Decoding the Supplement Label: Finding a Quality Dietary Supplement
Supplements aren’t a cure-all, but they can be useful for supplementing a healthy diet. Understanding how to read a supplement label is important in order to get a quality product that delivers the benefits that you want. So how do you read a supplement label? Let’s break it down! (PS- If you're more of a visual learner, or just want to follow me on YouTube, watch the video above... and don't forget to like and hit that subscribe button if you loved what you learned! :))
It’s important to be mindful of a supplement’s serving size. All the information on the product’s label is based on the serving listed on the label. Check this when price comparing to get the best deal, and when considering how many capsules you are willing to take. Certain multivitamins require five pills per serving, while others only have one! Review serving size before purchasing AND before consuming!
Not every supplement has significant calories (significant= >5 calories per serving), however, supplements like fish oils can contain calories due to their healthy fat content. A supplement might also have calories if in chewable form, such as a gummy multi! Gummy vitamins do contain more sugar than regular multi’s, so take this into consideration when choosing.
Key Ingredient Potency:
The “key ingredient potency” is a fancy phrase that essentially means, these are the main ingredients in the supplement you’re taking. If the nutrient has a recommended daily intake, it should show the percent of daily value it contains.
Percent Daily Value:
The percent daily value shows you how much a single serving of a supplement meets your daily intake needs, such as vitamins and minerals. Note: certain ingredients like herbs, omega-3s fatty acids, etc. do not have a recommended daily value, as they are not part of the dietary guidelines set for Americans.
In the additional ingredients section, ingredients that are not key to a supplement’s nutritional benefits – like gel capsules, fillers, binders, etc. – are listed in this section.
Here is where you will also find any allergens listed, as well as any warnings about potential allergens, e.g., did the facility the manufactured the supplement have potential for cross-contamination. Manufacturers are required to list any allergen ingredients, but they are not required to note potential for cross-contamination via sharing a manufacturing facility. If you have questions on what a product contains, call the manufacturer’s number on the label of the product. That’s what they’re for!
Quality Assurance Labels:
Look for the following labels when searching for a quality supplement: NSF, USP, GMP, or Consumer Lab (CL) Quality approved. These labels indicate the supplement has been tested for purity (meaning no contaminants), quality (overseen by a third party), and identity (the product contains what the label states).
Q: Do I need to take supplements to be healthy?
A: In short- no! Supplements are meant to “supplement” a healthy diet, they don’t replace it. Generally, if one follows a general healthful diet, they will meet the recommended intake of nutrients suggested by the USDA. If you have questions on a supplement’s use or effectiveness, ask your Registered Dietitian or doctor to help you decode the research. Note: It is important to always consult with your doctor if you are taking non-prescription supplements, as there may be drug-nutrient interactions that can be harmful.
Q: I’m interested in taking a supplement for ______, but I want to check my facts. Where can I go (besides Google) to research if the claims on this product are true?
A: Examine (www.examine.com/) is a great resource to check your facts! Search on Examine’s web page and get an overview of the benefits and what the supplement is known for, and see the research to back it up (or, to NOT back it up!). Consumer Labs (https://www.consumerlab.com) is another resource for supplements, containing a variety of studies on different supplement brands and testing their potency and effectiveness.