UNDERSTANDING SUPPLEMENT LABELS & WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT

Part 1 of 2

Do you analyze and investigate your supplement labels? Why supplement?
By Nicole Eckert, Holistic Nutritionist

This is easier said than done, as many labels can be confusing to read, and sometimes even misleading for the consumer. Reading these bottles can feel like an unfamiliar language - your eyes may glaze over words and terms that you’re not familiar with. It’s like when you saw the word ‘quinoa’ for the first time.

As a Holistic Nutritionist with 6 years of experience working in health food stores, I have some insider tips on reading labels, and why it’s so important to do this.

Supplementation is a highly controversial topic, many people question and have their own opinion on whether we need to supplement at all. For those who believe we can get all the nutrients we need from our food, I’d like to bring a few things to your attention before we get into the insider knowledge. 

In short, yes - ideally we should get all of the required nutrients from our food, especially if we’re choosing organic and locally grown. However our modern society, while advanced, is not quite set up in a way that makes this easy, or even possible.

There’s a reason why nearly half of the Canadian population takes supplements. In North America, processed foods can make up close to 70% of our diet. There are not enough people cooking meals and snacks from scratch, with whole-fresh foods. Our modern society makes us feel as if we do not have enough hours in the day, and oftentimes we base our meals on what is quick and convenient.

This is not the only reason we may be missing out on essential micronutrients: vitamins and minerals such as A, C, D, magnesium, and selenium. Our modern day farming processes have actually made 33% of land moderately to highly degraded due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of our soil (1).
It can also take a few days to several weeks for food to find it’s way from the farm, to your local grocery store. There is also additional time then spent on the shelf at the store before it finds its way into your fridge, this is quite the dawdle from farm to table, which can also degrade levels of key micronutrients - especially levels of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. 

There are also certain groups of people who may require extra nutrients, as some lifestyle habits or conditions related to depleted or prevented absorption As an example, caffeine in coffee or tea may decrease iron absorption (2), smoking depletes vitamin C, and exercise depletes magnesium. You may also need additional nutrients if you:
  • Have an injury or illness
  • Are under stress
  • Drink alcohol 
  • Smoke
  • Have poor digestion
  • Are on prescription medications
  • Taking the birth control pill
  • Pregnant of nursing
  • Dieting and restricting food intake
  • Have mental health concerns
  • Live in a northern climate
  • Are elderly
  • Exposed to toxins or chemicals
Next month we'll have part two on what to look for on a label, 10 tips!

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