If you’re looking for ways to reduce your risk of certain diseases, combat a vitamin deficiency, or enhance your overall health and wellbeing, then certain supplements may be the answer for you. Even though you can get many essential nutrients in a balanced diet, supplements are a good health insurance policy because it can be difficult to get everything you need with food alone.
However, there are many different forms of supplements, each with various pros and cons to consider, and it may seem overwhelming to choose the right form for you. Whether it’s gummies, capsules, powders, or tablets, there are things to consider to find one that will fit your specific needs and lifestyle preferences.
Before we further examine the differences between each supplement form, let’s first discuss the importance of supplementation and why you should consider it.
Importance of supplementation
While you can get many nutrients from a healthful, well-balanced diet, you may not get all of them on a regular basis. Evidence shows that only 28% of adults eat their recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables each day, leaving many people with nutrient gaps [2
]. Additionally, studies have found that Americans consume less than the recommended daily intake for vitamins A, C, D, E and K, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and choline [1
With so many people falling short on fruit and vegetable consumption and other essential nutrients, it stands to reason that supplementation could be a reasonable solution. While supplements aren’t a replacement for food, they are a good insurance policy to have in your diet, as they fill in the gaps and make up for any nutritional shortfalls.
Research has shown that supplementation may also provide significant benefits for specific groups and indications. For instance, alpha lipoic acid can be beneficial for cholesterol reduction, and vitamin C may reduce the duration of cold symptoms [5
When choosing supplements, be sure to select ones that are third-party tested. Learn more about why that’s important with this article.
What are the different types of supplements?
Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, so it may seem overwhelming to choose which one is best for you. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of supplements, as well as some pros and cons associated with them.
Tablets are one of the most common forms of supplements. They are inexpensive to produce, safe to consume, and effective at delivering nutrients. They also offer a variety of shapes and sizes (as well as chewable forms) to help with consumption.
Tablets are made by compressing powdered ingredients together to create a solid pill that breaks down within the digestive tract [7
]. In addition to active ingredients, most tablets contain additives that improve their taste, texture, or appearance. Some will even have a coating on the outside to prevent them from breaking down before entering the small intestine, which is where the majority of nutrient absorption occurs [8
Here are some pros and cons of taking tablets:
Cost effective. In general, tablets are cheaper to manufacture, which makes them a more affordable option for consumers.
Varied size. Tablets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it easier for the consumer to choose which one will suit their needs.
Ease of use. For those who have trouble swallowing tablets, they can rely on chewable or orally-disintegrating tablet forms.
Dose splitting. Scored tablets can be split apart for various reasons, such as ease of swallowing.
Shelf-stable. Tablets tend to be more shelf-stable and have a longer lifespan.
Tablets take around 30 minutes to dissolve [13
Uneven disintegration. Tablets may break down inconsistently, which can lead to a lower absorption rate.
Less palatable. Some people may find that the tablet’s outer coating causes a bad aftertaste.
Whether in the kids section or down an aisle at Whole Foods, we’ve all seen a variety of gummies for sale. These chewable vitamins are heralded as a tasty way to get your nutrients in, coming in a multitude of shapes, colors, and flavors meant to appeal to children and adults alike who may not enjoy swallowing pills. However, despite the colorful marketing schemes, the question remains: are gummy vitamins effective?
The answer depends on a few factors. Here are some pros and cons to consider before taking gummies.
Studies have found that gummies may contain sugar alcohols, food coloring, or added sugars, all of which can have negative side effects [10
Incorrect nutrient content. Gummy vitamins may have a lower nutrient content than advertised, since manufacturers have to reduce the amount of nutrients present to add filler components and maintain a gummy texture.
Easy to overeat. Gummies have a variety of flavor options and can be easy to overeat, which may lead to some vitamin or mineral toxicities.
Similar to tablets, capsules are another common form of supplementation that many people find appealing. However, this differs from tablets in the fact that the medication (or nutrients) are encapsulated in an outer shell. This is broken down in the digestive tract, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream to be distributed and metabolized.
Here are some pros and cons of taking capsules.
If you have trouble swallowing tablets or capsules, then taking a powder supplement form may be suitable for you. Powders usually consist of a single ingredient (or a combination of ingredients) and are ideal for getting a large amount of macronutrients–like protein–in at once. Here are some pros and cons associated with powders:
User-friendly. Powders are a good option for people who don’t like swallowing tablets or capsules.
Versatile. Whether it’s water, coffee, or smoothies, you can easily incorporate powders into your everyday foods and drinks.
Inconvenient for travel. Powders usually come in a large container, so unless you pre-measure, they can be inconvenient to carry.
Inconsistent measurements. Each scoop may contain a different amount of powder based on a variety of user-error factors (such as how tightly the powder is packed, if it was scored off at the top, or if the scoop was wet or not).
Which form is best?
When considering which form is best, consider the one that works best for you and fits your body, lifestyle and nutritional needs. If you have a problem swallowing pills, then a powder or gummy may work better for you; however, if you’re always on the go, then a tablet may work better for convenience’s sake.
Supplements are a good way to help reduce your risk of certain diseases, combat a vitamin deficiency, and/or enhance your overall health and wellbeing. Between gummies, capsules, powders, and tablets, there are many different forms of supplements available, all of which have various pros and cons. While it may seem overwhelming to pick the right one for you, you should make your decision based on how each supplement would best fit your body, lifestyle, and nutritional needs.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose or replace personalized medical care.