Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the vast variety of vitamin and mineral supplements available? The reality is that most of us are not consuming all the nutrients we need for our bodies to function optimally, which means that most of us will benefit from taking vitamin or mineral supplements. But with so many different types and brands on the market, it can be really difficult to know which one to buy.
The first step is to determine which vitamins or minerals your body will benefit from, and then it’s important to find a trusted brand whose supplements are made from good quality ingredients. In a quest to find a supplement regime suited to her needs, our editor teamed up with award-winning supplement brand Terranova, which launched in South Africa late last year. You can read about her Terranova supplement journey (and get her honest thoughts on the products), here.
During this supplementation journey she realised that there are a lot of misconceptions about vitamins and minerals, and that many consumers do not know how to get the best results from their supplements. Throw in some mixed information spreading via social media and the internet, and it’s no surprise that most of us still need to master the basics. In a bid to demystify some of the mixed information out there, we turned to an expert…
We asked Cobus Botha, Head of Education & Training at Phytoceutics (Terranova’s parent company) a few of the most commonly asked (and often misunderstood!) supplementation questions.
BSA: What is the best way to determine which vitamins and minerals you need?
Cobus: “It’s always best to seek professional advice, like how you would take your car to a mechanic to figure out what parts it might need. A qualified Nutritionist, Integrative GP or Natural Health practitioner will know how to identify which nutrients you might need to achieve wellness. I am a big believer in taking nutrients that are NEEDED and not falling into the trap of taking something just because “it’s good for you” – they’re all good, but not all necessary for you. A good way could be to figure out what you want to achieve and then with that in mind find nutrients that will help you achieve that specific goal. For example, if you experience tension and difficulty sleeping you know you need relaxation and promotion of sleep – one nutrient that might help you achieve that is Magnesium.”
BSA: What is the best time of day to take supplements?
Cobus: “Different times of the day for different supplements. First, it must work for you – if you won’t remember to take something at 2:58 pm then rather just schedule it for a time of the day that would work. In general, I like to schedule antioxidant and energizing supplements in the mornings, so that would be things like a B Complex and Vitamin E. My reasoning for this is that you are going to need energy during the day and you will generally be exposed to most free radicals while out and about so taking antioxidants to protect against free radicals makes sense.
In the evenings I prefer supplements that are more relaxing, generally this will be your minerals like Magnesium. It might also include nutrients that are aimed at regeneration or detoxification. Our bodies tend to do ‘house-keeping’ at night time while we sleep, detoxification happens as does cellular repair and regeneration.”
BSA: Is it better to take supplements on an empty stomach or after a meal?
Cobus: “This varies on a nutrient-by-nutrient basis, some nutrients like the fat-soluble vitamins for example (Vitamins D, E, K & A) would be better absorbed when taken with foods because the fats in a meal would facilitate the absorption, while others like the alkaloid Berberine or the antioxidants found in Green Tea tend to be more effective when taken on an empty stomach. In general, you can keep in mind that nutrients don’t occur on their own in nature, they are found in complex groups in foods and these complex groups often work together for enhanced absorption and bio-activity so taking nutrients with food is sensible.”
BSA: Are there some supplements that everyone can benefit from, regardless of their health concerns?
Cobus: “Yes, these would be what we would call essential nutrients, and everyone should be getting enough of these from their diets, nutrients that our bodies can’t make themselves. Essential fatty acids (Omega 3) is one example of an essential nutrient (it’s literally in the name), unless you have a superb diet rich in fatty fish, flax seeds, avocado etc. you likely will benefit from supplementing with essential fatty acids. Magnesium is another mineral that about 80% of the population would be lacking in due to dietary choices, but also depletion in the soil from modern agriculture.”
BSA: Is there anyone who should not be taking supplements?
Cobus: “Natural supplements are usually safe for most people to take. Unfortunately, safety studies in pregnant or breast-feeding women simply don’t exist which is why most manufacturers will err on the side of caution and put a warning on their products to not use during pregnancy. If unsure consult your health or wellness professional. Certain medications can be affected by certain supplements, again if unsure consult with a healthcare practitioner.”
BSA: There are a lot of supplements on the market – how can you tell if a product is good quality or not?
Cobus: “Products should be manufactured in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility, this means that the manufacturing complies with international standards for quality and safety. Too often products will contain many ingredients but not enough of any, I get so disappointed when I see a great formulation in quantities that are simply too small to have a therapeutic impact. It’s a good idea to do some investigating and find out if there is any research to back up certain ingredients, usually companies who care about quality will make sure to use ingredients that are proven to be effective. Does the company have a clear set of values that their products must meet? Companies who take quality, safety and efficacy seriously will usually have clearly defined standards that their products will comply with.”
Terranova combines nutraceuticals (vitamins, minerals, botanicals) with fresh freeze-dried foods in order to optimize absorption and bioavailability. Just like our bodies have been designed to optimally absorb nutrients from whole foods (e.g. fruits and vegetables) Terranova products mimic this natural form of bioavailability through its unique formulations of supplements.
It is one of a few supplement companies that does not use fillers, binders and other manufacturing additives in its products, and one of even fewer such companies that is 100% suitable for vegans.
Terranova products are available from leading health stores, independent pharmacies, and online retailers nationwide.