How many know it is hard to get all of the nutrition, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.. that our bodies need every day? **Raises hand**
So, with it being so hard, how do you make sure that you aren't depriving yourself of vital nutrients for health, energy and wellness??? I make up for it by taking supplements -- but in doing that, it's prudent to make sure that what I buy is of good quality and not full of fillers and synthetic ingredients. Currently, there are over 3,000 additives and fillers than manufacturers can use in food products.
You might be wondering what exactly to avoid just like I was when I started purchasing supplements for myself and my family. A good place to start is looking at the company website and reading about their standards and practices, how they source their ingredients and what their values are concerning those ingredients.
But there are some common things to avoid. Here is a list to get you started, but it is by no means exhaustive; You would need to avoid anything that you are allergic, sensitive to or that you body just doesn't tolerate. Do your own research. These are the things I look for and avoid as much as possible.
1.) Fillers. These are added to bulk up a product like supplements, but also can be found protein powders and meal replacement powders. They allow a producer to add a low cost ingredient and sell more product without it costing them more by using more of the active ingredient.
2.) Binders help ingredients stay together.When it comes to supplements, this means keeping your compressed tablet in one piece so it doesn’t crumble before you have the chance to pop it in your mouth.
Binders can also perform double duty and become a form of filler in tablets with small amounts of active ingredients.
The next additive is common in both powdered and tablet supplements.
3.) Anti-caking agents
Keeping along the simple name theme, anti-caking ingredients also ensure that your powder doesn’t turn into one giant clump.
But that’s not all they’re good for.
As it turns out, they’re also beneficial for food processing.
Anti-caking agents, also called flow agents, are added to the outside of capsules so they can move through the machines quickly without sticking or snagging on them. And the worst part is they don’t need to be labeled in the ingredient list of the product.
You may not see the big deal in this just yet, but after reading about what these are really made of, you may rethink your stance.
The next two additives serve a better purpose than guaranteeing the capsules make it through the assembly line as efficiently as possible.
As it sounds, this additive helps break down tablet supplements once they’re in your system.
Anything with the words “fast-acting” slapped on the label usually have a disintegrant additive responsible for this.
5.) Coatings & Glazes
Similar to binders, coatings and glazes function as the glue keeping your supplements together, especially during humid conditions.
But instead of being on the inside, these are on the outside of the supplement.
In the case of an enteric coating, this added layer helps your body break down your supplement at the right time.
This means that instead of being destroyed by your stomach acids, for example, an enteric coating may dissolve slowly so the supplement makes it to your pancreas or small intestine.
Preservatives help extend the shelf life of supplements so they don’t break down prematurely. They also keep mold, fungi, yeast and bacteria away.
You’ll find natural and artificial preservatives, such as:
This additive can serve more than one purpose.
When it comes to supplements, acidulants can:
8.) Artificial Colors & Flavors
Artificial color additives were originally created to help foods appear brighter or more vivid for ads.
Most people assume these are only found in sweet treats like neon-colored Jello and bright pink cake frosting, but they can also be lurking in cheese, margarine and some of your favorite snack foods.
Flavor additives, on the other hand, help to offset any bad tastes associated with the supplement and make them more palatable.
If something tastes good, you’re more likely to keep using it. But if your supplements taste terrible, you’ll probably switch brands or never buy them again.
Some of the most common flavor enhancers are sweeteners, which come in both natural forms like fruit extracts and artificial ones like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and saccharin.
Now that you know the basic categories of additives in supplements, let’s get specific. Keep in mind, these are only the overarching additive categories for supplements.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are currently over 3,000 approved additives manufacturers can include in food items.
Since it would be impractical cover all of them, let’s go over the 11 most harmful ones next.
Now, let's get down to specific ingredients that you want to avoid. One thing to remember is that ingredients are most often listed in order of what is most prevalent in the product you are buying. It can be tough to avoid ALL of these ingredients 100% of the time, but if a product I'm interested in has one of these listed FIRST, I'm moving on! If is the last ingredient, then I might purchase if it meets other criteria I look for and want in a supplement.
1. Magnesium Stearate
I bet you've probably seen this on a multi-vitamin or Vitamin C or some other supplement you've purchased. It is very common, but it is also problematic.
It’s the white powder layer you’ll often find on vitamins.
This additive falls under the flow agent category since it’s used to keep the manufacturing process moving along smoothly by preventing the capsules from getting stuck to the machines.
It also prevents them from sticking together in the bottle.
In the last 10 decades, the potential risks associated with magnesium stearate consumption haven’t been thoroughly studied.
In one of the studies available, researchers found that magnesium stearate weakened the immune system and destroyed important T-cells associated with immunity in mice[*].
However, humans and mice differ here because mice don’t have the same enzymes people do. So when researchers tried to replicate these findings in humans, they were unsuccessful.
Does that mean magnesium stearate is safe for humans?
In small amounts, it may be.
But consume too much and it may cause weakness and impair neuromuscular transmission.
If you’re consuming a supplement with magnesium stearate everyday, you’ll start to accumulate high doses of it in your system, and this may lead to the muscular issues I just mentioned.
So while small doses is loosely defined, you have to consider the big picture and how it will all add up each day and every week.
The last issue with this additive is that it can be cheaply sourced.
As a synthetic additive, it may come from genetically modified cottonseed or canola, which are extremely harmful for you health.
2.) Sodium Benzoate
Sodium Benzoate is another additive that prolongs the shelf life of your supplement by ensuring it doesn’t have a chance to spoil.
It’s deemed safe by the FDA in small doses, but in practice it’s easy to go over this limit, and the impact on your health can be significant.
Studies show this additive may magnify hyperactivity and ADHD in children[*].
In adults, sodium benzoate can also trigger and increase chances of asthma attacks.
And when this additive is combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it becomes the carcinogen (i.e., cancer causing substance) known as benzene[*].
Ingestion of foods and drinks with high levels of benzene can cause stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, and in the worst cases vomiting and convulsions.[*]
(*Sodium Benzoate also occurs naturally in some foods, like pears and apples, and is different from the chemically based and mass produced form of it used in many food products.)
The next additive shares this awful characteristic too.
3.) Titanium Dioxide
You’ve probably consumed a product containing titanium dioxide without knowing it.
This time, instead of the white powder residue that comes with magnesium stearate, you get a perfectly white colored tablet with titanium dioxide.
But aside from giving you a bright white capsule, titanium dioxide may create or exacerbate negative gut symptoms.
So far, researchers have learned titanium dioxide may trigger immune reactions of the intestine after oral intake, triggers issues like IBS and Leaky Gut Syndrome, and irritate people already suffering from colitis and Crohn’s disease[*][*].
You can see why this additive is worth avoiding. The same goes for this next one.
4.) Silicon Dioxide
Silicon dioxide is made from silicon and oxygen. It’s prevents clumps and absorbs moisture to ensure freshness in food products.
And guess how it does that? The secret is sand. Yes, the same sand you see at the beach that gets between your toes is also known as silicon dioxide.
One of the reasons why sand is used as a flow agent food additive is because it doesn’t get absorbed by your body[*].
This means your kidneys filter the silicon dioxide right out and it doesn’t interfere with the active ingredients in the supplement.
According to several studies, there’s no clear or strong evidence of silicon dioxide’s toxicity and safety to the human body.
However, an evaluation published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology determined that a higher concentration and longer exposure, silicon dioxide interferes with cell cycle and inhibits cell growth in the gastrointestinal tract.[*]
Researchers concluded that even though silicon dioxide could be used as a safe food additive, more investigations, such as long-term in vivo exposure, are necessary in future studies.
Due to this uncertainty, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) doesn’t classify silicon dioxide as safe.[*]
5.) Magnesium Silicate
Or as it is more commonly known, Talc or Talcum Powder
Talc has recently become a household name in a bad way thanks to emerging research connecting it to increases in[*]:
And while more research is needed, so far it’s safe to say you should steer clear of this one, and definitely this next one too.
6.) Soybean Oil
Soybean oil is more straightforward than the other lab-created chemicals on the list, but it’s not any better for you. It is most often a GMO product (Genetically Modified Organism) and contains phytoestrogens which can interact negatively with our own hormones and system of producing the hormones our body needs.
Soybean oils comes from.... you guessed it! Soybeans[*].
One of the biggest problems with soybean oil is that many manufacturers use genetically modified soy, which I mentioned already, so it is heavily exposed to chemical pesticides during production.
Soybean oil will negatively affect anyone with a peanut or soy allergy, so it’s off limits if you fall within this category.
And, finally, when it comes to soy products, because of those phytoestrogens I already mentioned, you may also unknowingly create a hormonal imbalance thanks to their effects, which is the last thing you want your supplements to do[*].
Soybean oil is best avoided, just like this next one.
This one really threw me for a loop when I found out what it actually is... read for yourself.
This additive creates the shiny and glossy coating in capsules, but what really makes it unique and oh so special, is its sourcing.
Do you know where it comes from? A female lac insect excretes it and manufacturers turn it into usable resin[*].
According to research, in large amounts, shellac[*]:
Shellac isn’t mentioned by name in food products. Just like sugar and sweeteners, it goes by several names, including:
Similar to soybean oil, when you find cornstarch in your supplements,you’re increasing your chances of consuming a GMO ingredient heavily exposed to harmful pesticides thanks to the corn its derived from.
Both of these traits can lead to developing sensitivities and allergies, which is reason enough to ditch them.
9.) Citric Acid
Citric acid also falls under that same umbrella: it’s usually made from GMO corn and heavy pesticide use is common.
Keep in mind, we’re referring to the chemically-made version here.
Ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C) is the natural version found in fruits and veggies, which can help prevent kidney stones[*].
As for the chemical alternative, citric acid can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, and heartburn.
The next additive can also wreak havoc on your digestive system.
Carrageenan is found in numerous seemingly healthy and sometimes organic food products.
You’ll find it in most almond milks on the market and even in sour cream and kefir.
For manufacturing purposes, carrageenan is used to thicken products that may otherwise be too runny.
But once consumed, carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal side effects. One study found that human intestinal cells exposed to carrageenan had an increased cell death, reduced cell proliferation, and cell cycle arrest (stopped participating in cell division)[*].
If you’ve ever had a bad reaction to the MSG commonly found in takeout and junk food, you’re more likely to experience a similar situation with carrageenan.
But even if you’re not sensitive to it, you should still ditch it for your health’s sake, just like our last additive.
11.) Potassium Sorbate
Potassium sorbate is another popular additive used to extend the shelf life of foods and supplements.
By preventing the growth of mold and bacteria, it can make food stay around longer than it should.
Some negative side effects of potassium sorbate include[*]:
There are better options out there and I'm going to help you find them.
Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA, it’s up to you to do your research and find the best options.
While the ingredients I listed today are generally considered safe to use by the FDA, you may still have a negative reaction to them because not all of them have been properly researched for safety and toxicity.
Fortunately, there are safer options out there you can trust. Follow these two simple rules when looking for a high-quality supplement:
Here are my favorite lines of supplements and where to get them. Happy shopping!
1.) Young Living Essential Oils. This company has dedicated researchers and developers that want to bring YOU the very best! With their patented Seed To Seal process, their products are of very high quality and purity. Read more about their Seed To Seal promise here.
2.) Seeking Health, which lists their quality standards here. They are also formulated by a doctor. I can find them on Amazon as well which lets me use my Prime Shipping!
3.) Pure Encapsulations have hypo-allergenic standards so they are free of many of the ingredients I listed above. I get them on Amazon, here, as well. You can read more here.
4.) Thorne Supplements have very high quality standards and you can see their practices here.
They promise to never use these ingredients listed here. You can purchase here, on Amazon.
5.) Klaire Labs has a rich history, found in 1969, they have set the standard in many ways in the neutraceutical industry. Read more about it here, there is a video you can watch as well. Get some of my favorites here.
6.) Jarrow Formulas
7.) NOW Foods
8.) Nature's Way
**The brands I've listed and linked to Amazon are generally filled by the company themselves and not by Amazon. These brands have stores on Amazon so that more consumers have access. So, when you place your order, you are getting product directly from the manufacturer, in most cases.
I hope this helps you in your quest to find high quality, pure and effective supplements for your health care needs and to learn what ingredients to avoid and why. No company is perfect, but many are trying to do better and seek alternatives for ingredients that may be harmful over time to consumers. I have chosen the best possible products I could find available for my personal needs and that of my family's.
**DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. This information is for educational purposes only. There is no intent to prescribe or diagnose. Use this information at your discretion.**