How to Assess the Nutritive Value of Health Supplements
It can be rather overwhelming when you have to choose among the thousands of health supplements available today. It’s not just a matter of knowing what supplements you need, but rather how to know which supplements are the safest and most effective for you.
Types of Nutrients
You have to read label carefully to know what nutrient forms are in the product. Some nutrients don’t have to come in any special form. For example, whether vitamin C is in synthetic or natural form, it will always be acceptable. It’s another story though when you talk about beta-carotene and Vitamin E, which are both superior in natural form. Any mineral form is also usually acceptable; however, their bioavailability may differ, depending on the current status of your health. And because people have individual differences in their capacity to absorb nutrients, it is best to take nutrient supplements containing a whole variety of sources.
Some products claim to have a lot of really good ingredients. However, when you check their labels, you will see that the amount of each ingredient may be so tiny that it couldn’t possibly create a difference in your health. For instance, an arthritis supplement may advertise itself as having many great ingredients, like 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate. Knowing nothing about such things, you will likely be impressed. However, based on clinical trials, glucosamine sulfate can only help you if you take at least 1,500 mg of it. So while you might actually believe you’ve buying a great product, it won’t really work like you want it to. Don’t believe this kind of deceptive marketing.
Find out how much of each key nutrient you need so you can be guided while shopping for health supplements. Besides that, you also need to know how to correctly interpret the numbers associated with chelated minerals like magnesium succinate and calcium citrate. Note that the actual elemental amounts of chelated minerals are not always indicated by the doses listed for them. When we say, “elemental,” we mean the actual mineral in a product, and not the total weight of the chelated mineral compound. For example, calcium carbonate has 40 percent elemental calcium–to get 500 mg of elemental calcium, it takes 1,250 mg of calcium carbonate.
So if the label says “(blank) mg calcium from calcium carbonate,” “(blank) mg elemental calcium,” or “X mg calcium (as calcium carbonate),” that means the amount of elemental calcium you’ll get is (blank). However, if on the label, it is written, “(blank) mg calcium carbonate,” it’s safe to assume that the total calcium amount is but 40 percent of that.
Yes, there must be an expiration date on each health supplement you consider. Although some nutrients, like calcium and other minerals, can remain potent for years, others, such as vitamins B and C, have a far shorter shelf life.
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