What kind of supplements do you prefer?
There are many types of supplements including capsules, tablets, chewables, powders, gummies, liquids, energy bars, and more. Is there a difference when it comes to quality, absorption, and overall efficacy? Is there a clear-cut winner between gummy vitamins vs pills?
Let’s take a look…
Types of Supplements
There’s a wide array of supplement types and delivery formats. Here are some of the major types of supplements and a few of their basic benefits and drawbacks.
Gummy Vitamins vs Pills + Other Main Supplement Types
Capsules (“two-piece hardgels”) have a smooth, translucent outer shell that’s filled with a powder. They come in the form of gelcaps (gelatin shell) or veggie caps (plant-based shell).
Capsules protect their contents against breakdown from direct exposure to the air and humidity. They’re generally easier to swallow than tablets and don’t leave behind an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Hardgels are preferred by people, especially parents of young kids, who opt to open the capsule and pour the powder over food or into a liquid or smoothie.
One of the downsides is that capsules may contain lower doses of ingredients than tablets. Also, some may find large capsules just as difficult to swallow as tablets.
Tablets are produced by compressing granules or powders into a hard pill. Many times, tablets are single ingredient supplements, such as iron pills.
On the plus side, tablets can provide higher doses of ingredients compared to capsules and softgels. Also, tablets can be split (with a pill cutter) or crushed into a powder to make them easier to swallow.
A common complaint against tablets is that they can be difficult to swallow. Also, they may have a bitter or unpleasant taste. Most concerning is that many tablets are coated with potentially unsafe substances (such as titanium dioxide) to improve their appearance.
Softgels are pills that contain a liquid ingredient and cannot be opened as easily as hardgel capsules. They may be easier to swallow than other pills, unless they’re large “horse pills.”
A concern for certain consumers, particularly vegans, is that gelatin casings are made with beef or pork. Some plant-based options are available for softgels, but the technology hasn’t been perfected and sometimes they leak or come apart.
Chewable tablets are useful for delivering larger amounts of an active ingredient that would otherwise take several hardgel or softgel capsules to deliver. As their name suggests, chewable tablets must be chewed before they’re swallowed.
Chewables are ideal for those who don’t enjoy, or have difficulty, swallowing pills. Since they must be chewed, chewables often are made to taste more pleasant than some other forms of supplements.
Popular among children’s vitamin brands, chewables have certain negative aspects that parents should be mindful of…for instance, many contain artificial colors and flavors that aren’t proven safe. Also, many chewables have sugar or artificial sweeteners, which are included to appeal to the customer’s tastebuds.
The energy bar market has exploded in recent years, perhaps driven by the fast-paced nature of our society. Energy bars are often represented as providing a short-term energy boost to bridge the gap from one meal to the next.
Some bars are marketed as food-based supplements that provide fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, many have inferior sources of these food categories and fail to deliver a lasting energy boost.
These convenient meal alternatives may (or many not) have a pleasant taste and may contain some vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. However, many contain artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, which offset some of their benefit. For people with blood sugar problems, bars with lots of added sugar can hurt rather than help their mental focus or physical endurance.
Formulated to look and taste like gummy candies (such as gummy bears), these soft, chewable vitamins are marketed toward kids (though many adults consume them, as well). Gummies are ideal for those who have difficulties swallowing capsules or tablets. The added flavorings may make these vitamins more appealing, certainly to their target audience.
However, gummies have a dark secret: they’re practically impossible to make without using sugar or sugar alcohols, which can cause stomach discomfort or contribute to blood sugar problems. Parents are strongly cautioned when purchasing gummies for their children, since many contain excessive amounts of sugar. Also, as with chewable tablets, gummies may contain artificial colors and flavors.
With respect to the gummy vitamins vs pills debate, it’s probably best to avoid the unhealthy and artificial ingredients in gummies and look elsewhere for quality nutrients.
Some people just prefer to drink their vitamins. Liquid supplements have become more popular in recent years due to their convenience. Also, many maintain that a product’s efficacy is sustained over a longer period when it’s kept in the refrigerator.
This actually isn’t the case because each time the bottle is opened – regardless of the temperature – the air that gets in delivers oxygen to the liquid, which degrades it. Rancidity sets in long before we can sense it by smell or taste.
Liquid supplements can be naturally occurring or suspended in a liquid and may be preferred by people who have difficulty swallowing pills. Some of the benefits of liquid supplements are that its doses can be easily tailored and it doesn’t need to be mixed into liquid or water.
Often, claims are made that nutritional ingredients are more efficiently absorbed from liquids, but there’s no good evidence to support this assertion. Moments after a person swallows something, it becomes immersed in the liquids of the stomach and later the intestine. It makes little difference whether you start with a dry or liquid supplement – they’re all headed to the same place.
Other than taking up space in your fridge, one of the biggest challenges with liquid supplements is that its taste tends to be amplified over normal supplements, which is a good thing if the product is pleasant tasting, but not so much if it isn’t. Also, liquid supplements tend to be pricier than their capsule or tablet counterparts, and need artificial preservatives to keep them from prematurely breaking down.
Powdered supplements are dehydrated ingredients that must be dissolved in water or another liquid before being consumed. These nutrients can be added to fruit/vegetable juices, healthy smoothies, or even soups.
As with those who prefer liquid supplements, powdered nutrients may be enjoyed as an alternative to pills and may be quickly absorbed. Powders may offer higher doses than pills since doses are easy to adjust. For some ingredients, the daily dose needed for health benefit is so high that a powder is the only choice a responsible manufacturer can make.
The tradeoff is that powdered nutrients may have an unpleasant aftertaste. Also, the need to mix the powder into liquids requires more time spent in the kitchen and messes may be created in the combining process.
The Right Supplement for You
With so many supplement sizes, shapes, and styles to consider, which is the best for you?
Each of the supplement forms listed above have pros and cons (our gummy vitamins vs pills comparison, for instance). For many people, choosing the right supplement is a matter of taste, price, and ease of use.
However, the most important aspects of any supplement you purchase should be quality and purity. A major concern many have regarding dietary supplements is quality control issues. This can make the selection of a supplement brand extremely challenging.
To protect your health, and to be confident you’re getting the highest quality supplements, make sure you’re purchasing products that are manufactured in current Good Manufacturing Practice – cGMP certified – facilities, have undergone rigorous testing for purity, and are backed by controlled clinical trials conducted with humans. Also, be sure to thoroughly read the Supplement Facts box on the label.
Hopefully the above information will help you choose the right kind of supplements for you. Since supplements should be a part of any health regimen, you should be as well informed as possible when it comes to what you put in your body.
Your health and safety depend on it.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
- Here’s How to Cook with MCT Oil (Recipes Included!) - September 17, 2021
- Here’s What You Need to Know About Antioxidants and Free Radicals! - September 15, 2021
- How to Get Clean MCT Energy for Your Brain and Body - September 10, 2021