As a dietitian who focuses on a whole foods lifestyle for optimal nutrition and wellbeing, vitamins and micronutrient supplementation are generally not my number one recommendation. Food first, always. No vitamin or mineral pill should ever replace a healthy eating pattern. However, there are specific instances and stages of life where food is simply not enough to meet a client’s nutrient needs alone and supplementation becomes very integral in a client’s integrative nutrition care. Wound healing, cancer, autoimmune disease, hormonal imbalances, perinatal, adolescents/children, healthy aging are among a few reasons why micronutrient supplementation may be beneficial to enhance and balance a healthful whole foods lifestyle. But where do you begin? The supplement aisle can be overwhelming and how do you know what to look for?
Here are my top tips for choosing the best vitamin and mineral supplements to compliment your lifestyle and supplement your micronutrient need.
Know what you need and how much.
Shopping for micronutrient supplements should not be a free-for-all! Refrain from going to the store (either in person or online) not knowing what you’re looking for and certainly don’t self-diagnose! Lab tests are not always necessary, but can be a helpful tool to indicate areas where supplementation may be beneficial (ie. iron or B12 for anemia, vitamin D and calcium for osteoporosis). I strongly suggest you work with a qualified health care provider such a dietitian or nutritionally-trained pharmacist or physician to determine specificity of your micronutrient needs. Also keep in mine that some micronutrient supplementation may only be needed short-term and not all supplements are needed on a lifelong basis – again, this will be better determined by working one-on-one with your health care provider. Dosages will also vary by individual need and should be followed, in most cases, under the direction of a qualified health care provider as some micronutrients (like Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins or zinc) can have adverse effects when taken in excess including toxicity or interference with other nutrient absorption.
Start out small and simple.
Here I’m referring to both dosage and the number of ingredients. Oftentimes the adult formulations provide super high dosages and oftentimes aren’t any more beneficial to our body than a child’s dosage. Start out with the lowest recommended dosage first and increase as needed and tolerated. Additionally, look for supplements without added fillers, colors, or unnecessary ingredients. I also don’t recommend splurging for antioxidant supplementation as a general healthy intake of whole plant-based food can provide optimal nutrition of phytonutrients and antioxidants.
Always choose quality.
Think of micronutrient supplementation as an investment for your health. Look for forms of nutrients that are best absorbed and utilized by the body. Choose supplements with quality assurance verification by leading organization NSF International or manufacturing in cGMP facilities. Don’t just choose a product for it’s logo, price or marketing…do your due diligence and research before you buy to determine if you’re really getting what is advertised.
Keep eating real food.
Just because you may be taking a multivitamin daily, doesn’t mean you should slack off at meals. Build your micronutrient regimen around a healthy diet full of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and clean animal products. This is the best, and universally recommended way, to take in the most efficient forms of nutrients. If you aren’t sure if your meals are well balanced or providing enough nutrients to meet your needs, consult a dietitian for individualized care focusing on functional and integrative nutrition. You might even find out supplements aren’t even needed!
One of my favorite brands right now is Life Equals, using whole food formulations and operates as a one-for-one company providing vitamins to malnourished children through Vitamin Angels. I personally love their Women’s Multi (I take 2 capsules per day), the Focus and Energy when I need an afternoon pick me up, and the Probiotic to enhance digestion and boost immunity when I’m feeling off. Wanna try LifeEquals? Use my discount code DS75 below!
Disclaimer: This post is intended for educational purposes only. I was not compensated or sponsored by LifeEquals to write this post, however I do honestly love and use their products!