What Advice Do Nutritionists Give for Navigating Dietary Supplements?


    What Advice Do Nutritionists Give for Navigating Dietary Supplements?

    With a staggering array of dietary supplements available, we sought the wisdom of nutritionists and healthcare professionals to guide consumers through the maze. From the importance of informing healthcare professionals about supplement use to consulting a healthcare provider before starting supplementation, here are the top seven pieces of advice from industry experts on navigating the supplement market.

    • Inform Healthcare Professionals About Supplements
    • Beware of Quick-Fix Supplement Claims
    • Prioritize Whole Foods Over Supplements
    • Choose High-Quality Supplement Products
    • Read Beyond Active Ingredients List
    • Keep Supplement Use Simple and Essential
    • Consult Health Care Provider Before Supplementation

    Inform Healthcare Professionals About Supplements

    I've advised clients to keep me and other healthcare professionals informed about the dietary supplements they're taking. It's crucial, before adding a new supplement to one's routine, to avoid potential interactions with medications and assess its appropriateness for individual health needs. Additionally, I recommend choosing supplement brands with third-party testing certifications to ensure they meet specific standards.

    Lisa Young
    Lisa YoungNutritionist and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, Dr. Lisa Young Nutrition

    Beware of Quick-Fix Supplement Claims

    I advise people to be cautious of supplements with marketing claims that promise quick fixes or miraculous results. Many supplements on the market lack scientific evidence to support their efficacy and safety. It is important to critically evaluate the research behind any supplement. Consult reliable sources such as a Registered Dietitian or Physician, reputable scientific studies, and well-known health organizations before taking them.

    Ultimately, I always advise my clients to prioritize whole foods with a balanced and varied diet for their primary source of nutrition versus supplements when possible and feasible.

    Michelle Rauch Msc Rdn
    Michelle Rauch Msc RdnRegistered Dietitian & Nutritionist, The Actors Fund Home

    Prioritize Whole Foods Over Supplements

    My advice for clients regarding dietary supplements is to focus on whole foods first and supplements second. Most people would benefit more from eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins than from adding another pill to their regimen. Supplements should be used sparingly and only when there is clear evidence of a deficiency. For example, those over 50 should likely take a vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter months. But for most other supplements, the research is mixed, and benefits are often marginal.

    Instead of trying every new product on the market promising weight loss, energy boosts, or anti-aging benefits, a simpler approach is usually best. Eat lots of plant foods, limit processed and fried foods, stay well-hydrated, and move your body regularly. These basic healthy habits will provide most of the nutrition and support your body needs.

    If you do decide to try a supplement, look for reputable brands that provide independent lab testing results. Start with a low dose and monitor how your body responds over a few weeks before increasing. And remember that supplements are just that—they supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle, not replace them. Focus your time and money on whole foods first; then supplements may have a small role to play in supporting your health.

    Huma Shaikh
    Huma ShaikhFounder and Dietitian

    Choose High-Quality Supplement Products

    When navigating the plethora of dietary supplements on the market, remember to look for high-quality products. Supplement companies should have research behind them and high-quality control. Supplements should be stored in dark glass bottles or opaque plastic bottles. They should not have too many fillers, binders, or any artificial colors or flavors added. In addition, it's best to buy from a supplement company that focuses and specializes only on supplements, as opposed to companies that make everything under the sun. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more for high-quality, but it's worth it in the end for bioavailability and assimilation. Talk to your nutritionist about reputable brands.

    Kim Ross, Ms, Rd, Cdn
    Kim Ross, Ms, Rd, CdnIntegrative Nutritionist, Kim Ross Nutrition

    Read Beyond Active Ingredients List

    If I could share one vital piece of advice with clients to help them navigate the complex world of dietary supplements, it would be to meticulously read beyond the active ingredients list. It's crucial to examine the 'other' or 'inactive' ingredients contained in the product. I always recommend this because, quite often, supplements include constituents that might not be conducive to one's health situation. Common examples that people overlook are gluten, lactose, and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol. These substances can have adverse effects, particularly for those with specific dietary restrictions or sensitivities. Being vigilant about the entire ingredient list can significantly guide you in choosing a supplement that aligns with your health goals and dietary needs.

    Danielle Gaffen
    Danielle GaffenRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Eat Well Crohn's Colitis

    Keep Supplement Use Simple and Essential

    Navigating the supplement jungle can be tricky, but I always tell my clients to keep it simple. First off, focus on getting the nutrients your body needs from real, whole foods. Supplements are just that—a supplement, not a substitute. If you're covering your bases with a balanced diet, you might not need as many pills and powders as you think. Now, if you still feel the need to add something extra, start with the basics like a good-quality multivitamin. It's like an insurance policy for your nutrition. Always consult with a nutritionist or healthcare professional before adding anything new to your routine.

    James Cunningham
    James CunninghamSenior Coach, Total Shape

    Consult Health Care Provider Before Supplementation

    One piece of advice I've given to a client who wanted to use dietary supplements is to always consult their healthcare provider before taking any supplement. Dietary supplements can have strong effects on the body and may interact with medications or medical conditions. They may also contain ingredients that are not listed on the label or that are not regulated for quality and safety. Therefore, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider who can assess the client's needs, recommend the appropriate dosage and type of supplement, and monitor the client's progress and possible side effects. I also advised the client to read the label instructions carefully, to avoid taking more than the recommended amount, and to check for reliable sources of information about the benefits and risks of dietary supplements.

    Trent Carter
    Trent CarterNurse Practitioner, Founder, Curednation