We all wonder when it comes to supplements. Which brands are best? How much do I need? What is best for weight loss versus building muscle?

While we know getting the right dose and kind of nutrients can keep us healthy, going to the store and heading straight for the recognizable brands may be just as detrimental for your body as it is beneficial.

The issue is that many vitamin and mineral supplements are synthesized in labs and don’t offer the same nutrients you get from a diet chock full of organic foods. In fact, synthetic supplements are made to imitate the effects of their natural counterparts. Whereas natural supplements come directly from plants and produce.

Because synthetic supplements are “isolated” they can become potential threats to your body. They lack the normally present transporters and co-factors. In other words, natural supplements are typically grouped with other vitamins, enzymes, and minerals that help your body recognize the nutrients and use them properly.

As a result, your body shelves the synthetic supplements until it receives the other natural compounds required to use them, or it simply expels them untouched.

The worst part? Over 90% of vitamin supplements fall into the synthetic category.

So how do you know if you’re buying synthetic or natural supplements? The Organic Consumers Association offers a wide range of information on the subject, but differentiating between the two comes down to you as a customer. The key is to read the ingredient labels in search of synthesized substances. Things like Vitamin A listed as Retinyl Palmitate, Vitamin C as Ascorbic Acid, or Vitamin D as Irradiated Ergosteral. Seeing any vitamin listed as the “dl form” is always a heads up of synthetic origins.

Some of the best, natural supplement brands you can trust include Gaia Herbs, MegaFood, Herb Pharm, and Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems. It’s important to get to know the company’s values and its practices before you jump into using their product lines.

So next time you go to the store to get some nutritional help with losing those extra pounds or bulking those arms up, remember it’s ok to be a bit nit-picky about what you’re buying. Your body will thank you later.