Marketing of over-the counter health and nutrition supplements seems to have exploded in recent years. From diet pills to herbal supplements to whey protein, each brand insists theirs is the most beneficial to your health. At the same time, nutrition experts present a conflicting barrage of information about which supplements are the most important.
If you were to take every supplement recommended by an ‘expert’, not only would your countertops be overflowing, your pockets would be empty too. With so many choices and voices out there, the average consumer is left overwhelmed and conflicted. Which supplements do you really need to take, and are they worth the cost?
List #1: Definitely NOT Worth the Cost
Before delving into which supplements you may need and why, these few are clearly a waste of money.
- Diet Pills
Not only do diet pills make unverifiable claims of drastic weight loss and other benefits, they are ridiculously expensive. Some diet supplements can costs anywhere from $20-$60 a bottle.
Perhaps even scarier than the price of diet pills is their health risk. Many diet products are pushed to consumers before they’re sufficiently tested for side effects. You don’t have to look far for news stories about diet pill recalls and cases of fatality.
- Discount Supplements
You may think you’re saving money and protecting your health by purchasing discounted supplements from a retail chain, but in most cases, you’re buying mostly fillers. There’s a reason they’re cheap — they lack quality ingredients, third party testing, and standardized potencies.
Do You Need Any Supplementation?
Many of us have had the ‘need’ to take a multi-vitamin drilled into us from an early age, and it’s become a part of our daily routine we don’t question. In reality, the average healthy individual who consumes a balanced diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats shouldn’t need take a daily multi-vitamin. Whenever possible, nutrients should come directly from whole foods.
In spite of this ideal, many people don’t eat balanced diets and may need to supplement with a high-quality, easily-absorbed multi-vitamin.
Alternately, if you fall into one of the following categories, you may have special dietary needs:
- Pregnant women — Vitamin B12 (folic acid) is essential for fetal development. A high-quality pre-natal vitamin may be in order.
- Women, in general — Iron levels may be low.
- Vegans, vegetarians — may be low in calcium, Vitamin D, iodine, and B12.
- Seniors over 50 — may need Vitamin D, B12, and calcium. supplementation due to declining digestive absorption.
List #2: These Supplements May Be Worth It
In addition to specific dietary needs, the following may be beneficial, and worth working into your food or health budget:
- Whey or plant proteins. These are good sources of protein for vegetarians or vegans, or anyone trying to gain muscle weight. Look for brands higher in protein grams and low in sugar, but there’s no need to break the bank for higher quality. Buying in bulk will save you more money per ounce.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. If anything, most health professionals recommend this supplement, either in the form of fish oil or flaxseed, since most people don’t consume enough foods with these important fatty acids. Do your research on this one and find a high-quality brand.
What supplements do you take, and why? How have you found ways to save money on this aspect of your health?