But how can you tell the difference between them all? What tells a good supplement from a useless one? Here, we have a look at some things you might want to consider.
What to Avoid
There are a few obvious things that you'd want to avoid, such as supplements with damaged seals, or that have expired dates. But there are also a few other red flags that might mean you want to steer clear of a particular supplement.
Some people wonder why they react badly to one supplement over another. Generally, it's not the herb or nutrient in the supplement that is the issue, but it's the binders, fillers and added ingredients.
Cheaper supplements use additives that include wheat, gluten, soy and/or dairy a lot of the time, which can make things very uncomfortable for those with allergies and intolerances!
The rule of thumb is that if it doesn't say that it's free of these ingredients, you can't assume that it is. So it's best to skip any supplements that don't say they are free of anything you're sensitive to.
Poorly Absorbed Forms
Have you ever taken an iron supplement, only to feel 'blocked up' for days? Or maybe a magnesium supplement that completely unblocked you in the worst possible way? These are common examples of poorly absorbed forms of supplement.
Minerals ending in 'oxide' will most likely irritate the bowels and leave you feeling worse for wear. Cheap herbal supplements that list mega dosages of the ingredient will most likely be made from the cheapest and least therapeutic part of the herb.
If you're not 100% sure, run a quick Google search of the full name of the nutrient or extract listed on the bottle. Generally, if it's poorly absorbed, you'll find tales of nasty side effects pretty quickly!
Unknown Country of Origin and Production
Would you eat a fresh mango picked from a heavily polluted country on the other side of the world? We wouldn't, and the same rule should apply to the supplements you buy.
When you're unsure of where the supplement was produced, not only should it leave you uncertain about the safety of the product, but it also means that you are most likely not supporting local jobs and industry.
Little/No Testing and Expert Input
When it comes to supplements, if the company doesn't engage multiple health experts and test their products regularly, you shouldn't be consuming them.
Testing and expert input is the number one way that supplements are made to be therapeutic, and more importantly, safe for consumption.
If a company isn't continually testing and improving their product line, they are only in it for a quick dollar, not for your well-being.
This one is a simple way to sort the companies out. If they are unwilling to refund your money if you're less than satisfied, or guarantee that the content of each ingredient matches the label, it's best to give them a miss.
What to Look For
So, if there are so many things to avoid, how do you know what supplements can actually benefit your health and support your lifestyle? Here are the things we would expect to find in a high quality supplement.
Ingredients Sourced From Nature
What's the number one way to ensure that your supplement is easily absorbed by your body? Source it from nature, of course!
Nature-sourced ingredients and nutrients means that they are easily recognized by the body and more likely to be absorbed at a high rate.
Whole-food supplements are one common example—for instance, using rosehip or citrus powder instead of vitamin C by itself is not only far less irritating to the gut, but can also provide a variety of antioxidants that can assist the vitamin C in its therapeutic effects.
Listed Allergens and Additives
The best supplements are those that are open about their ingredients—not just the 'main' ingredient. A good supplement company will always make sure that any potential allergens or irritants are listed either as present, trace or free-of.
The best companies will take it a step further, and avoid using artificial binders, fillers and other ingredients.
This ensures that you know exactly what is going into your body, meaning that you're a lot less likely to have any negative side effects from taking the supplement.
Listed Country of Origin and Production
What is the best way to increase your chances of a good quality supplement and support your local businesses at the same time? Look for a supplement made in your own country.
Obviously, there are a few exceptions to this rule—if you're an expat in a developing country, for example. In this case, you still want to know the country where the product was produced.
So, keep an eye out for a supplement that lists its country of origin clearly on the label, whenever possible.
A good supplement will put its money where its mouth is, with at least one guarantee available to you.
The most common guarantee is a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with the product. Some may also have a guarantee of quality, meaning that they have tested to make sure every batch of supplement has a certain level of the therapeutic nutrients.
If a company is willing to assure you with a guarantee, the chances are that it is a higher quality supplement with greater therapeutic properties.
Designed and Tested By Experts
If you're going to put something in your body, you want to make darn sure that it does what it is supposed to do. That's why supplements should always be designed by experts in the field, and continually tested by experts.
A good company website will always let you know about the testing methods for their products, as well as the team responsible for creation of formulas.
As a guideline, you want them to mention doctors, specialists, nutritionists, naturopaths and/or herbalists, depending on the content of the product.
By following these guidelines, you will be able to select high quality products from ethical companies, and save yourself from a lot of gross side effects. You can't get much better than that!
Not sure about whether you should be taking a supplement? Remember to always check with your health practitioner.