By Anna Zavitz

The Chartwell Intellect CafeI was asked recently by a friend to help her choose a couple of nutritional supplements. She asked if I would accompany her to the store because it was so overwhelming. My plan was to take her to my favourite shop that specializes in supplementation and make sure that she purchased good quality products that were specific to her needs. However, we found ourselves in the local grocery store on another errand and stopped to look at the endless rows of bottles all claiming to cure everything that we didn’t know we had!

As I was helping her decipher the labels and educating her on what to look for, I realized I had an audience. A crowd was forming! How do you read these labels? What do we really need and is this the right choice for me? The media tells us about all sorts of studies that inform us that we need all sorts of supplementation in order to stave off disease and live longer lives. So, is filling a basket at the pharmacy the answer?

What is Supplementation

Supplementation should be just that, supplementation, an addition to an already healthy lifestyle. It is not a substitution. If you are eating a healthy whole foods diet, rich in leafy greens, grains, vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, lots of clean water and healthy fats you are supplementing already. If your weekly routine includes exercise and proper sleep, your body is getting most of what it needs.

When to Consider Supplementation

Supplementation should be considered if going through extreme times of stress, illness or if medication is being taken that may deplete certain vitamins or minerals.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Consult your Doctor, Naturopathic Doctor or a Registered Holistic Nutritionist before starting a new regiment of supplements to make sure that this is right for you. Check with your pharmacist to make sure that any medications that you take do not interact with your supplement.

2. Start off slowly. Introducing many new supplements at once may be hard on your body. Give your system time to adjust. Always start with the lowest dose and work your way up if needed.

3. Purchase your supplements at Health stores that specialize in supplements. You are looking for pharmaceutical grade supplements that are not full of fillers and additives. Buying them at your local discount store is not advisable. In this case, you get what you pay for. If you find this too expensive, remember, much of what we need can be found in a good healthy diet!

4. Liquid forms of vitamins and minerals are often more “bio-available”. This means that your body will have access to and use more of the actual vitamin or mineral than other forms.

5. Make sure that the supplement is targeted for your age and sex category. Men for instance, should not be taking multi- vitamins that are made specifically for women. Their needs are different. One size does not fit all!

6. B Vitamins should always be taken in a complex (unless advised by a medical professional) as they are delicately balanced in our system and can be thrown off kilter easily.

**If you would like somewhere to start, try Omega- 3 oil, high in DHA. It is excellent for our brain health and often not consumed in large enough quantities in our diets. Keep it in the fridge and take it with a meal. Try it in a smoothie!

Remember – Supplement…not Substitute!