Exactly How To Determine The Quality Of Vitamins + Supplements Like A Pro

Exactly How To Determine The Quality Of Vitamins + Supplements Like A Pro Dr. Will Cole

If you consult Dr. Google about supplements, thousands of brands come up with clever marketing aimed at convincing you that they are the best of the best. But how do you really know what brands are worth spending your hard earned cash on?

In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I consult people on a daily basis who have cabinets full of half-used supplement bottles because they just weren’t cutting it. While some of this has to do with the type of supplement you are taking, a lot of it has to do with the brand. From poor quality ingredients to unnecessary additives, there are so many factors that can render a supplement ineffective. But I’m here to cut out the confusion. Here’s exactly what you need to know to start vetting supplements like a pro. 

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What are supplements, vitamins, and minerals?

Your body relies on a specific ratio of a variety of vitamins and nutrients to thrive. If deficiencies in one or more of these occur, it can lead to a cascade of health problems. While you can get most of what you need from food, due to our modern diets, soil depletion, and other factors, most of us don’t get enough of what we need from food alone.

That’s where supplements come in. Supplements are designed to support and correct nutrient deficiencies and imbalances in the body. They can contain a single vitamin or nutrient or combine multiple nutrients into a blend to target certain health problems. But unlike prescription medications, supplements that we use in functional medicine are 100% natural and can be made up of the following: 

  • Vitamins: These include vitamins like A, D, C, and more that our bodies rely on in specific amounts to function
  • Minerals/Trace elements: These include zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and iodine to name a few that are necessary for your body to function optimally
  • Amino acids: Essential for vital bodily functions, they are the compounds that form protein
  • Herbs: These are derived from plants, seeds, berries, flowers, or roots.

How do you determine the quality of vitamins?

Determining the quality of vitamins comes down to a few key factors. When vetting different supplement brands, you’ll want to take these into consideration.

1. Number of additives

The best brands have the fewest ingredients. Make sure to examine the label to uncover any hidden inflammatory ingredients such as grains or sugar, as well as any artificial fillers and colors that can negate the benefits of why you are taking a supplement in the first place. You don’t need these additions to have an effective supplement - the majority of the ingredient list should be made up of the active nutrient(s) and that’s it.

2. Science-backed

The vitamins and supplements you are taking should be backed by scientific research. When looking up a specific nutrient in relation to the health issue you are wanting to take it for, you should be able to find multiple studies supporting its effectiveness. Certain brands even test their products through a third party to validate its effectiveness and to test for quality and purity.

3. Transparency

You shouldn’t have to go on a wild goose chase to validate a brand’s products. When you look up a brand they should be completely transparent about every aspect of their supplements including the quality of their ingredients, where they source them from, and their manufacturing process. As a bonus, they should also include science-backed research supporting the benefits of their supplements.

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Low quality vitamins

Is there a quality difference in vitamins? I often get asked that as a functional medicine expert. The answer is very much a resounding yes. The reality is, the FDA doesn’t regulate the ingredients, quality, or effectiveness of supplements that are on the market. So without proper vetting, you could really be taking something that could be ineffective at best or harmful at worst.

Why are quality vitamins important?

Because of the lack of regulation, it’s so important to vet the supplements you are taking on a daily basis. When following the guidelines listed above, always make sure to look for third party testing when determining the quality of vitamins and supplements to ensure the brand you are buying from isn’t hiding anything with their ingredients.

Where to purchase high quality vitamins

After you have confirmed that a brand is worth purchasing, you can usually buy their vitamins and supplements online through their website or Amazon. These are just a few of my favorite brands that sell direct to consumers.

What vitamins do I need?

Once you have found a supplement brand that you like, the next step is determining what vitamins and supplements are best for you. Ultimately, everyone’s biochemistry and health case is unique, so you might benefit from a different set of supplements than someone else.

That’s why I always recommend working with a functional medicine expert who can determine what supplements are best for you. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I always take these factors into consideration before putting together a list of recommended supplements.

1. Deficiencies

The first step in finding out what supplements are right for you is to identify any nutrient deficiencies through blood work.

2. Dosage

Once you have identified your deficiencies, your practitioner can recommend the appropriate dosage. In fact, I often see people take the right supplements but at too low of a dose to make any difference in their health.

3. Biochemistry

Just because two people have the same diagnoses doesn’t mean they will require the same supplements. In my clinic, I always run labs to determine the underlying cause of someone’s health problem. Allergies, hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and more are all factors to consider that require different types of supplements to address. Some underlying health problems like leaky gut syndrome can even impact how well you are able to absorb the nutrients in your supplements - making a higher dosage essential.

But if you are not looking to address a specific health problem and are just wanting well-rounded support, I’ve found that most people can benefit from a handful of targeted supplements. This list covers your bases when it comes to all areas of your health.

  • Vitamin D (healthy brain and hormones)
  • Magnesium (brain, sleep, and mood support)
  • Probiotics (gut support)
  • Omega-3s (healthy brain and hormones)
  • Turmeric (inflammation support)
  • Methylated B Complex (methylation and detox support)
  • Vitamin A (immune support)
  • Vitamin K2 (immune support)
  • Collagen (gut support)

To learn more about these nutrients, what they can do for your health, and the ideal recommended dosage, check out my article here.

However, because there are so many supplements on the market, I went ahead and created The Collection - 9 supplements designed to work synergistically together to support your optimal wellness. Each supplement is curated with the Earth’s finest ingredients and backed by research so you don’t have to spend endless hours vetting different brands.

You can shop The Collection here.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, determining the best quality of vitamins starts with determining what supplements are going to be best for your health case. Once you do that, you’ll automatically be able to eliminate brands that don’t fit that criteria. Then you can move forward with confidence in your research knowing exactly what is going to move the needle on your health.

If you are ready to cut the confusion behind vitamins and supplements, check out our telehealth functional medicine consultation to learn more about your health case and get a personalized list of recommended supplements. 

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.