Ah, TJ’s, the land of affordable, natural, additive-free, non-artificially flavored, and non-artificially colored groceries. We love its guilt-free desserts, healthy-fied fall comfort foods, and game day party spread. But there’s one aisle we didn’t know our way around until now: “Supplements & Such.”
Because it buys large quantities and distributes the product itself (sans middlemen), Trader Joe’s can afford to sell its supplements for considerably less than commercial brands. To help you decide if these are worth adding to your daily regimen, we’ve gone to the experts for their reviews on how Trader Joe’s Supplements & Such fare in terms of safety, usefulness, and value.
Be advised: You should always consult with your doctor or nutritionist before adding vitamins and supplements to your diet. This isn’t a full list of Trader Joe’s selection but rather the main ones concerning most women in their twenties and thirties.
Calcium Magnesium & Zinc, $3.99
Registered dietitian Jack Norris recommends TJ’s Calcium Magnesium & Zinc supplement. Norris found that it could be absorbed by the human stomach within eight minutes (others may take up to thirty minutes or not dissolve at all, essentially rendering them ineffective). Magnesium is essential for proper hydration, zinc is an important nutrient for infants and new moms, and calcium builds strong bones and helps prevent cancer.
Verdict: Get it.
Odorless Omega-3 Fatty Acids, $9.99
Labdoor, an independent company that buys and tests supplements, found that the product purity of TJ’s omega-3 fish oil is very good compared to other brands—its mercury content, for instance, is far below the category average (1.8 parts per billion vs. 2.4 ppb) for fish oils. TJ’s omega-3s have been molecularly distilled to remove contaminants such as PCBs, arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. Plus, they go through a “steam deodorization” process, meaning no fishy aftertaste! Omega-3 fatty acids improve cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease.
Verdict: Get it.
B-6 / Folic Acid / B-12, $7.99
Folate (aka vitamin B-9) helps create new cells while maintaining balance in our nervous system’s message-carrying molecules for proper brain function. Folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to complications such as premature births or birth defects. B-6 promotes proper protein and fat metabolism. And B-12 is necessary for a healthy nervous system and producing red blood cells.
The federal government’s Office of Dietary Supplements says it’s best to take all three supplements together. Suzanne Hollander, MS, RD, CSP, of Suzy Foods, explains, “While some micronutrients are absorbed better when taken together or apart, B vitamins can be absorbed with or without other vitamins/minerals around. Taking these B vitamins together may make sense because they work together in your body”—which is why being able to buy TJ’s B-6, Folic Acid, and B-12 in one bottle is smart. Hollander adds, “In theory, sublingual B-12 may be absorbed better” than taking it in pill form. TJ’s version is also highly potent and quickly dissolves under the tongue, which makes it a winner in efficacy and efficiency.
Verdict: Get it.
Acidophilus & Probiotic Complex, $5.99
Eva Glasrud, psychologist and blogger at The Happy Talent tells us, “There is some super compelling peer-reviewed research on probiotics. I travel in Central America and Southeast Asia three to four months per year, so when I learned that scientists found probiotics actually prevent traveler’s diarrhea and other [related] conditions, I was pretty stoked.” Researchers have found that using probiotics nourishes your gut bacteria, improving your digestive health, immune system, and mental health.
Glasrud adds, “Trader Joe’s probiotics meet the current scientific standards for safe and effective probiotics. The most effective bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, both of which TJ’s brand contains.” She also says that how probiotics are delivered matters a lot, too. In order to be effective, Glasrud explains, probiotics must make it through the stomach to the intestine without being entirely dissolved. “TJ’s claims that they employ an ‘intestinal delivery system,’ meaning it’s designed to have a delayed release,” Glasrud says.
That said, Probiotic Guide ranks Trader Joe’s Acidophilus and Probiotic Complex as “average”; while it is all-natural, affordable, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it isn’t allergy-friendly (it contains milk), and it only contains about 2 billion cells per tablet. For probiotics that pack a bigger punch, nutritionists use and recommend products with at least 5 billion to 10 billion cells per unit.
Verdict: Not a clear winner, but for half the cost of commercial brands that contain about the same amount of cells per unit, TJ’s probiotics are worth trying.
Women’s Formula Multivitamin & Mineral, $5.99
Vitamin C, calcium, and iron are three of the most important nutrients women need in their twenties and thirties to support immunity, bone density, and blood cells. Trader Joe’s Women’s Formula Multivitamin & Mineral contains vitamin C, calcium, and iron, plus a host of other vitamins and minerals in large doses (compared to competitors). But this is one product where Trader Joe’s formulation might have gone a tad overboard.
A glance at the nutrition facts says that each capsule contains 500 percent of your daily recommended vitamin B-6, 588 percent of riboflavin, and 667 percent of thiamine. These numbers don’t mean it’s unsafe, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Hollander points out, “If it’s a water-soluble vitamin (like the B vitamins, riboflavin, and thiamine here), then it’s safe, but silly. You’re better off just sticking with 100 percent. With high doses of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and minerals, you can develop toxicity, so you should definitely stick with 100 percent or less, unless a doctor or registered dietitian (RD, RDN) has advised you otherwise.”
Verdict: TJ’s Women’s Formula Multivitamin & Minerals contains some vitamins in excess, but none that are at an unsafe level. If you aren’t already taking a daily multivitamin, this is an affordable option to start.
When choosing the right daily supplements for yourself, it’s best to consult with a registered dietitian. “Many RDs/RDNs focus on the specifics in and about nutrition supplements. We make a great resource for finding a supplement that will complement your eating pattern and health goals,” Hollander tells me. “Bonus: We’ll help keep you from paying for a pill form of something you’re already getting from food!”
Have you tried any supplements from Trader Joe’s? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Be well!