Decode Your Supplements

Your favorite health food store has plenty of supplements. But trying to figure out which nutrient is the best—decoding them—can be tricky. Here is a codebook for three of the most widely used and most important natural ingredients.

Vitamin: K2

  • What it is: Vitamin K2, or menaquinone, is one of two forms of vitamin K.
  • Where it comes from: Vitamin K2 is found in fish, meat, eggs, cheese, and the traditional Japanese fermented food natto.
  • Main use: Cardiovascular health and bone density. Vitamin K2 activates proteins that transport calcium through the bloodstream and ensure that it absorbs into your bones. K2 also reduces calcium buildup in your arteries and aids in blood clotting.
  • What to look for: Look for a clinically studied menaquinone (K2) derived from natto, like MenaQ7.
  • Dosage level: 5 to 45 mg daily.

 

Mineral: Silica

  • What it is: Silica is a common mineral.
  • Where it comes from: Food sources include the fiber component of grains and the skin of fruits and vegetables. Dietary intakes are typically low because most processed foods eliminate those sources.
  • Main use: Bone, cartilage, and collagen building. Silica helps bring more calcium into the bones—boosting absorption by up to 50 percent—and allows less calcium to leach away from the bones. It also promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails.
  • What to look for: The best silica is water-extracted from the above-ground parts of the horsetail plant during spring.
  • Dosage level: At least 20 mg daily to prevent deficiency, and 40 mg daily to build bones as a stand-alone supplement.

 

Botanical: Andrographis

  • What it is: Known as the “King of Bitters,” andrographis is an annual herb with powerful beneficial compounds.
  • Where it comes from: Andrographis is native to India and Southern Asia.
  • Main use: Andrographis is best recognized for being an immune-boosting botanical, quickly reducing the intensity and duration of cold and flu symptoms. Beyond that, andrographis soothes digestive disorders, fights inflammation, protects the structure of joints, reduces blood pressure, stops viruses, and inhibits tumor growth. After years of mostly flying “below the radar” in the United States, andrographis is rapidly becoming one of the most popular supplemental herbs in the marketplace.
  • What to look for: Look for a leaf and stem extract that is standardized for andrographolide, its key—and most tested—component.
  • Dosage level: 400 mg daily, standardized for 80 mg of andrographolide.
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