5 Tips - Ingredients to Watch Out for in Supplements - What Shouldn't Be In Supplements?

Natural (Food Based) vs Man-Made (Synthetic) Vitamins - Which Are Better? 

You often hear, "You are what you eat", right? 

But is food enough to get all the essential nutrients our mind and body need?

Can we rely solely on food for our mental health?

And - What Ingredients Shouldn't Be In Supplements?

Well, let's dive into it. 
Let me ask another question. 

Can you swear by the fact that your diet is perfect and gives you all the needed vitamins and minerals?

Probably not. That's because the nutrient content in our food has taken a nosedive over the years thanks to modern farming techniques.

Plus, food allergies or sensitivities might keep you away from some super nutritious whole foods. If that's the case, supplements can step in to fill the gaps. 
A healthy plate boasts a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from both animal and plant sources.

These foods, when consumed together, increase the absorption of certain nutrients, a phenomenon popularly known as food synergy, like instruments working together in an orchestra to create wonderful music.

Yet, it's crucial to remember, the way you cook, prepare or store your food can alter the nutrient quantity and quality. 

Ingredients to Watch Out for in Supplements when Choosing a Good Quality Supplement

Choosing a supplement, especially for your brain health and/or mental health, can be as confusing as finding your way in a maze. 

You have two basic choices – food-based concentrates or synthetic ones cooked up in a lab. 

Are you wondering which one to go with? Well, it depends

Research is still sketchy, but most researchers would agree that generally supplements derived from animals or plants trump those made in the lab (synthetic). 
And here's another thing to remember – always go for the natural form or
biologically active kind of vitamins for better absorption, especially if you are over 30 years old, as many enzymes in your body decline in activity as we age. 

Take vitamin E for instance. It's been proven that the natural form works better than the man-made one. 

And then there is Vitamin B12. Many low-cost supplements just contain cyano-cobalamine, with needs to be transferred to the active form, Methyl-cobalamine.
So beware:
not all supplements are created equal

Even the ones at the top of the heap might have dodgy ingredients lurking at the back of the label.

While these 'extras' are usually okayed by FDA and other "health watchdogs", they might not agree with everyone, especially if you have underlying health conditions or allergies.

Now the million-dollar question: What are the ingredients to watch out for in supplements?

How to play it safe while choosing a supplement? Just remember these 5 tips: 

- Read the labels: Know what's really in there. 
- Opt for organic and Non-GMO: Stay clear from harmful substances like pesticides or genetically modified organisms. 
- Check for validated markers: Stamps like USP, ConsumerLab, and NSF International indicate a safer product. 
- Demand proper certifications: Don't fall for vague claims. Look for certified markers like NSF’s gluten-free mark. 
- Ask the manufacturer: When in doubt, hit them up. They should clear out your queries about the quality and safety of the product.

- Extra caution: If kidney stones (the most common kind are oxalate stones) haunt you, stay away from supplements with high vitamin C content, certain calcium supplements or oxalate-loaded foods like leafy greens, turmeric, ginger, green cardamom, and cinnamon. 

But there is more. There are many so-called "inactive" ingredients to watch out for in supplements. These also can have side effects.

Inactive ingredients to watch out for in supplements:


(mastic gum, carrageenan, xanthan gum, guar gum, beta-glucan, locust bean gum, gum tragacanth): These are often added as thickening agents in supplements. While some gums are believed to have health benefits (such as mastic gum's potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties), they might trigger adverse reactions in people with sensitivities. Carrageenan, in particular, has been linked to various health issues, including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and digestive system damage.


These substances help mix ingredients in products. Certain emulsifiers, like carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate 80, are suspected to cause inflammation in the gut and impact the gut microbiota. The resulting imbalance could increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease - conditions that can exacerbate mental health problems.

Parabens, Phthalates, & Plasticizers:

These are often added to supplements as fillers or preservatives. Besides their potential endocrine-disrupting properties, chronic exposure to phthalates may lead to reproductive issues, a higher risk of ADHD, and increased body fat - factors that can complicate mental health.


Typically added for flavoring or as a preservative, maltodextrin might cause harm to the gut. As gut health is closely linked to brain health and mood regulation, maltodextrin could indirectly impact your mental wellbeing.


If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten in supplements might cause health problems that further stress your mental health. Ensure you read ingredient labels carefully.

Added sugars:

While gummy supplements may be easier to swallow, their high sugar content can lead to health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. In addition gummies tend to contain very small amounts of ingredients that often have no effect on improving your health.

If you consume "vitamin gummies" like candy, these can worsen mental health issues, making it essential to consider the sugar content when choosing supplements.

As a Healthy Nutrition and Natural Supplement Expert, Dr. Christine Sauer, I'm here to help you navigate the world of supplements for mental health.

Together, we can find the right supplements to improve your mental wellbeing and meet your unique needs.
But remember, your mental health and brain health is a top priority. 

Always get a green light from your health care provider before introducing a supplement to your diet. Stay safe, stay healthy.

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