Humans are designed to obtain our nutrients from food, not supplements. When we tuck into a big old salad or bowl of veggies, our body goes through a complex process of digestion and absorption to draw the vitamins and minerals in the correct levels from that meal. These nutrients are “bioavailable,” which essentially means we can unlock them from the food. Supplements, on the other hand, vary in their bioavailability. Keep scrolling to find out how to shop for the most effective supplements and the ones we recommend.
“What we eat has absorbed nutrition from the environment in which it was created (the soil or a tree, for example). The plant performs a metabolic process, which completely changes the structure of the nutrients into a form that is plant-bound with other compounds,” explains independent nutrition therapistIan Marber. “In turn, this upgraded compound allows humans and animals to absorb the nutrient in the digestive system.”
Traditional supplements that you find on the high street tend to bypass this natural process. “In other words, the nutrient is created in a lab and thus taken in isolation rather than in a plant-bound structure, which means the nutrient is not as effectively used, or broken down properly, in the body,” adds Marber.
That means that we are, essentially, flushing a high proportion of these supplements (and the money they cost) down the toilet. Brilliant.
But not all is lost. The buzzword in the supplement world right now is “food state,” and these supplements are formulated to mimic food, making them way more bioavailable. The only downside? They cost more. “The initial cost is higher than the long-established brands we have been used to seeing in the health stores, but the costs of production for these food state products are far higher too,” explains Marber. When it comes to your supplements, you get what you pay for it seems. But with a better absorption rate you should be able to take fewer of these revved up supplements than the traditional type, which means a pot should last you much longer and work more effectively.
So what should you look out for when shopping for supplements? “The terms used for these food state supplements tend to be whole food, raw or food grown,” says Marber, who rates the brands Wild Nutritionand Nature’s Own. “But don’t worry too much about the small print; if the supplements cost more and are of a higher grade, rest assured the manufacturers will make sure you know it!”
You can’t go wrong with a good-quality food state multivitamin, but Marber recommends booking in with an expert who can suggest where you might be lacking. “I like to think of supplements as nutritional grouting, there to fill in the cracks. More targeted nutritional needs—such as vitamin D or omega-3—should be discussed with a nutritionist trained in supplements and food. The staff in a health food store may be knowledgeable, but they are there to sell you something; they are hardly going to say ‘you don’t need it’ or ‘don’t waste your money’!
“Find someone independent—the fee you pay will be well spent and will save you more in the long run. You won’t be wasting resources on supplements that do you no more good than eating a decent diet.”
Do you take food state supplements already, and have you noticed a difference? Sound off in the comments box below.