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Choosing the Right Supplement: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to maintaining good health, there’s no doubt that a balanced diet is essential. However, it can be challenging to get all the nutrients your body needs from food alone. That’s where dietary supplements come in. Supplements support your overall well-being by providing a convenient way to fill nutrient gaps in your diet. But with so many options available today, choosing the right supplement can feel overwhelming. 

To help ease some of that overwhelm, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to fill you in on everything you need to know about supplements and what you should consider when choosing them.

Understanding Dietary Supplements

Before diving into the nitty gritty about choosing supplements, let’s make sure we are all on the same page about what exactly dietary supplements are all about. Dietary supplements are defined as consumable products that contain a “dietary ingredient” to supplement the nutritional variety of your diet. For the purpose of this definition, dietary ingredients include:

  • Vitamins, minerals, and amino acids
  • Herbs and other botanicals
  • Extracts, concentrates, constituents (the active ingredients in a plant), and metabolites (the products of metabolism)
  • Natural dietary substances in food, such as probiotics and enzymes

In simpler terms, dietary supplements are products that contain essential nutrients, either in their singular form or in the form of a food-based ingredient. They are intended to supplement your existing diet.

Dietary supplements come in various forms, including pills, capsules, powders, and liquids, and are a simple and convenient way to provide your body with an extra dose of some of the key nutrients it needs to stay as healthy as possible. 

While these products can help support your overall health, you should understand that they are not a replacement for a healthy diet. Even when you are taking a nutritional supplement, it’s still important to eat a balanced diet that is composed of a wide variety of whole foods. Then, you can lean on your chosen supplement to help fill any nutritional gaps that may still exist.

The Role of Supplements in Diet and Lifestyle

Supplements can play a valuable role in supporting your diet and lifestyle. While your diet should provide you with all of the essential nutrients you need, there are instances when this is not necessarily the case.  

For example, it’s common for people who are on a serious fitness journey to seek out supplements that will help support energy production, muscle growth, and recovery. A great example of this is creatine supplements, which provide the body with a key amino acid (creatine) that it needs to maintain and improve strength.  

Additionally, if you have a specific aspect of your health that you are trying to improve, it may be worth finding a supplement designed to help you support those goals. For instance, if you are combating digestive discomforts, a probiotic supplement can be beneficial. Similarly, if you have chosen to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet finding a supplement that will provide you with key nutrients like B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, or protein can help ensure that your diet choices don’t leave you with gaping nutrient holes. 

Of course, there are also a variety of health conditions that can be easier to navigate with the assistance of a dietary supplement. In these cases, your healthcare provider will be able to help you identify exactly what kind of supplement you should be looking for.  

Nutrients from Food vs Nutrients from Supplements

While supplements can be beneficial for many, it’s important to note that they should never replace a healthy diet. Real, whole foods are the best way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly.

The main reason for this is that many nutrients help each other out, which means that consuming one without the other lessens the benefits your body may get. For example, vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium. Without vitamin D around to assist with the absorption process, your body won’t absorb as much calcium as it would otherwise. Because the nutritional profile of natural foods is complex, it is common for a single food to contain the pairs of nutrients that work best together. For example, oranges have both vitamin D and calcium, which means your body will be able to absorb more of this important mineral. 

Additionally, the human body was designed to get the nutrients it needs from food sources. Because of this, the nutrients found in whole foods are often easier for your body to break down and absorb than the nutrients that come in supplement form. 

With all that being said, even healthy people who eat a well-balanced diet can still benefit from supplements. Why? Because no matter how well you eat, there is still a chance that your body isn’t getting all of the nutrients it needs because the nutritional value of many whole foods has been gradually declining. Plant researchers who have spent time observing the nutrient profile of foods have discovered that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, changes to farming practices, and soil degradation over time have contributed to a reduction in nutrient content for some crops. Basically, this means that a serving of fruits and vegetables today has less nutritional value than it did in the 50s. 

All that to say, addressing your body’s nutritional needs should be a two-step process. First, focus on filling your diet with a variety of whole foods. Then, find a supplement that can help you fill in the gaps. 

Synthetic vs Natural Supplements

Before we dive into the steps you should follow when choosing a new dietary supplement, there is one more thing you need to understand—the difference between synthetic and natural supplements. 

Synthetic supplements contain nutrients that are human-made, created using an industrial process using chemicals. They are created with ingredients that are designed to mimic natural nutritional compounds, but your body may not recognize this. Instead, your body may identify these ingredients as foreign compounds and try to remove as much of them as possible. This results in a very small amount of the synthetic ingredients being absorbed and used by the body. 

Alternatively, natural supplements are as close as possible to what nature intended. Also called food supplements or food-based supplements, these products contain nutrients that closely match the ones found in nature. They are typically made with food-based ingredients that have either been grown in yeast or harvested in their wild state. These natural products usually contain a variety of nutrients, including important cofactors and nutrient pairs that are needed for optimal absorption.

How Do You Go About Choosing the Right Supplement?

There’s no doubt that choosing the right supplement can be daunting, given the numerous products available on the market. To simplify the process, follow this step-by-step approach that’s designed to help you evaluate available products and know which one is best for you.

1. Determine Your Specific Health Goals

Before you start browsing for a new supplement, you must identify your specific health goals. That way, you have a better understanding of what types of supplements you should be looking for. After all, not all supplements will help with every health goal, so knowing your goals ahead of time can help you narrow down what types of supplements may be the most beneficial. 

Not sure what type of supplement you should be looking for? Here are a few examples of health goals and the supplements that can support them. 

  • Goal: Weight Loss
    • Supplements that may help will contain nutrients like B vitamins, protein, and fiber. Additionally, gut health products can help improve digestive function, which can also assist with weight management. 
  • Goal: Boost Immune Health
    • Supplements that may help will contain nutrients that are known to support the immune system, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. Also, food supplements that contain medicinal mushrooms are a great option here, as these natural superfoods are known for their ability to support immune function.  
  • Goal: Age Gracefully Inside and Out
    • Supplements that may help will contain structural proteins like collagen and powerful antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta carotene, and glutathione, which are important for protecting your cells from oxidative stress. 
  • Goal: Improve Athletic Performance
    • Supplements that may help will contain proteins or amino acids (like creatine), omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and collagen. Additionally, products that have calcium and potassium can also be beneficial here, as they are known for supporting bone health and muscle health, respectively. 

2. Explore Your Options

Once you know what your health goals are, it’s time to start exploring the options available to you. We know this part of the process can seem a little overwhelming, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be as difficult or time-consuming as you may think. 

Lucky for you, the simple act of choosing your health goal has already narrowed down your options a bit. Now, you can go about making that list even smaller by spending some time researching which nutrients, combinations of ingredients, or types of supplements would be most beneficial for you. As you go through this process, you will likely come across a few products that pique your interest. Don’t worry much about reading all about them now, but keep a note of them somewhere so you can come back and take a closer look at them throughout the next steps.

3. Check the Supplement’s Ingredients

Once you have a short list of supplements that interest you, it’s time to dig into the details to determine which one is the best option, starting with a look at the ingredients list. Check the supplement label to see what ingredients were used to create it. Not only should you be checking to see if the product contains the nutrients you are looking for, but you should be looking to identify if the ingredients are synthetic or natural. 

Products that contain natural ingredients may say something like “100% natural” on the label and the ingredients list will contain natural food sources that you will likely be able to identify. On the flip side, synthetic products will have man-made ingredients listed, which often begin with “di” or end with “ide” or “ate.”

While checking out the ingredients list, also keep your eye out for fillers like gelatin or silicon dioxide or additives like sweeteners, preservatives, colors, and flavorings. While these may extend the shelf life of the supplement or improve the product’s look and taste, they often don’t have any health benefits to offer your body and can end up doing more harm than good. 

If you are following a specific diet examining the ingredient list is also the best way to identify if the product contains ingredients that you want to avoid, such as animal products for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Next, take a look at the supplement facts panel. This will give you a breakdown of important information such as: 

  • Suggested use and serving size
  • Number of calories
  • Presence of macro and micronutrients (fat, protein, carbs, vitamins, etc)
  • The percent daily value for those nutrients

4. Check for Quality and Safety Certifications

Ingredients look good? Great! But before you hit that “add to cart” button, there is something else you should check—the product’s quality and safety certifications. After all, just because a supplement has the ingredients or nutrients you need, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is effective or safe to consume. This is where third-party testing and certifications come into play. 

For a company or product to be certified safe and high-quality by a third party, it often has to undergo rigorous testing and thorough audits that compare the company’s production processes and ingredients to industry standards. In simpler terms, third-party agencies examine the processes used by manufacturers to help hold them accountable for creating the highest quality products possible. 

There are many quality and safety certifications out there that you may be interested in looking for, such as USDA organic, Kosher, and Halal, but one of the most powerful is being registered to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which is the gold standard in the food and supplement industry. 

Many third-party entities such as NSF International and others are equipped to audit the facilities and processes of supplement companies to ensure that their facilities are well-maintained and their products are consistently produced in ways that align with the best practices set forth by the FDA. 

What’s more? This certification is not a one-time event. GMP registration is an ongoing process that requires not only a consistent commitment to best practices but also being subjected to 1 to 2 unexpected audits each year. These audits require a thorough inspection of the company’s ingredient sources, equipment, production areas, storage facilities, shipping areas, and documentation processes to ensure compliance throughout every step of the manufacturing process. Passing these audits each year to maintain their registration is a great indicator that the company takes the quality and safety of its products seriously.

5. Check Reviews

Last, but certainly not least, once you have your list narrowed down to a handful of options, take to the internet and do a little research about each brand, paying special attention to product reviews. These reviews will give you insight into the effectiveness of the product as well as the experience you can expect if you need to reach out to customer support or take advantage of a satisfaction guarantee. 

Combining all of the information you’ve gathered with the insights you can get from customer reviews, you will be well-equipped to make an informed decision about which dietary supplement is right for you.

Add New Earth to Your List

The bottom line is this: choosing the right supplement for you is a personal choice that depends on your specific goals and preferences. It may take time to find a product that fits both your needs and your quality and safety standards, but once you find the one for you, it can positively impact both your health and quality of life. 

If you’re looking for a solution to explore today, then we invite you to browse our line of all-natural, third-party-certified superfood supplements. We’re sure you will find one that piques your interest, and when you do, you can put it to the test risk-free with our 90-day money-back guarantee. 

At New Earth (link to newearth.com) we are on a mission to positively impact the health of every body and soul we come in contact with. We specialize in producing third-party certified, organic whole food supplements including a variety of probiotics, and digestive support. Our supplements feature a rare, yet highly nutritious superfood, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA). Also known as organic Wild Microalgae®, AFA is a unique type of microalgae that is available in many forms including tablets, capsules, and powders all designed to help you on your journey to holistic wellness. The best part? We offer a 90-day money-back risk-free guarantee on all of our products. Visit our website to learn more.