Walking through the dietary supplement aisle can be confusing and overwhelming. Supermarket, convenience store, and health food store shelves are stocked with different kinds of dietary supplements that promise to build muscle, help you lose weight, improve concentration, protect against chronic disease, or even improve sexual or athletic performance. After reading the claims, you too might want to try one of these so-called “miracle” supplements, however, before you do, check out my tips and become savvy about supplements.
Tips about supplements:
- Talk to your health care provider or nutritionist before taking a supplement. Many supplements contain ingredients that act like prescription medications or interact with medicines you might be taking. Dietary supplements are intended to supplement (add to) your diet, not replace actual food. Make sure taking it will benefit you.
- Rethink marketing claims. Do the claims sound too good to be true? If so, you should probably stay away. If the supplement is marketed as an “alternative” to a medication or if it claims to be a “legal” alternative to anabolic steroids, you should think twice about taking it. Claims such as these are red flags for potentially unsafe products.
- Question the quality. Supplements are not held to the same quality standard as prescription medications or food, which means the amount of the ingredients per serving in a supplement varies. Unlike prescription medications, the government doesn’t actually test supplements to make sure they are safe. Therefore, it’s up to the supplement industry to regulate the products they make.
- Look for tested supplements. If your health care provider or nutritionist recommends a dietary supplement, choose one that has been tested so you can be sure that you’re getting what is on the label. Both USP and NSF tests supplements and verify products that don’t have unwanted ingredients in them and that have accurate labels.
- Food is fuel. Remember, a well-rounded diet is the best way to nourish your body and provide you with all the essential nutrients your body needs.
Next time you’re curious about a supplement, take a step back and think about the product by learning more about the supplement and its ingredients. Are the marketing claims realistic? Do you see either the Dietary Supplement USP Verified mark or the NSF Certified for Sport stamp? Don’t forget to always talk with your health care provider or nutritionist before taking any supplement.
– Nutritionist Orianna