All Supplements are Not Created Equal
Choosing the Best Multi-Vitamin
Despite the moaning we all do every summer (too hot, too humid, too rainy, too few holidays) after all we are Canadian, we are incredibly fortunate. Our climate and geography give us a wealth of selection of fresh, high-quality nutritious produce grown right in our own backyard. They enable us to obtain a wealth of nutrients right from Mother Nature to help keep us healthy.
Now we are transitioning to winter, where the selection offered to us is less diverse and in some cases is downright meager. If we want fruits and vegetables we are forced to turn to a combination of fresh (what little is transported to us from warmer climates) frozen and canned. Together they can provide some of our nutritional needs but they are no match for using a wide variety of fresh produce.
The ideal solution is to use fresh where possible and "top up" with supplements.
First off, ensure you are taking a good multivitamin multimineral. Many "multis" clip some corners in an effort to keep costs down. Two methods often used are how much of each individual nutrient is used and the quality of each individual ingredient. "Good" is defined by having a wide range of nutrients that are present in high enough quantities to provide medicinal effects and also present in bioavailable forms.
There is no point in taking a nutrient in quantities smaller than those that can provide a beneficial effect. By doing this you are not saving money but actually wasting money. Sure the product may be cheaper, but it is providing a false sense of security because you are in essence just throwing your money away by getting less than your body needs. Believe it or not, some multis for women contain only 40mg calcium! Even if it is the best calcium known to man (which it isn't) that is still less than 4% of the minimum daily requirement for supplementation! It is just barely enough to claim on the label, but for a good multi, that is actually rounding error. Either pick a supplement without calcium (some good ones exist) and take a separate high quality calcium, or chose a multi with enough calcium to make a difference.
Bioavailability is also a key factor. Merely having any form of a nutrient (say calcium) allows you to put it on the label, but does it actually get absorbed? Each nutrient has at least a couple of distinct forms (ranging from vitamin D with 2 and calcium to over 40) each with its own bioavailability profile. With minerals, try to choose minerals in organic forms. In nature, minerals are found in both organic and inorganic forms. It is important to know what the organic and inorganic forms are. Organic minerals are obtained from plant sources like algae, fruits, vegetables and grains. Inorganic minerals are obtained from animal products and by-products and rocks. Our digestive system is not designed to absorb inorganic minerals, so we are not very efficient at it and they are not readily utilized by your body. However we are designed to absorb organic minerals and we do so quite well (in some cases 10 times better than inorganic minerals.) In calcium's case some of the inorganic forms are carbonate, sulphate, bone meal, oyster shell, coral, etc. Organic forms of calcium include gluconate lactate, fructoborate, orotate, aspartate, ascorbate, potassium-phospherous complex, etc).
In the case of vitamins there is no general rule as there is for minerals. Each individual vitamin has its own ranking of bioavailability for each form. This article is too short to go into which form of each vitamin is best. Please talk to your natural health practitioner about the bioavailability of vitamin sources.
Top off your supplementing with a good green supplement. It will boost your stamina and energy in a healthy way without the jolt or crash you feel from sugar or caffeine. I prefer liquid concentrates because they tend to be purer (fewer ingredients), stronger (potency), blend easier, have little to no grit and actually taste much better. To top it off, liquid concentrates also tend to be less expensive per serving than powders!
You can improve the absorption of all the nutrients from your diet and supplements through a couple of simple actions.
- Eat healthier. A better diet will eliminate a lot of the toxins that hamper our digestive system's efficiency.
- Exercise regularly. It tones your whole body and improves the efficiency of every system including digestion.
- Drink water, a lot of water. Not fancy (and sweetened) trendy waters, just water. If you don't like the taste, add something yourself that is unsweetened (natural or artificial) and healthy. Hey, how about adding a great-tasting liquid green concentrate?
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.