Not all vitamins are created equal—even in an organic grocery store like Whole Foods Market.
Here’s my top 10 recommended Whole Foods vitamins and supplements to buy (and why) to boost your all around health. (No more money wasting included).
Supplements: Pros & Cons…
Dietary supplements offer essential vitamins, minerals and other substances that the human body needs to function optimally.
Whether your low on magnesium (essential for sleep and normal bowel movements), Vitamin D (essential for energy, mood and bone health), or healthy gut bacteria (found in probiotics), there IS a supplement or vitamin for that.
Although dietary supplements and vitamins do NOT replace food, they DO provide an extra “umph” of nutrition to compliment any healthy eating plan.
However just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two probiotics, multi-vitamins, whey protein formulas, Vitamin C formulas or ANY other supplement on shelves are alike either.
Are you choosing quality supplements?
Supplements & Vitamins: Not Created Equal
Americans value the benefits that supplements can provide to enhance their diet and support their health goals.
One in two adults ( Kantor et al, 2016) reportedly takes a dietary supplement most days, with some of the most popular ones being: probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), multi-vitamins and vitamin D.
Over the past 20 years alone, the supplement industry has grown from a $10 billion dollar industry to a $30 billion dollar industry, with thousands of companies and products lining the shelves of grocery stores, Amazon carts and vitamin shops nation wide.
Unfortunately, however, many of the supplements sold in bottles and packages on shelves do NOT contain the ingredients they claim. Or worse, they contain OTHER (unlisted) additives and fillers that don’t do your health any favors.
For instance, a scientific review (2, Cameron-Smith et al, 2015) of 20 different research studies on fish oil found that a vast majority of supplements on shelves are “rancid”—meaning the fatty acids in the fish oil supplement have gone bad due to over-processing and high-heat conditions supplements are subjected to during shipping. In other words: You may not be getting any fatty acids your body needs in that fish oil.
Another report in the New York Times revealed that the majority of herbal supplements AT GNC, Walmart, Walgreens, And Target don’t contain what they claim – replacing real herbs with cheap fillers like wheat and soy powder. Each of the companies received a cease letter to stop selling the supplements.
And other investigations into the quality of whey protein powders and workout supplements have revealed similar findings—with companies like MusclePharm and Optimum Nutrition facing allegations of spiking their formulas with “filler” proteins (3, 4 ).
Aye aye aye!
So can supplements REALLY benefit you at all?
Short answer: Yes. As long as you choose a quality (and reputable) company and brand.
Here are my top 10 picks you can find at Whole Foods Market (and feel good about NOT wasting your hard-earned dollar bills):
Top 10 Best Whole Foods Vitamins & Supplements
95% of all probiotics do not contain the healthy bacteria they claim. This is because many of the lactic acid bacteria-based formulas are destroyed during supplement processing, and also are plentiful in many human guts already (sometimes too much).
What to choose?
Reach for: a “soil-based” formula or “spore forming” organism like:
(*if you do not have SIBO or extreme bloating after meals)
Saccharomyces Boulardi by Jarrow Brand
- Digestive Enzymes
Like the “Pac Mans” that help you eat up your food, digestive enzymes ensure that food is broken down when you eat (to help prevent unwanted bloating, gas and constipation).
Reach for: a digestive enzyme with a variety of enzymes like
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Stomach acid is good for you! And if you don’t have enough of it, then you probably are not absorbing all the nutrients from your food. Stomach acid helps break down food before sending it to the small intestine where your digestive enzymes go to work and nutrients are delivered throughout your body.
Prebiotic fibers like Glucomannan and Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum help your body absorb your probiotics and ensure a balanced gut flora. Not all fibers are created equal though, and many of them can worsen symptoms of bloating and constipation.
Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum
- Cod Liver Oil
If you don’t consume cold-water wild-caught fatty fish on the regular, fermented cod liver oil can be a booster of EPA/DHA fatty acids essential for brain health, and vitamin and mineral absorption. Unfortunately, Whole Foods actually does NOT carry a fermented cod liver oil to date, but you can find it online super easy through a supplier like Rosita or Green Pastures.
For this one, save your money from buying rancid fish oils, and get your Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Cod Liver Oil, that unlike fish oil, is less rancid because it is “fermented” and rich in the active forms of vitamin A and vitamin D, both of which are difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet.
To take or not to take? That is the question. In an ideal world, you’d get all of your vitamins and minerals from your food and daily nutrition. However, this is often not the case. So is there a multi-vitamin you can pop for general wellness?
Before considering a multi-, I highly encourage you start FIRST with the first 4 listed supplements (all digestive support aids) AND a nutrient-dense diet. These combined will help you maximize your nutrition.
If a multi-vitamin is for sure in your supplement line up “for good measure” my top on-the-shelf formula is an immune-boosting supplement called: “Wellness Formula” by Source Naturals. (bonus: also great for when you’re sick)
“Wellness Formula” by Source Naturals
- B-Vitamin Complex
B-Vitamins are the governors of a thriving metabolism, energy, brain function and even absorption of nutrients. They are found primarily in organ meats and sustainable protein sources, and those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet can generally benefit from a Vitamin B boost.
In addition, if you struggle with constipation or low energy, a trial of B-Vitamins can be beneficial to see how your body responds to the booster.
- Essential Oils
If you don’t have a diffuser at home, doctor’s orders to get one now.
Essential oils have been around for thousands of years, used as healing agents for everything from back relief, to anxiety, the common cold, nausea and everything in between.
Whole Foods certainly carries an assortment of oils, and they may not compare to many popularized multi-level marketing companies (like doTerra and Young Living), but you can find a few gems in the mix.
The key to buying essential oils is: If the price seems too good to be true. It is.
Essential oils can actually be masked forms of toxic chemicals if they are not sourced or packaged properly.
High heating and processing destroys many of their properties, and ironically makes them smell “sweeter” than they actually are. Some of the companies actually distill at high pressure and high temperature to produce more oil faster, despite it being commonly known in the essential oils industry that low temperature and low pressure is vital.
Nevertheless, reach for the top of the line (price point) quality oils you can find on shelves at your local Whole Foods.
Some of my fave blends?
Check out this post for some essentials.
Bonus: Castor Oil
Technically not an aromatic essential oil, but castor oil is like the “Windex” of healthy supplement land. You can find it in the Whole Body section, and use it for:
- Relieving constipation and bloating (rub it on your stomach)
- Cold & Flu Treatment (90 percent of its fatty acid content consists of ricinoleic acid, which helps prevent the growth of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, and molds; rub it on your pulse and sinus points)
- Hormone Imbalances
- Acne & Skin Breakouts
- Athlete’s Foot & Funguses
- Styes (in your eyes)
- Yeast Infection
- Inflammation & Backpain
- Magnesium Citrate
Restless at night? Constipated? Sore muscles?
Reach for magnesium—specifically magnesium citrate for immediate relief.
The popularized Natural CALM is a powder you can add to water before bed to boost quality of sleep, as well as help you “go” (#2).
Natural Calm (plus Calcium)
- Protein Powder
Protein powder can make life (and breakfast) easier, but remember, NOT ALL PROTEINS ARE CREATED EQUAL…Look for a formula with as few of ingredients as possible (read: Not Vega). The fillers inhibit digestion of your protein powders in the first place—winding up in the toiler rather than your body
- Vital Proteins Collagen Powder (also a pescatarian Marine blend and “Beauty Greens” for those who want a green powder too)
- Paleo Pro
- Bulletproof Whey
- Primal Kitchen Primal Fuel
- Bona Fide Bone Broth (sold in frozen section)
Elizabeth D. Kantor, Colin D. Rehm, Mengmeng Du, Emily White, Edward L. Giovannucci. Trends in Dietary Supplement Use Among US Adults From 1999-2012. JAMA. 2016;316(14):1464–1474. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.14403
Cameron-Smith, D., Albert, B. B., & Cutfield, W. S. (2015). Fishing for answers: is oxidation of fish oil supplements a problem? Journal of Nutritional Science, 4, e36.