It’s that time of year again: summer is winding down and parents and children are gearing up for school to start. Are you in the middle of checking off your to-do list such as school supplies, new shoes, a back pack, etcetera? It is a busy and sometimes hectic time of year. With all these preparations, I hope you are also setting a few health goals for your family, such as packing more nutritious lunches and staying away from the cafeteria and fast food. Maybe you have even set a goal to start adding vitamins and supplements to provide a healthier lifestyle by strengthening their immune systems.
When shopping for vitamins, it is easy to get lost in the maze of various brands and products offering different health benefits. A question I am frequently asked is how to select a quality vitamin? Here are some tips:
Avoid unnecessary fillers
When reading the label on your brand name multivitamin, you may be surprised to find several unnecessary fillers, many of which are common allergens. Check each product label to ensure it does not contain ingredients such as sugar, yeast, corn, wheat, soy, sucralose, and aspartame or high-fructose corn syrup. Many well-known brands reduce their manufacturing costs through methods such as diluting potency and using synthetic ingredients. Why should you avoid products containing these fillers?
• Sugar, yeast, corn, wheat and soy are among the most common food allergens. Unless food allergy testing is performed, many people do not even realize they are allergic to these common culprits, which may cause swelling, inflammation and drainage.
• Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is chemically synthesized by adding chlorine molecules to sugar. Sucralose is a chlorocarbon, which has been shown to cause inflammation and swelling of the liver and kidneys, as well as calcification of the kidney.
• Aspartame is also an artificial sweetener that has been associated with an increased incidence of brain tumors, mood disorders, declining mental function, migraine headaches, and more than 150 other symptoms.
• High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a genetically modified ingredient, which is intended to extend the shelf life of products. HFCS has been shown to negatively alter metabolism and cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin.
How can you avoid these fillers? It is simple: read the product labels. There are plenty of quality vitamins and supplements that don’t contain these harmful substances, so be sure to do your homework.
Demand more than just the RDA
Many consumers believe the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals is sufficient for obtaining and maintaining a healthy immune system. On the contrary, I think of the RDA as a “Ridiculously Deficient Amount.” The RDA is similar to earning minimum wage: barely enough to make a living and certainly not enough to ensure a high quality of life. The RDA’s were initially developed in 1941 as a way to prevent serious deficiency diseases such as scurvy or rickets. More than likely, scurvy or rickets is the least of your worries. You, like many others, want to achieve optimal health, not merely the absence of disease. Because of this, it is important to demand supplements that contain dosage strengths far surpassing the RDA. To add years to your life, make sure the supplement contains high doses of antioxidants, all the essential minerals from A to zinc, and a full range of B-complex vitamins.
Every vitamin is not created equal
For certain vitamins such as beta carotene and vitamin E, it is essential that they are naturally derived versus synthetic. For many, it makes no difference whether it was derived from natural sources or synthesized in a lab. However, this is not the case for these two. Your body does not recognize the synthetic versions; therefore they cannot be assimilated and used by your body.
Additionally, when shopping for water soluble vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin C, be certain they contain meaningful amounts. Water soluble vitamins are secreted through urine, therefore, they are not stored in the body and must be replenished daily. I recommend a minimum of 4,000 mg of vitamin C per day. If you feel like you are getting sick, double up on your dose.
Consider the source
Safety, sanitation, and integrity of the facility where supplements are manufactured are crucial. In order to ensure these are met, check the label or product website for information on quality control testing. On the company website, you should also be able to find a certificate of analysis, which assures you their supplements really do contain (or don’t contain) what they claim. If a product is formulated according to the Good Manufacturing Practices of the Natural Products Association, you can rest assured that it meets the highest industry standards for potency and purity.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by a surplus of brands and products, but do not be discouraged; take your time by doing your research. If you are new to taking vitamins, I suggest starting with a high-potency multivitamin, and then once you have the routine down add more vitamins to your regimen based on your various health concerns and needs. Every savvy shopper knows that spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean you are buying a higher quality, more valuable product. The same holds true when shopping for vitamins, so always remember to read the labels. Here’s to a healthier family this school year!
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