As a nutritionist, I believe that food is medicine and that we should use food first to help bring the body into balance. That said, there are times when the body needs some help. Disease, illness, high levels of stress, excessive physical activity, environmental toxins and many other things increase the body's need for vitamins and minerals. In addition, the foods we eat have lower levels of vitamins and nutrients because of mineral deficient soil, farming techniques, food processing and food distribution systems.
When you do need a supplement, it's important to choose a a high quality, clean product. Professional grade supplements are more expensive than those found in some of the big chain stores, but they have met quality standards, use minimal allergens and avoid harmful fillers or chemicals
The New York State attorney general's office recently accused GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart of selling supplements that did not include the herbs listed on the labels. The supplements included cheap fillers and, in some cases, harmful substances. The New York Times article linked below has more information.
I subscribe to Consumer Lab, which reviews supplements to determine the levels of the stated ingredients and additional harmful substances. They also test for the most efficacious formulation and dose. A recent CL report discussed the results of protein powder testing. Some of the products (Prolab, Nature's Plus) had lower levels of protein or higher levels of carbohydrate. Shakeology was found to include harmful levels of lead in just one serving. They test all types of supplements and review major retail brands, as well as some of the professional grade supplements. The link below is a blog post I wrote on issues found by CL in chocolate products.
In addition, purchasing professional grade supplements from an online retailer may seem like a cost effective option but you run the risk of receiving a fraudulent or damaged product. Designs For Health, a supplier that I work with, has an authorization agreement with all professional resellers, preventing them from online marketing to protect their product. They have tested products sold by Amazon, eBay or Craiglist and found faulty products. They were expired, not stored properly or damaged. In some cases they even found them to be a completely different product.
It's important that you put the highest quality ingredients into your body. It's also essential that a product includes the stated amount. A dosage change could have detrimental consequences. Purchasing professional grade supplements from an authorized vendor is a way to ensure you money is well spent and your body is getting the best ingredients without any harmful additives. I only work with vendors that meet quality standards and do third party reviews. Some of the supplements brands I sell: Apex Energetics, Designs For Health, Innate Response, Klaire Labs, Pure Encapsulation, Thorne, Vital Nutrients, Xymogen.