Sure, you might have that one friend with encyclopedic knowledge of supplements that you go to for a quick rec—but nothing can compete with advice straight from an RD.
That’s why we asked Caroline Brantley, MS, RD to share her *literal* pro tips on five key picks from iHerb—which is a one-stop online shop for all things supplements, natural products, and more that carries over 30,000 (yes, you read that number right) products.
“One of the main concerns with supplements is that they are not FDA approved, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not review products for the safety and effectiveness before they are marketed,” Brantley says. “Therefore, I personally look for well-known and researched supplements as well as [ones] from reputable brands.”
That’s where iHerb’s quality guarantee comes in clutch. Because each product with the iTested seal is evaluated by an independent third-party lab, you can trust that the supplement you’re stocking up on has been certified as legit using unbiased, scientific methods.
And once you’ve nailed down the source, you can start shopping for specifics. Brantley personally takes a women’s multivitamin, collagen peptides, and essential amino acids for workouts, but she has insights on what to look out for, no matter how you’re stocking on your supplement shelf.
Keep reading for the 5 supplement recommendations she gave the lowdown on.
Everyone has collagen in their body, Brantley says, but if you want to supplement the stuff found naturally in your skin, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues, you should look for the hydrolyzed version.
“I like that this product is in its hydrolyzed form, meaning it is broken down and more easily absorbed by the body,” Brantley says. “Based on current research, collagen supplements are potentially effective with little to no side effects.”
She would recommend collagen to people looking to improve their skin or help decrease wrinkles, those with joint pain, or those looking to improve bone health. If that sounds like you, grab this probiotic-infused collagen drink, and start sipping.
Pine bark is packed with free-radical-scavenging antioxidant compounds called proanthocyanidins, which research has shown may help promote cardiovascular health. Overall, Brantley notes that antioxidants are useful because they inhibit oxidation, or the reaction that produces free radicals and damages cells.
“In other words, antioxidants have a protective effect,” Brantley says. She recommends getting them from foods like dark-colored fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices—but if you want to add in a supplement, this one is sourced from Les Landes Forest in France and is one of the most purified pine bark extracts you can find due to its high concentration of procyanidins. The more you know.
Rule number one of good gut health: probiotics, right? Brantley says probiotics are a tricky supplement to get right because of all the options, but her stipulations for one that gets her stamp of approval are four-fold.
First, it should have a high CFU count. Second, it should have strain diversity including Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus thermophilus, when possible. Third, it should be encased in a delayed-release capsule to protect the good bacteria from stomach acid. And finally, it should be taken with prebiotics to help support the growth of the probiotics once they are in your system.
This HealthyBiom probiotic checks the delayed-release and Lactobacillus boxes, and though its CFU clocks in on the lower end, it comes with an added boost of vitamin D—making it a solid choice for those who treat their supplements as just that: supplements.
Omega-3s are a small-but-mighty type of essential fatty acid that can benefit your cardiovascular health, stabilize blood sugar, lower inflammation, boost immunity, improve mood, and help prevent chronic diseases, Brantley says.
Food sources include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, cod, or herring, plus nuts and seeds such as walnut, chia, flax, and hemp seeds. If you’re going the supplement route, Brantley suggests keeping an eye out that both EPA and DHA (sources of omega-3) are high compared to other fatty acids.
“When I look at omega-3 supplements, the main thing I look at are the ingredients, and what kind of fatty acids are in it,” Brantley says. “I like that this product contains both EPA and DHA, as both of these fatty acids provide different health benefits.”
Magnesium is a super mineral (it supports sleep, mood, concentration, energy, bone health, bowel regulation, digestion, and absorption, says Brantley) that is under-consumed by 75 percent of people, according to some research.
“Poor sleep and constipation are signals that you or your child might not be getting enough magnesium,” Brantley says. “Other symptoms might be muscle weakness or cramps, tiredness, low mood, decreased attention span or poor concentration.”
If adding more whole wheat, spinach, nuts, tofu, or dark chocolate isn’t helping your magnesium intake (especially for little ones who might find those options less than appetizing), try adding a supplement. Bonus points if it’s a gummy that your kiddo will actually look forward to taking—because gummies will one-up spinach any day.
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