I was asked a couple of weeks ago, “Is moringa as good as it’s made out to be? I want to stock up from Holland & Barrett when they next have a sale.”

If you’re not even sure what moringa is, it’s a supplement that’s gaining a bit of a reputation at the moment.

Anyway, I had a four part answer for this person:

1 – The first question I had in response was – Are you eating a 100% organic diet? The reason I asked this is, if you’re looking to supplement yet you’re still eating processed, low quality foods, why would you bother? It doesn’t make any sense as the very reason you are taking the supplement, presumably, is to increase your nutrient variety and quantity of nutrients absorbed. Therefore, if you eat non-organic vegetables you’re missing out on a HUGE amount of nutrients that you would be consuming anyway while eating your regular meals.

Let me give you a comparison of three vegetables, organic vs non-organic, for levels of magnesium alone (measured in milliequivalents):

Cabbage – organic = 43.6 / non-organic = 15.6 (a 28mEq increase)
Tomatoes – organic = 59.2 / non-organic = 4.5 (a 54.7mEq increase)
Spinach – organic = 293.9 / non-organic = 46.9 (a WHOPPING 247mEq increase)

There are also all the other nutrients that I don’t have room to include here such as potassium, sodium, calcium or iron for example, which are all found in much greater levels in organic compared with non-organic foods. But what is perhaps even more important is all the secondary nutrients with organic, whole foods such as phenolics, terpenes and alkaloids. Important nutrients that make up a more complete picture of what you are getting by eating whole organic vs supplemented, isolated parts of food in a bottle/capsule.

2 – The next things was – What are your bowel movements like? Do you get gas? And, can I have a look at your tongue?

The reason being is these things all tell me what is happening with the digestive system of the person. In this case, was the person optimally digesting their existing diet or are there issues that need to be addressed first, before taking more supplements that may well get wasted.

If it’s a supplement that requires you swallow it, as opposed to take under the tongue, you need the digestive system to do some work to extract the goodness. If it’s not working very well then you are losing vital absorption.

So, my advice here was, keep a diary using the acronym FEEDS (food & fluids, energy, emotional state, digestion and sleep) for at least a week to give you a more clear picture of what is, or perhaps is not, working for you.

If there are cracks on your tongue it’s also a great sign of nutrient deficiency, particularly vitamin B.

3 – If these supplements are on a cheap deal, are they as good as they are made out to be? Cheap supplements are cheap because they contain fillers that allow the producer to get a better yield and therefore maintain profit.

But these fillers can detract from your health at the worst and in the best case scenario, simply not provide you with the quantity or quality of what you thought you might be getting in the first place.

If you do choose to supplement look for food grade supplements that are much higher quality products. However you will pay more for such products.

4 – Lastly (and this is some what of a personal thing) – Is buying a supplement from China, Tibet, Hawaii or some other far flung place even ethical? Yes a certain type of seaweed only found in Japan might have a huge amount of nutrients compared to broccoli. But at what cost does it arrive on your plate / in your supplement. Count the air miles, plastic containers it’s wrapped in, processing etc. Does that really make it sustainable?

So what’s the answer? In my opinion the answer comes in three parts, we should buy local, seasonal and organic!

I know it’s not always possible to do all these things all the time, but using that as a guide and moving away from this as little as is practical is the way forwards for the health of you and the health of the planet.

I hope that provided some food for thought on supplementation;-)

Have a great weekend