Know Before You Buy: How to Choose the Right Supplements For You




So you’ve been thinking about adding a few supplements to your daily diet but where the heck do you begin?

Is it really as simple as grabbing that bottle of vitamin C or D? Does more expensive mean better? How much do you actually need?

The good news is we have answers but they may surprise you!

“Where to begin and which brand to use is a difficult question because it depends on the supplements and what you’re trying to use them for.”~Alan Shugarman

Here’s the first thing to know: not all supplements are created equal.

Most large businesses, think Sam’s Club, Costco, CVS, Walgreens, Whole Foods, have a lot to lose financially so they tend to make sure the brands they sell abide by ingredients and rules of the states with the most stringent guidelines, aka it matters to them that you get what you pay for so they don’t lose money.

Now, of course you’re wondering which brand has the best quality supplement, but according to Alan, the only way to truly know is by doing your research. 

Did you know you can literally do a Google search for the test results of a supplement? Consider using the search terms “dietary supplement independent testing” or “nutritional supplement testing” to help you get started!

You can also call the company of the supplement you’re thinking of trying and ask a few questions. 

Every bottle should have a phone number and every product should have a name and address of the company, so go ahead and reach out! 

Try asking these questions and see what you find out: “How do I really know your product has what it says? Do you use some sort of testing? Where do you test? Can I see the results?”

Larger brands have larger budgets and can afford to use 3rd party independent lab testing for verification that their supplements meet requirements and you’re getting what they say you’re getting.

Your goal is to make sure the results of the tests are exactly what the label says it is, nothing more and nothing less. A product should meet at least within 10% of the amount stated on its label.

How about price?

Have you ever noticed some supplement brands are way more expensive than others? Does that make them better?

Alan says, “Sometimes the answer is yes, you get what you pay for. But sometimes it’s just a brand charging more than they should for a product.

A price can mean something. 

For example, there are different forms of certain vitamins. Look at B12 as an example, which can be bought as either cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin, whereas methylcobalamin is more expensive than cyanocobalamin. 

Does it mean the more expensive one is better? Well, that’s debatable, but the bottom line becomes this: whether or not you get what you pay for is highly dependent on what the product is and then what the ingredients are in it. 

So it does not mean you’re getting a better product if you pay more for it, sometimes it’s just the opposite, you’re paying for marketing.”

Again, it comes down to research and knowing what’s in your supplement so it does what it says it does.

The biggest question is really which one should you be taking, how much, or do you even need to take it?

Remember just because a dietary supplement may be natural, this doesn’t mean they are safe to take at all levels.

Our science guy here at DN recommends consulting an authority before you add anything to your regimen, though he does admit it’s a challenge to find people who know dietary supplements really well.

“There’s no such thing as a registered supplement expert so it’s a little bit of a wild west out there and there’s plenty of people in your local gym that want to act like they’re experts, or in the health food store or GNC, and they may have some training for sure, but there’s not any “expert” that’s licensed that you can absolutely go to.

I happen to be a licensed dietician and my background is heavily involved in dietary supplements, but that’s not the norm. It’s the opposite. So people like me exist, but it’s not so easy to get advice but you should get advice before you start taking supplements.”

We recommend taking these 4 steps to ensure you’re getting the best advice on what to take and how much:

1. Make sure you give a health practitioner a dietary recall record, which is a current breakdown of what you eat and drink on a daily basis

This is important because dietary supplements are meant to be just that-a supplement to your diet, not a replacement. There are meal replacements but supplements aren’t for that. They’re designed to supplement a healthy diet.

2. Get a health assessment

Are you overweight? Underweight? A healthy weight? Are you exercising or not exercising? This information will play a role!

3. Get your blood work done

It’s important to know where you’re staring from, your baseline, so get that lab work! There’s all kinds of blood tests which will tell you your vitamin status and where you’re currently at, which helps give insight into what supplements you may need and which ones you can do without.

4. Be open about which supplements you’re already taking

If you’ve already started a few supplements before you consulted anyone, it’s okay but be sure you’re honest about it for your safety and health!

Supplements can be an invaluable part of your daily routine but this doesn’t automatically mean you should run out and scoop up the first ones you see.

And just because Jake at the gym says you need more ginkgo, unless he’s got some serious credentials to back up his advice? We suggest you do your own research because there’s plenty of variables from cost, ingredients, brands, and impact on your wellbeing.

The safest way to figure out which supplements are right for you is to be thorough in your approach!