Many of us are trying to add more sustainable foods into our grocery baskets. We buy in-season produce. We avoid GMOs. We care about where our seafood was sourced. But we may falter once we get to the pharmacy department. Are some dietary supplements better for the environment than others?
“Yes, you can make more earth-friendly choices in the pharmacy aisles. Not all ingredients are good for the environment,” confirms award-winning pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos, BSc, Phm, RPh. “Transparency and clean label are becoming important considerations. People want to know where and how their ingredients are sourced. They also want to know they’re getting what’s on the label, rather than buying brands that contain additives and fillers.”
Torkos has investigated sustainable ingredients in four common dietary supplement categories. Here are some of her findings.
Antioxidants: “For whole-body benefits, look for vitamin E supplements derived from Malaysian sustainable palm oil. These contain complete vitamin E – tocopherols and tocotrienols – which research has shown support our health from head to toe, including our brain, skin, heart and liver. Palm oil is the world’s first certified sustainable vegetable oil, and Malaysia is a leader in environmentally friendly agricultural practices.”
Omega-3s: “Omega-3s are wonderful for heart health. But some consumers are concerned about the contaminants that may show up in fish oil supplements. A good vegetarian, organic alternative is ahiflower oil, which is produced sustainably and is more efficient than flax once it’s in your body. Ahiflower oil contains a balance of omega-3 and -9, and unlike other plant-based sources, it contains an omega -6 (GLA) in one supplement.”
Fiber: “Soluble fiber supports digestion, weight management, healthy cholesterol and helps to balance blood sugar. Look for brands that contain Sunfiber, a guar fiber that is Non-GMO Project verified. Sunfiber is also certified organic, which verifies that it is produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.”
Plant protein: “Plant proteins (pulses), which are made from peas and other legumes, can be healthy alternatives to meat. Pulses are rotational crops that add nitrogen back into the soil, creating a sustainable growing environment and promoting soil health. Look for non-GMO PURIS plant proteins in nutritional shakes, bars, cereals and even some non-dairy frozen desserts.”
Torkos adds that, “Most sustainable dietary supplement ingredient suppliers share a commitment to farm-to-table transparency. They follow their supply chains from the fields to store shelves to ensure the end-quality of their ingredients. They also invest in research to confirm that their ingredients are safe and effective. It’s smart to become a label reader because dietary supplement brands that contain fewer active compounds may not always deliver on their promises.”