How are the best dietary supplements made? This is the question we must ask ourselves before we invest in the first supplement that comes along. To answer the question we must start at ground level, so to speak. A supplement is only as good as the ground from which it is taken.
If the ground contains little nutrition then we can expect little more from the end product. Also of great importance is the process used to extract the nutrients from the vegetable source. The very best dietary supplements require the very best processes.
The best process for making quality supplements should begin in the ground. Soil management represents the very foundation of sound agricultural production. Healthy soil is the key to producing healthy plants.
And healthy plants produce the highest levels of nutrients. And of course the highest levels of nutrients are necessary to produce the best dietary supplements. All healthy soils possess an optimal balance of organic matter, minerals, water and air.
This rich mixture in return promotes the growth of many small and microscopic creatures beneficial to plant health.
Obviously, then, to control the ingredients that go into supplements it is necessary to control the farms that grow the crops. These crops should be grown using sustainable, certified-organic farming techniques and harvested for production at their nutritional peak.
The nutritional peak of some plants, i.e. acerola cherries is not the same as the peak of ripeness. Care must be taken to harvest the plants when they contain the highest concentrations of vitamins and minerals if we expect to produce the best dietary supplements.
Long term farming practices should be observed. Otherwise future crops will be inferior and so will the supplement products derived from them. That means using certified organic methods to replenish the soil instead of depleting its nutrients and using nature rather than chemicals to control weeds, insects and other harmful predators.
Certified organic farming methods are more costly and time-consuming, but they offer enormous advantages over conventional agriculture.
By focusing on long-term sustainability instead of short-term yields, not only are better crops produced, and therefore the very best dietary supplements, but damaging the earth and water will also be avoided.
What does certified organic mean? It means the farms must be inspected by independent agencies and that each farm must either meet or exceeded the strict standards of these agencies. Organic farms must maintain detailed records of all farming methods.
This includes everything that goes into the soil as well as on the plants. Moreover, each organic farm is inspected annually to ensure that, year-after-year, no chemicals are associated with the crops. Even the water supply must be guarded. Much work toward ensuring healthy, chemical-free crops can be spoiled if the irrigation water is impure.
Most companies cannot own all the farms from which the plant materials are sourced. This is because not all necessary crops can be grown in one location.
To produce the variety of nutrients necessary for the best dietary supplements a wide variety of plants must be grown. Some of these crops may be better suited to the valleys of southern California while others grow better in Brazil.
When it is not possible to own all the source farms all suppliers' facilities and equipment should be monitored for quality control. Even then it is best to be able to process all plant materials into stable substances as soon as they come out of the ground. This requires multiple processing sites. Otherwise a company runs into the same problem food companies have.
The longer plant materials have to travel or be stored the fewer nutrients remain when the plant is consumed. If much time passes between the harvesting of the plants and processing into stable supplement form the nutrient level decreases and the best dietary supplements are not possible.
Clearly the production of the best dietary supplements from organically grown crops is a time consuming and expensive process. It certainly is easier and cheaper to compress chemicals into tablets and sell them as vitamins. The body does not assimilate these chemicals well and most of them actually pass through the body undigested. If you are going to take care to supplement your diet it makes sense to do it with the highest quality available.
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Once the organically grown plants are harvested at their absolute nutritional peak they must then quickly be moved to the first stage of processing so valuable nutrients are not lost from oxygen exposure. This first stage of processing is dehydration.
Interestingly the dehydration process begins with steaming to reduce the microbe count. Then warm air is gently blown over the plant material to remove the water content. Before this stage moisture content can be as high as 83%. This can drop to as little as 3% by the end of dehydration.
To avoid nutritional loss the heat should be applied in stages using low temperatures. This prevents the plant cells from rupturing.
The end result of the dehydration process is small coin sized flakes rich in nutritional value. The dried material is more stable and will retain its nutritional value better. The flaky vegetable (and fruit) matter is then moved into milling machines where it is ground into fine powder. Since the dehydration process locks in the nutrients the powder is equally high in nutritional value.
For plants containing nutrients that will dissolve in water a process of extraction is used. The plant material is liquidized by the application of warm air and water.
The nutrients are literally suspended in liquid form. A straining process then removes the fibrous parts of the plant and any other solid materials. What remains is a weak nutrient soup. Using a piece of equipment called a turbo film evaporator the water in this nutrient soup is evaporated leaving an extract many times more nutritionally potent than the weak soup.
The remaining potion is converted into a fine powder which is then subjected to purity tests to ensure its readiness for conversion into tablets.
It goes without saying that quality companies maintain the most stringent controls from the beginning of processing to the end. The important thing is that the most nutritionally rich plants (really it is the most nutritionally rich parts of the plants) are harvested and eventually put in vitamin form.
It is the only way to produce the very best dietary supplements. Great care must be taken to ensure that no contaminates get into the material at any stage of processing.
Some companies are willing to go to these extremes to produce a quality product. It is costly in equipment, research and labor. But the result is a high quality nutritional product easily used by our bodies to support health.
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