Tag Archives: numbers

Eight tips for choosing supplements wisely

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We all know the vast array of supplements on the market today. It seems that new ones are launched every day and there is more and more marketing lingo that promises to save your health.

And  remember the supplement business is a multi billion dollar industry!

But you are a savvy health-conscious consumer. You eat well, and you want to make sure you’re making wise choices with your health (and money).

There are a lot of choices out there, so I hope that the tips for choosing wisely are helpful.  After reading this post, should you decide you want guidance deciding which supplements are right for you contact me at 778-363-0779 or drop me a line at tessanp@shaw.ca

I’d love to get to know you better.  Meanwhile, read on……

Here are eight expert tips for you when choosing supplements:

Tip #1: If you’re in a country that licenses or pre-approves supplements (like I am in Canada), then make sure you’re getting the real thing, and not some illegally imported bootleg of a product.

Why?

This is your health, and it’s important enough to make sure you’re getting a product that at least meets the minimum requirements in your country. There are always recalls and safety alerts issued for contaminated supplements, or products that don’t even contain what they say they do.

Don’t get me wrong! This health authority approval is not a perfect gauge of quality, but it does have some benefits worth considering.

How?

In Canada, you would check its approval by making sure it has an 8-digit “NPN” number on the front label. This number means that the company meets the required standards (including quality standards and truthfulness of their labeling). And, if something does go wrong, there is someone who you can complain to (the company or Health Canada’s MedEffect program) and who is responsible (the company).

If you’re not in a country that pre-approves supplements, make sure what you buy meets the regulations of your country. If you have to look up the company or product online or call them, please do it – don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions before you use any health products. If the only address or phone number is not in your country, then steer clear, because if something goes wrong it’s possible that nothing can be done about it.

Tip #2: Read (and heed) the warnings, cautions and contraindications.

Why?

You don’t want a reaction, right?

How?

Check the label for things like:

  • To consult a healthcare practitioner if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or
  • If you have certain medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, auto-immune disease, diabetes, ulcers, etc.), or
  • If you are taking certain medications (e.g. like blood thinners or immune suppressants, etc.) or
  • If you are taking other supplements, or
  • If you shouldn’t take it for more than a certain length of time (e.g. 6 or 8 weeks).

Tip #3: Look at the medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients for things you might be allergic to, or have reacted to in the past.

Why?

Just as you would do this with foods and medicines, do this with supplements. Again, you don’t want a reaction, right?

And even if you’ve used a product before, check it each time you buy it. Manufacturers may make changes to ingredients from time to time.

How?

Any credible supplement company will list every active ingredient, as well as the inactive ingredients. The print may be small, but worthwhile.

Info not there? Give them a call. Most reputable companies have a toll-free number on the bottle, or at the very least their website address.

PRO TIP: You can look up any Canadian NPN number on Health Canada’s database here:

https://health-products.canada.ca/lnhpd-bdpsnh/index-eng.jsp

Tip #4: Read the labelled “Indications” or “Uses” (a.k.a. How can this product help me?).

Why?

Be skeptical of health claims. What is the company claiming that their product can help you with? Beware of people  who tell you that this product can help you beyond what’s on the label. If they heard about it, or found it in a book, that may or may not be reliable information.

How?

Don’t be fooled by “sciencey” sounding words.  Ask for scientific studies, or look it up on credible websites that don’t make money from selling supplements (such as Examine, or the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements).

Tip #5: What “dose forms” can you get (i.e. tablets, capsules, powder, liquid, etc.)?

Why?

I personally prefer capsules. This is because tablets and caplets are not very easy to absorb because they’re compacted into a hard rock-like form that sometimes doesn’t break down in your digestive system.

You may prefer powders and liquids as they are easier to swallow and to absorb.  They can go “off” quicker because every time you open the bottle, you’re exposing all of the contents to the oxygen, moisture and microbes in the air. They can also be difficult to get accurate dosing (especially if they need to be shaken well).

Capsules (my preferred form) are powders placed into tiny dissolvable…capsules. You can get vegan capsules or gelatin capsules. They’re not compressed, so they’re more easily absorbed (they’re still loose powder), and the capsule itself provides an extra layer of protection from oxidation and contamination from the air.

How?

The front label should mention this loud and clear. Along with how many are in each bottle.

Tip #6: How much/many do you need for a recommended dose?

Why?

This is important to keep in mind because you may not want to take several capsules per day in order to get the recommended dose. Plus, many (but not all) bottles contain a 30 day supply. This helps you see how much you need to take, as well as the real cost per serving/dose.

How?

Read carefully.

Is the label information based on one capsule, two…maybe six? The amounts of each nutrient listed on the label may be based on each dose, or the entire daily dose.

For example, if a label recommends you take 2 capsules per day, the active ingredient amounts listed may be the total amount in those 2 capsules, unless it says “per 1 capsule”.

Yes, for this one you do need to read carefully.

Tip #7: Check the storage requirements and expiry date.

Why?

These two go hand-in-hand because the expiry date is based on how that supplement degrades over time at certain temperatures, humidity and light exposure.

How?

If the bottle says that it should be refrigerated, make sure it’s in the fridge at the store, or shipped in a refrigerated truck.

If it says to refrigerate after opening, then make sure once that seal is broken, you keep it in your fridge.

If it says to keep out of sunlight, make sure the store/shipping company is doing that, and that you do that too. This is sometimes why supplements are in dark or opaque bottles – to prevent sunlight from degrading it before the expiry date.

And, of course, I wouldn’t recommend taking supplements past their expiry date. After this date the manufacturer does not guarantee the quality or dose of the product.

Tip #8: If you’re trying a new supplement for the first time, start slow.

Why?

Keep an eye out for both positive and negative reactions, and act accordingly.

How?

You don’t have to dive right into a full daily dose on day 1. Try starting with half-doses, or skipping days for a week or two before ramping up to the recommended dose.

I hope these eight tips serve you well!

And remember there is no substitute for a healthy diet.

Still want more information?  I can help. Contact me at tessanp@shaw.ca

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

A quick guide to reading Nutrition Facts tables

I admit it, I don’t pay much attention to the Canada Food guide but there are many positive changes in the new guide, including changes to food labels to make them easier to understand.

Even though the changes are going in the right direction food labels and the Nutrition Fact tables continue to be a source of confusion for most of us.

Let me ask you. Do you ever look at the Nutrition Facts tables? Do they help you decide which foods to buy or not? Do the numbers even make sense?

To be honest, I don’t think that it’s the most user-friendly or helpful tool. But it’s good to understand it since it’s here to stay.

So let me give you a primer on reading the Nutrition Facts tables, and give you a few hints on the new changes coming soon (you may have noticed some changes already).

~~~~~~

How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables

The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.

The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?

Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!

Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.

Step 1: Serving Size – MOST IMPORTANT

The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it’s tricky.

All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.

Take Note:

In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.

Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.

Walnuts

As you can see, right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.

FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).

Step 2: % Daily Value

The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.

NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.

The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.

You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.

NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.

Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)

Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.

Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).

Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).

Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.

Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.

Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)

The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Potassium is now at the bottom of the table, and vitamins A & C will become optional.

Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.

Conclusion

I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful. While you can take it or leave it when it comes to making food decisions, it’s here to stay. And it will change slightly over the next few years.

Do you have questions about it? Have you seen the new labels with a %DV for sugar? If so, leave me a comment below or send me an email tessanp@shaw.ca

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

References:

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/changes-modifications-eng.php

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html

http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/label-etiquetage/regulatory-guidance-directives-reglementaires/daily-values-valeurs-quotidiennes/guide-eng.php#p1