What is the main benefit of shopping at your local health food store? The answer is “staff assistance”. Staff assistance doesn’t just mean that someone is available to point you towards the Vitamin C aisle. This concept entails the product knowledge behind the labels, the compassion behind the conversation and the carefully asked questions to find the right product to fit your unique needs. 

Most health food store employees are certified natural product advisors who consistently take part in continuing education and specialized trainings. In addition, many staff members have achieved extra credentials on their own time, such as nutrition diplomas or personal training certificates. A product advisor is trained to ask those important questions you won’t get from just looking at the shelf. These include: Why do you want to take this product? What else are you taking? What are your symptoms or conditions? Have you tried anything already? What is your diet/lifestyle like? What budget are you working within? What are you looking to achieve?

When it comes to natural supplements, who is to say you are getting the right product for your specific needs? Have you ever asked yourself if what you picked off the shelf is in fact the best choice and the best investment for your health? Shopping with no staff assistance leaves one to rely solely on the label marketing claims and price. Here are some examples why having an interaction with a knowledgeable advisor can be financially beneficial and worth your time. This is how health stores add value to your purchase and save you the “guesswork”.


Example 1 – Choosing a Supplement Form: Perhaps you have heard from a friend that you need to take magnesium for your anxiety. However, there could easily be 6 or more forms of magnesium on the shelf. How do you know which one to choose? A trained advisor knows that magnesium oxide works differently than magnesium bisglycinate. While magnesium oxide does not absorb well in the body and is commonly used as a laxative, the bisglycinate form can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and help support an overactive mind. Perhaps, you are looking for vitamin B12 as you have heard it supports energy levels. However, you realize once again that there are multiple forms on the shelf. Which one do you take? An experienced staff can explain to you that the methylcobalamin form does not require “intrinsic factor” for absorption and enters the bloodstream more quickly, bypassing the digestive system. This is especially important if you have an underactive stomach, which is common.


Example 2 – They Understand Ingredients and How They Work: B-vitamins are marketed as “a factor in the maintenance of good health” or “help metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats.” What does that mean? How does this apply to your life? A product advisor can explain the underlying benefits of B-vitamins, such as energy, mood and cognitive support, in addition to what factors commonly deplete them. They can also explain key uses for individual B-vitamins. For example, Vitamin B12 plays a role in red blood cell production and Vitamin B6 is known as the “Women’s Vitamin” and may help with PMS. Or perhaps you are picking up a product marketed towards “arthritis” but you have no idea how or why it’s supposed to work. A trained staff can explain to you that the turmeric and boswellia in the formula have anti-inflammatory properties, the white willow helps with pain and the collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin are important building blocks.  


Example 3 – They Warn about Side Effects: A product advisor can also tell you about the normal “niacin flush” effect that may accompany taking vitamin B3. This occurs because it acts as a potent vasodilator, expanding blood vessels to increase the flow of blood, causing an uncomfortable flushing effect. Or perhaps you are looking at purchasing a cleansing kit. An experienced staff member knows that you will need to increase your intake of water and fiber throughout this period of time in order to adequately flush the toxins out of your system, otherwise you could end up with adverse effects from the cleansing reaction. This important information can save you from wasting the effects of the supplement and potentially causing harm.


Example 4 – They Help You Make Wise Decisions: Talking to a product advisor can also help you get the most value for your dollar. For example, you may be taking a greens supplement, multivitamin and protein powder separately. By having a conversation about your current supplement protocol, an advisor can suggest an “all-in-one” protein powder that contains all three of these products in one easy and economical scoop. In addition, their main concern is making sure that you are giving your body the basic essentials it needs before moving onto anything else.  An advisor can help you evaluate your priorities and start with the “essentials” that you are potentially lacking in your diet, before moving on to the “extra support”. First thing’s first, if your body is deficient in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, omega fats, protein or probiotics, you will most likely be experiencing symptoms. Therefore, this should be the first thing to correct. These basic essentials are the best investment to start with as they benefit a wide range of things from cholesterol and blood sugar to skin health and weight control.


Example 5 – They Target Potential Root Issues: Product advisors can help you get a better understanding of the potential root triggers behind the symptoms you are dealing with. For example, say you are struggling with hair loss and want to take a product for “thicker, healthier hair”. What a holistic professional can do for you, is help you recognize the many potential root causes behind hair loss and suggest possible areas and tests to inquire about. For example, is your thyroid underactive? Do you have low iron? Is it due to stress? Perhaps you have an autoimmune condition? Are you taking in enough protein in a day? Product advisors also understand interconnections in the body, such as that the gut and brain are highly connected. Something like this may play a role in a condition like depression. Instead of just sending you home with a product that targets part of the solution, they can also include a probiotic supplement as part of their recommendation to support a healthy gut.


Example 6 – They Have More Resources: Product advisors have access to books, professionals and educational materials beyond what you can see on the label. They can provide you with the information and tools you need to empower you to take control of your health! Health food stores may also be able to carry unique higher end brands due to the fact that they have a licensed Naturopath on staff. 


Note that product advisors and nutritionists are not legally allowed to diagnose or use the terms “cure”, “heal”, or “treat”. They will not give any information regarding pharmaceutical medications or medical practices. Health food store staff focus mainly on holistic prevention and do not in any way replace these areas of expertise. It is advised to seek out a Naturopathic Doctor for more specific treatment information beyond the scope of what health food store staff can provide.

So what makes all the difference when you are buying your supplements? It’s the people!


-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –

About Good n’ Natural

Good n Natural

Good n’ Natural started as a small-family owned business in 1994. Our team has grown and diversified to include Certified Natural Product Advisers, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and a part-time Naturopathic Doctor. Our mission is to educate, inspire, and empower our customers to pursue a healthy lifestyle in order to achieve their wellness goals and in turn build a stronger community.

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