Some people don’t find all of their nutrition in the food they eat, so they may want to take vitamins, minerals or herbs to supplement their diet. Many choose an all-in-one daily supplement they find at their local pharmacy or market. Some of these might be tailored for the specific needs of women, men, or people above a certain age. Others are targeted toward individuals who are trying to lose weight or who feel they are under stress.
If you decide to take vitamins and minerals, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the many products available on the market today. Some supplement companies claim that their products boost energy or memory, increase immune function or slow aging. Many make claims about the purity of their product or its bioavailability (the way in which your body will metabolize a supplement). These claims may or may not be true, but because of the current laws that govern dietary supplement marketing, it’s still up to you, as the consumer, to weed through this information and decide what is right for you.
One question that you may ask when shopping for vitamins and minerals is whether natural supplements and natural vitamins are superior to synthetic ones. You might believe that the word “natural” implies that the supplement comes from substances that grow from the earth and that “synthetic” means the supplement comes from a laboratory.
This is not necessarily true. In fact, many supplements labeled as natural are actually made in a factory. For instance, Vitamin C is made in a factory from starch. Starch is a naturally occurring substance. Therefore, Vitamin C is considered natural.
Some people want to take natural vitamins and natural herbs because they believe things that are naturally-occurring and come from the earth are somehow better or more wholesome or organic and, therefore, will also be better for their bodies and their overall health. And, this may actually be true for certain supplements. For instance, natural Vitamin E (labeled D-alpha-tocopherol) is slightly different than synthetic Vitamin E at the molecular level and is far more biologically potent as a result.
It is also often the case that synthetic vitamins are as good or better than their naturally-occurring counterparts in food. This is the case, for example, with synthetic folic acid, which is more biologically potent than folate, the natural form found in food. Synthetic vitamins generally have a high potency and do the same job as their natural counterparts. They are also much cheaper to make than ones that are derived from whole food and are often concentrated in a smaller pill or tablet.
Most people will find that they get all of the nutrients they need from diet alone, but many people find just taking a supplement makes them feel better, and this contributes to their overall well being. Whether you choose to take natural or synthetic supplements or a combination of both, it’s important to do you research and carefully read the labels of the products that you buy. If you’re still confused, you can use an independent service like Consumerlab.com, which analyzes hundreds of brands of dietary supplements and reports on their quality and safety so that you can feel confident knowing that what you’re buying contains what it claims it does.