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How many different forms of supplements are available?

We usually think of dietary supplements in the form of capsules or tablets. Nowadays there are many different forms of supplements. For a big part it depends on your own preference which form is best to choose. In this overview I will mention a few pros and cons if there are any.

Eat healthy food

A rough way of classification in form is: 

  • Tablets and Capsules
  • Powders
  • Liquids

A way of classification in type is: 

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Enzymes
  • Fatty Acids
  • Proteins
  • Fibers
  • (Herbs/Botanical)

Maybe strange on a website that talks about supplements, yet one important aspect of supplements is that it hardly ever can replace a healthy variety of food. Have a look at Use the Colors of Food to Benefit your Health.

Talk to your doctor or a dietitian before you start taking any new supplements. And try small doses first to rule out any allergies.

Most users choose capsules

Capsules are a safe way to swallow supplements. They consist of 2 rounded halves that form a little tube containing powder. The outer halves are made of gelatin or starch. Gelatin is typically made from animal collagen, making it unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Capsules can be quite big and not everyone finds it easy to take them. In the U.S. 40% of adults mention they have a hard time swallowing capsules and tablets.

Capsules - different forms of supplements

Pro:

  • The content is protected by the shell
  • The taste of the vitamin is camouflaged

Con:

  • Not a pure form because of the shell

Tip:

  • Choose a brand that is suitable for vegans

Tablets are an alternative for capsules

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I take Vitamin C capsules of 1000 gr 3 times a day. The capsules are from Solgar. A good brand with eye for the quality of the supplements and the environment. Solgar was totally sold out a while ago so I had to look for another brand. Unfortunately I don’t like the tablets I ordered as an alternative because I have a hard time swallowing them, even when I break them in halves. 

The Vitamin D and Calcium tablets I also have, are no problem for me. There are a lot of different companies to choose from, so I can only suggest trying different brands until you know what your preferences are.

Capsules all have more or less the same size where tablets can vary in size and form. Tablets can be compressed, thus containing more of a substance. For the compression and necessary disintegration when consumed excipients are added. Usually there are more excipients in tablets than there are in capsules.

Pro:

  • Usually cheaper than capsules

Con:

  • Possibility of digestive problems because of the excipients

Tip:

  • Drink half a glass of water first if you have problems with swallowing

Softgels for liquid-based supplements

Capsules contain powder and softgels contain liquid. Softgels, like the word suggests, are made of gelatin. Although there are gelatins based on chicken or fish the common kind is made of pork.

Softgels

Pro:

  • Easier to swallow than capsules or tablets
  • Longer lifespan than capsules
  • Fewer different excipients than capsules or tablets

Con:

  • More expensive than capsules
  • Sensitive to hot weather
  • Hardly any vegetarian softgels are available

Gummies and chewable tablets are not very effective

Anything to make a kid take vitamins? At times the remedy is worse than the problem. Most have added sugars to sweeten the taste thus diminishing the effectiveness of the vitamins. Not to mention the effect on the teeth.

Con:

  • Least effective of all types of supplements
  • Supplements nor medicine should look like sweets

Tip:

  • Mix powder in the food when your (grand)child needs supplements and doesn’t want them

Powder if swallowing is difficult

When it’s hard for you to swallow pills or have trouble digesting food, powder is a good alternative supplement. Powders are great to add to a smoothie. You can add them to water or almond milk and mix them with a blender. There is a huge variety of powders, from pure vitamins to herbal powders. 

Powders - different forms of supplements

Pro:

  • Most powder is pure, without excipients

Con:

  • The powder can have clumps

Tip:

  • Acid powders, for instance Vitamin C, affect your teeth. If you have mixed it with water you can best drink it with a (bamboo) straw to keep it away from your teeth.

Liquid supplements are fairly new

The new kid on the block is the liquid form of dietary supplements and it’s doing very well. Our body uses 98% of liquid extracts, where it utilizes about 40-53% of capsules or tablets. It’s a great form when you have trouble swallowing. And when you don’t like the taste of vitamins, because you can mix them very well with smoothies or shakes.

Pro:

  • Easier to swallow than capsules or tablets
  • Better absorption by the body

Con:

  • Shorter lifespan than the other forms
  • Lots have added excipients for flavoring

Tip:

  • Look for a quality brand that does a lot of testing

A tincture is more concentrated than liquid

Tinctures are liquid extracts. The supplements are dissolved in alcohol. Don’t worry, you won’t get drunk from tinctures, the amount is negligible. Yet, as with every form of supplement, it is recommendable to study the description or label first.  

Pro:

  • Quick absorption by the body

Some essential oils are suited for internal use

Another form of liquid is oil. Usually essential oils are used as aromatherapy, yet some of them are excellent for intake. The quality brands control and bottle their own oils. And have good information about their products.

Essential oil

Pro:

  • A lot of choice in types and brands
  • Safe because it is plant based

Con:

  • Many forgeries. For example: there is more lavender oil on the market than there are lavender plants
  • Not all oils are fit for consumption

Tip:

  • Don’t buy your oils at the supermarket but at a specialized firm

The list could go on

There are mixed forms of supplements like energy bars and fermented herbs. Especially fermented nutrition is in the picture nowadays because of the many healthy benefits it has. But I want to keep this overview clear and structured. That’s why I just mention this as a side note.

No matter what form you are going to take, try to find a product that is certified, non-GMO, organic, dairy-free, and gluten-free. And if possible manufactured and packed in a sustainable way.

What do you think, is this list complete and helpful? Let me know in the comment box. You can also leave your questions there if you have them.

Take care.

13 thoughts on “How many different forms of supplements are available?”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the information you’ve provided in this article about the types of supplements we can have. I was not aware of lots of it before, so its a learning for me, especially about the capsules and pure forms of powders. These two will be my go to options when I choose to buy the supplements next time.

    Thank you
    Rani

    Reply
  2. For me, your lists are helpful. I use to take garlic soft gel supplements once, but I have no idea at all what is it made from. It is true that swallowing a pill or capsule is hard, thanks for sharing the tips and techniques to do it in a easier way.

    Reply
    • Amazing, isn’t it. Someone at an oil factory told me and I couldn’t believe it either.
      Thanks for responding, Christy 🙂

      Reply
  3. With all that is going on I have been treating my body more and more like a temple. So happy I ran into this article. Very in depth review of some of the options. I’ll definitely be bookmarking this site. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  4. A very good explanation for all of us, who usually stare at what seems like endless possibilities when choosing a supplement. I like the pros and cons for each type, so it became really easy to choose the suitable one. You even provided some tips-thank you!

    Reply
  5. There is a ton of useful information here. I have recently been learning more and more about tinctures. I like the idea that they are natural, concentrated, and keep for a long time. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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