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With so many natural supplements & vitamins on the market today, it’s no wonder people are more confused than ever when it comes to finding a quality product that meets their needs. Canadians are becoming more educated on what natural supplements may be beneficial for their health, but what about the other things manufacturers add to their final products? Let’s take a closer look at what we don’t want in our vitamins & supplements.
Types of Additives
There are four main categories of additives that manufacturers can add to their formulas, depending mostly on the active ingredients the company wishes to use and the form of intake (tablet vs. capsule vs. loose powder).
- Artificial colours & flavours
It’s important to recognize that not all vitamins and supplements can be made without ANY additives; in fact, they may be required to keep the active ingredients ‘active’ or allow them to better mix with other ingredients in the formula. But there are certainly a few definitive no-no’s when it comes to what’s in your natural medicine cabinet. Let’s take a closer look.
Artificial Colours & Flavours
No excuse for this one. Stay away from products containing “colours” within the list of non-active ingredients, or anything with the word “flavouring” in it (such as “orange flavour” or “cherry flavour”). These artificial additives are absolutely not necessary (except to make the product taste or look a certain way) which means they need to stay out. Keep a close eye on liquid, chewable, or gummy formulas where they tend to lurk. They have been linked to behavioural problems & allergies.
While some products need binders to keep their ingredients together (especially in pill form), some versions are better than others. Keep an eye out for modified food starches (which are often made using GMO corn) and polyethylene glycol (made from petroleum). Both of these should be avoided. A better option would be small amounts of non-GMO magnesium stearate, which is widely used in professional grade formulas.
As the name suggests, fillers do just that—the ‘fill up’ the empty space in a product. This keeps costs down for the manufacturer while giving you less of the active ingredients. In particular, look out for fillers in loose powders such as protein and greens powders. Beware of cellulose, titanium dioxide, and cornstarch (usually GMO). For greens powders, make sure the inexpensive bulking agents like alfalfa are further down the list of active ingredients.
This category is a necessary one. Most formulas are not made to last forever on the shelf (a good thing!). However, preservatives coming from GMO corn, sulphites & nitrites should be avoided. Even ascorbic acid (vitamin C) will come from corn unless otherwise stated. Be sure to choose a company that does not use GMO ingredients or that uses whole food ingredients as their preservatives.
The Final Take-Away
Quality goes a long way when it comes to supplements and vitamins. This is because there are gaps in regulations on what can actually go in the product and on the label. Choose professional brands whenever possible, and always be on the lookout for the top offenders we spoke about here. If you can’t pronounce it, chances are it should be avoided.
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.