Shopping for Supplements? Here's What You Need to Know
TIPS ON WHAT TO AVOID, THE NUTRIENTS YOU NEED, AND HOW TO SIFT THROUGH WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS
The supplement section at your local market can be a wild ride—lofty promises, little rules and regulation, most of it snake oil—but the industry continues to explode because the results you crave are scribed right on the bottle. Whether it’s longer hair, a body free of bloat, or heightened focus, there seems to be a pill or tonic to take you there. On the contrary, your body doesn’t read nutrients the same way. There is no one spot treatment.
Founders and co-CEOs of Sakara Life, Danielle Duboise and Whitney Tingle, often refer to Dr. Michael Pollan’s thoughts about over-intellectualizing food, extracting its nutrients rather than trusting in Mother Nature’s innate wisdom. The truth is, food is more than the sum of its parts. Most supplements that boast single nutrients don’t translate in a vacuum once ingested. Your body, for example, doesn’t simply synthesize a vitamin A pill and impart deft eyesight—this is especially true if that vitamin A is concocted in a lab. It must work in sync with the other nutritional information it's given. The information the body requires to clearly absorb is whole, non-toxic, plant ingredients straight from the earth.
Ideally, our diet would provide us with everything we need, as our bodies are best at absorbing and using nutrients from food, but this isn’t always an option. Even those who eat a “perfect diet” rich in cruciferous vegetables, proteins, minerals, and more could be subject to deficiencies.
This is where supplements come in—but you must be smart about the source. To guarantee that your nutritional bases are fully covered, dietary supplements fill in the areas where you may be lacking, allowing you to build your healthiest body.
Start With A Strong Base
With that in mind, we turn to build out our nutritional base. There are 13 vitamins and 16 minerals that our bodies need to function; in addition to proper levels of protein, which helps build everything from muscle to skin; omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive support and heart health; and the right balance of bacteria in the gut to keep digestion smooth.
How to Choose Supplements: Four Things to Look For
Find the Right Balance of Nutrients
The easiest place to start is to look into essential multivitamins, or curated daily supplement packs that take your body’s overall well-being into account instead of targeting specific health goals. Think about building your body’s structural foundation before “decorating” with specific nutrients— they may not work to their full potential without a strong base. Look out for these nutrients, considered fairly universal for human health: a multivitamin, an omega, a probiotic, a B complex, and a mineral supplement with calcium and magnesium.
Ingredients You Recognize (Because Your Body Will Too)
Look for brands that create supplements derived from ingredients you recognize, ideally ones that are food-based. If you see a label that describes their ingredients as “bioavailable”, this is a good thing! This means that the ingredients are presented in their most absorbable forms, and are more effectively used by your body.
Keep an eye out for B vitamins in their methylated forms. Methylation is a natural chemical process that occurs in the body, in which B vitamins are converted into their active forms, which are important for several bodily functions. Some people have a MTHFR gene mutation, meaning that their bodies are unable to complete this process naturally, and need to take methylated vitamins to ensure they get the correct, regulated doses of B vitamins. Even if you don’t have that gene, it is still safe for you to take methylated vitamins, but just covers that base.
Many mineral supplements offer mega-high doses, but quality beats quantity here. Choose a mineral supplement that is “chelated,” meaning the minerals are bound to amino acids to ensure that your body can use them entirely, without leaving any excess behind (which could lead to free radical damage within the body). Chelated minerals can be nearly twice as absorbable by the body as the more common citrates, meaning you can take a smaller dose to get the intended effect.
Even those who eat a 'perfect diet' rich in cruciferous vegetables, proteins, minerals, and more could be subject to deficiencies.
How to Choose Supplements: Three Things You Should Avoid
Artificial colors and flavors
The safety of artificial colors and flavors has been debated for decades, and many have been found to be toxic or carcinogenic. As it currently stands, the FDA only approves seven dyes for use in the United States. Avoid the risk by steering clear.
Toxic Ingredients (Magnesium silicate, talc, mercury, titanium dioxide, and lead)
All of these ingredients have been linked to detrimental health effects, from kidney damage to stomach cancer. Any supplement that contains one or more of these is definitely one to avoid.
The nutrients in your supplements have to come from somewhere, so not knowing where your ingredients come from means you can’t be sure what you’re taking. For instance, did you know most vitamin A comes from fish livers? That means you could be ingesting mercury or other toxins along with your multivitamin. Prioritize supplements that are transparent about their sourcing practices.
At the end of the day, it’s all about trust. If you need to, do some background on the company: are they cruelty-free? Where are their ingredients sourced from? What research backs their formulas? When in doubt, a good policy is to simplify. Start with the essentials, and go from there.
Into each pack, we’ve poured a decade of nutrition knowledge, the expertise of the brightest minds in the supplements industry, and unmatched quality standards. We’ve done the research (years of it, in fact) to curate the nutrients you need to cover your bases, buffer against those sneaky deficiencies due to diet and lifestyle, and generally feel as good as you possibly can—or better—in your body. To ensure your system can absorb and use every nutrient therein, our supplements are formulated with research-backed levels of active ingredients, food-based ingredients, and cofactors to encourage maximum absorption (while all but eliminating the chances for digestive issues), and delivered in perfectly balanced dosages. And because we have equally strict standards for quality when it comes to supplements as we do for our meal program, they are sparkling clean—no toxic ingredients, junky fillers or additives, animal products or byproducts, or common allergens.
We think we’ve cracked the ideal daily regimen for smart supplementation, and it looks like this:
Superfood Multi: All the essential nutrients from A to zinc, sourced from whole, organic plant foods and botanicals for easy digestibility and maximum absorption, neatly packaged in two pills.
Algae Omega: 100% of your daily EPA and DHA for brain and heart health, in an ocean-safe, vegan-friendly form sourced from nutrient-rich marine algae.
Complete Probiotic Formula: A comprehensive gut health blend that promotes digestion and immunity with 11 complementary bacterial strains, four functional enzymes, and prebiotic fiber for increased efficacy.
Macro Minerals: Essential calcium and magnesium in the ideal balance for healthy skin, teeth, and bones, plus mood and sleep support.
Adaptogenic B Complex: All the B vitamins required to build back up your body’s reserves on a regular basis, plus the Ayurvedic herbal remedy ashwagandha working in synergy to support energy, mood, sleep, and stress response.
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