Selecting the Right Supplement for You and Your Family

Selecting the Right Supplement for You and Your Family


When was the last time you visited the supplement aisle at the store or browsed online for a multivitamin? Chances are you were overwhelmed by the choices available! The supplement industry is a whopping 493 billion dollar business in the United States and is expected to grow to 991 billion by 2030.  With each brand claiming that their supplement is the best, how do you choose the right one for you or your family?

What is a dietary supplement?

The FDA considers a dietary supplement any nutrient not found in a conventional food that is used to supplement or add to one's diet. In most instances, a dietary supplement is used to help an individual meet the daily requirements for a typical nutrient and is used on both a long-term and short-term basis.  Dietary supplements come in a number of different types and formulations, each with its own unique benefit or purpose.

Common types of dietary supplements on the market:

Vitamins: Single nutrients, such as vitamin D or C, as well as multivitamin formulations

Minerals: Single nutrients, such as calcium or magnesium that are often included in multivitamin formulations

Botanicals and herbal formulations: Parts of flowers or plants, such as ginseng, echinacea, aloe, or ginger

Amino acids: Individual amino acids, such as L-glutamine

Live microbial: Single probiotic strains, such as S. Boulardii or other multi-strain probiotic formulations

Should you take a dietary supplement?

Dietary supplements can be an effective way to improve your health and meet your wellness goals. However, the decision to take a dietary supplement should only be made by consulting with a qualified practitioner, as many supplements can interfere with medications and certain medical treatments. Qualified practitioners, such as Nutritional Therapy Practitioners (NTP), Naturopathic Doctors (ND), or Dietary Supplement Specialists (DSS) are trained to take your health history into consideration and can verify that there are no contraindications in the selected supplements. If you currently take supplements, it is recommended you periodically review these with a qualified practitioner.

Most adults and even children can benefit from taking a dietary supplement. This is primarily because our modern diets do not meet the recommended nutrient targets leading to chronic nutritional deficiencies, but can also be due to factors such as geographic location, poor soil quality, crop handling, and transport time to the market.3 Moreover, certain medical conditions and medications can impair the absorption of key nutrients making it challenging to meet the daily requirements for optimal wellness. For example, 95% of the US population was found to be deficient in Vitamin D, 84% in vitamin E, and 46% in Vitamin C.

Become Label Literate

If you look at one of the many bottles of supplements on the market today, you will quickly notice a variety of health claims, various logos and seals, and an overwhelming amount of information. In order to select a top-quality supplement, you must become “label literate” and understand what the many claims on the bottle mean.  This will help you make an informed decision and not be swayed by persuasive or misleading marketing and outrageous health claims. Some common claims or endorsements you may find on a dietary supplement include:

USP Verified: USP stands for United States Pharmacopeia and is a designation given to products that meet or exceed the USP purity requirements for food, drug, or medicinal uses.

USDA Organic: Product must follow strict production, handling, and labeling standards and go through the organic certification process which addresses a variety of factors such as soil quality, animal raising practices, and pest and weed control.

NON-GMO Project Verified: Indicates that a product has been third-party tested and was produced without genetic engineering and its ingredients are not derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).7

Certified Gluten-Free: Indicates that the product has been independently verified to be gluten-free and meets strict quality and integrity standards.8

Natural: This term is not regulated or clearly defined and should be regarded with great skepticism. A product may contain only 10% natural ingredients and up to 90% artificial ingredients and still be labeled as “natural”. 9

Additionally, dietary supplements are not regulated for safety or effectiveness by the FDA. Therefore, you will see a disclaimer on all bottles that states:

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

It is important to understand this does not mean the supplement is unsafe or ineffective. It does, however, mean that you should carefully consider any supplement you intend to take and ensure it comes from a reputable company that meets or exceeds the claims and endorsements listed above.

Practitioner Tip: When selecting a quality product choose one that is labeled as free from the following ingredients: artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, corn, dairy, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, sugar, tree nuts, and yeast.

Understanding Supplement Facts Labels

All dietary supplements must contain a Supplements Facts Label, similar to the Nutrition Facts Label found on food packaging. Within the Supplement Facts label you will find the following information:

Serving Size: Indicates the number of units to be taken at a time. Example: 3 Tablets.

Servings per container: Indicates the number of servings in the bottle. Example 90 Tablets.

Amount per serving: Indicates the dose of each ingredient per serving. May be given in micrograms (mcg), milligrams (mg), grams (g), or international units (IU). Example: 300mg.

Percent Daily Value (%DV): Indicates how much a specific ingredient contributes to the daily requirement based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Certain ingredients, such as herbs do not have an established daily value. Example: 48% DV.

You might notice that some ingredients are listed within the columns on the Supplement Facts Label and others are not. Those listed within the Supplement Facts Label are considered dietary ingredients, or active ingredients. The ingredients not included in the Supplement Facts Label are considered non-dietary ingredients (inactive), and are also known as excipients. These are often fillers, bulking agents, binders, stabilizers, or preservatives included in the supplement. Selecting a product with the fewest inactive ingredients is always good practice.

Where to buy supplements

Supplements are available in many different locations. You can find a large selection on the shelves of drug stores and major retailers, such as Walmart or from online retailers, such as Amazon. However, that doesn’t mean the supplements you see are top quality. In fact, many of the supplements available from Amazon have unfortunately been found to be counterfeit. Therefore, I don’t typically recommend clients purchase supplements from major online retailers. There are always exceptions, but generally, purchasing a supplement through a qualified practitioner or physician's office is a safer choice. Many of the companies that manufacture top-quality supplements only sell through qualified, licensed, and vetted practitioners. These supplements are considered “practitioner exclusive” and typically cannot be purchased on websites, such as Amazon. Buying practitioner-exclusive products just make sense. Not only can you be confident that your product contains pure, top-quality ingredients, but it also saves you money. When you buy products with inferior ingredients and fillers you may need to take more in order to receive the same benefit as you would get from a top-quality product.

Practitioner Exclusive Brands to Consider

There are many reputable supplement companies that offer top-quality practitioner-exclusive products. The following are some brands that I work with as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Dietary Supplement Specialist, although the list is not exhaustive.

  • Apex Energetics
  • Metagenics
  • Designs for Health
  • Orthomolecular Products
  • Biotics Research
  • Integrative Therapeutics
  • Standard Process

Practitioner Tip: If you see one of the brands listed above for sale on Amazon, proceed with caution. Consider verifying directly with the manufacturer that the seller has permission to list their products for resale on the platform before purchasing.

Key Take-Aways

  1. Supplements can be an extremely effective and safe way to improve your health and meet your wellness goals.
  2. Most individuals can benefit from taking one or more supplements due to an improper diet, geographic location, poor soil quality, crop handling, and transport time to the market.
  3. Supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a qualified health professional as they can interfere with prescription medications and medical treatments. If you are looking for custom supplement recommendations, you can book a session with me today on Well Me Right.
  4. The best way to choose a supplement for yourself is to become label literate and understand the packaging information before purchasing.
  5. Be wary of supplements sold on Amazon and other major online retailers as they may be counterfeit and contain inferior, or even harmful ingredients.
  6. Purchase top quality, practitioner-exclusive products that are organic, USP verified, non-GMO, and free from artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, corn, dairy, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, sugar, tree nuts, and yeast whenever possible.

About The Author

Sarah Wojtas is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Dietary Supplement Specialist (DSS), and AIP Certified Coach with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics. Sarah is passionate about supporting individuals with digestive issues. Diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2014, Sarah has personally experienced the transforming power of a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. When working with clients, Sarah puts a strong emphasis on education so that clients feel empowered to be their own health advocates. Sarah respects each person's bio-individuality and tailors all recommendations around a person's individual health history. There is absolutely no one size fits all approach!

Book Wellness Expert sessions offered by Sarah on Well Me Right.


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