Five Supplements

Back to Basics: Supplement Smarts

By Claire Volpatti

A quick and easy guide to getting the vitamins and minerals you need for great health.

Supplements provide your body with the nutrients you may not get through food alone. Some necessary nutrients, like vitamin E, for example, are present in only a select number of foods and it can therefore be difficult to get the recommended daily intake without supplementation.

Ten Supplement Facts You Need to Know

1. There are 40 different vitamins and minerals that must be obtained through supplementation or diet, because our bodies are unable to produce them.

2. Daily, our bodies need at least 100mg of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium chloride, magnesium, and sulphur. We also need trace amounts of iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, copper, and manganese.

3. Vitamins and minerals are quite different. Minerals are inorganic, single elements, 16 of which are essential to our bodies. Vitamins are organic molecules that our bodies require as nutrients.

4. There are fat-soluble and water-soluble supplements. Vitamins C and B are water soluble and need water to be digested by our bodies. These vitamins play important roles in chemical reactions. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble and must be taken with food to encourage proper digestion. These vitamins are critical for the maintenance and repair of tissue.

5. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine, whereas excess fat-soluble vitamins remain in the tissues. It is important to not exceed the recommended dosage of fat-soluble vitamins, as it could lead to oversaturation.

6. Minerals are important for maintaining water-acid-basic balance, keeping the integrity of bone structure and supporting co-enzyme activity.

7. Other nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and amino acids, are also key in maintaining good health.

8. Not all supplements are created equal. Quality depends on raw ingredients, manufacturing processes, and formulation.

9. What’s not in your supplements can be as important as what is! Avoid supplements that have additives such as corn, soy, wheat, sugars, and artificial flavours and colours.

10. Vitamins and supplements are regulated under the Canadian government’s Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD). Natural Product Numbers (NPNs) are given to supplements that are approved by the government for sale to denote their safety and efficacy.

Dosage & Indications

Some supplements should be taken at specific timesMedication time. Pills, water glass and alarm clock. of day. Likely, these are fat-soluble vitamins that must be taken with food. Other supplements may be taken before food and separate from other medications. Regardless, it is best to follow the instructions on the label to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Supplements come in a variety of forms, such as capsules, tablets, and liquids. Capsules tend to be slightly more expensive than tablets because the gel coating is more expensive to manufacture. Tablets tend to be larger and some people find them more difficult to swallow; however, tablets are better for supplements with many ingredients, like a multivitamin, because more ingredients can fit within a single tablet. Liquids are easiest to take, but be on the lookout for additives accompanying the active ingredients. Some manufacturers may add sugar to improve the flavour, which is not preferable.


The supplement industry in Canada has undergone substantial changes in the last decade. The Canadian government has created the Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate, which acts as a regulatory guide for the production and sale of natural health products. Under these regulations, supplement producers are obligated to provide greater information regarding their products. Health Canada uses this information to evaluate the supplements’ health claims and efficacy. Once a supplement has been approved for sale, Health Canada issues it an NPN, which signals to the customer that the health claim has been evaluated and approved by Health Canada. The directorate also requires a greater degree of information on the label that guarantees that the ingredients listed are actually present in the bottle. The implementation of these new regulations has made the supplement industry even more accountable and transparent than before.

 Claire Volpatti, a Nature’s Fare Markets team member since 1999, handles a variety of tasks including researching and developing sustainability initiatives and employee training. She is a regular contributor to The Good Life magazine and the author of The Weekly Supplement blog. Read Claire’s blog at In 2014 Nature’s Fare Markets became Canada’s first Certified B Corporation retail company, which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

*Reprint from our Spring 2015 Issue

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