “food base”. This is concentrated plant material to which the vitamins and minerals are added. Supplements with a food base will contain enzymes and nutrients that boost the absorption of the vitamins and minerals. This is probably the best type of vitamin you can buy but the tablets will be larger and you may have to take more of them.
Nutritional supplements can never take the place of food and should not be used as a crutch to supplement a poor diet. The best recipe for health is to eat a nutritious and healthy diet which can be supplement when necessary.