How to read supplement labels
Reading supplement labels can be challenging and scary at times if you don’t know what the numbers mean for you and your health.
Do you know what you’re consuming or what you are reading? The worse mistake you can make is ingesting something that is harmful to your health. Let’s learn what key insights to look for, either good or bad.
QUANTITIES ARE ONLY PART OF IT
When reading supplement labels, we see many numbers, but you will learn that these are really only a small part of the information we need to know of what we are partaking. Taking into account that we are mainly speaking on herbal supplements and the ingredients within them, we have to remember that sometimes we are not even sure what parts of the plants are being used. Another large condition to keep in mind with herbs and plants is that there is so much more variety with different seasons, locations, and years or time.
In stating “Supplement Facts,” it is understood that the products follow regulatory standards that apply to the country where the products are offered. It is also understood that the supplement is following a consistent label layout that adheres to the local regulatory standards, so consumers can understand it.
In order to compare a product against others, we can see the number of servings that come from that one bottle. Obviously, a higher number of servings allows us to gain more per bottle. This amount is set by the manufacturer, the number indicates one dosage to take.
Servings per container
This amount will indicate how many dosages we can obtain from one entire bottle. To determine the estimated number of capsules held in one bottle we can do the following simple equation:
Serving size x servings per container = how many supplement capsules are held in one bottle.
Amount per serving
This indicates the amount of ingredients contained in one serving size. This will be helpful in learning how many nutrients we are gaining from the suggested serving size. In taking more or less, we will have to add or subtract. This amount also allows us to see the potency of the product and the ingredients inside.
Daily Value (DV)
This number, which is set by the Food and Board of Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates a set standard for a recommended daily allowance that we should be putting into our body. This number usually varies different for men, women, and children, as well as by age. These amounts are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
MAKING SURE YOUR LABELS ARE TRANSPARENT
Because we remember that numbers are a small take of the labels representing our supplements, we have to ensure for our health and safety that we are being provided something that is reliable. When we see “standardized” within our labels, we can feel provided with consistency, potency, and purity.
Proprietary Complex/ Blend
These ingredients will be in a list form, the ingredient that is listed first will contain the largest amount all the way to the last listed, containing the smallest amount. We will never see these ingredients listed with separate measurement amounts.
This means that the herbal extract that is listed, is consistently measured at a specific level of compounds. This process determines that the standardization is a very particular process for manufacturing and then analyzing. With supplements and products that are not standardized, there is no way to determine the actual potency, consistency, and purity of the herb, without any modifications.
This amount measures how much energy we gain from the supplement that we consume.
In order to create supplements, most of the time there are other elements included. These elements are not active ingredients. These additional elements are non-dietary ingredients that are added during the manufacturing process to finally complete the product.
Sometimes there may not be an expiration date, because the local regulatory agency does not require supplements to display that. In order to set an expiration date, the company must provide supporting data on the stability of supplement ingredients in various environmental conditions over time, to the local regulatory agency.
CERTIFICATIONS SHOULD NOT BE SCARY
As if we aren’t already overwhelmed with the numbers and big words within our supplement labels, we can see that different supplements can provide us different certifications as well. This can be confusing, but once we obtain the knowledge of what each provides, we can more easily choose the best option for our health.
Genetically-modified organisms, meaning that genetic material is taken from one organism to another. When products say non-GMO, this process does not occur, and is not modified in any way.
Animal products are not contained in the ingredients, production, or any part of the supplement. This feature can be very pleasing to anyone, regardless of the diet.
With this type of a study, we are able to see real results that are performed with human beings.
Kosher or Halal Certified
This certification verifies that the supplement has gone through the appropriate processes in the manufacturing production, and it has purity standards that are align with the Kosher or Halal diet.
Plant based supplements, that are certified as Organic, mean that plants are grown without the use of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or prohibited substances, including synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Certified organic products offered in the US market typically have a green seal with the USDA logo on the packaging.
PLANT PARTS ARE IMPORTANT
As we use plants and herbs to cook, we are careful with what parts of plants and herbs we are specifically using. The same applies with supplements being digested. The part of the plant or herb is significant, because different parts provide different benefits for our health. Some local regulatory agencies state that products must list the part of the plant or herb that is being used. If it is not clear, this may mean that the manufacturer does not adhere to the guidelines provided, meaning our supplements could contain a part that is insignificant. Unfortunately, then we are left with a supplement that is not giving us the benefits that we originally thought it would.
BOTANICAL SPECIES MATTERS
Not only is it important to remember the significance of the parts of the plant being used, but the species of the plant too. The importance is to not mislead the consumer into thinking they are buying one plant but it’s actually something slightly different. These slight differences may be what does not give us the benefits we are looking for. For example, there is a lot of research available about the benefits from Rhodiola with extracts of Rhodiola rosea, but if in some supplements is used Rhodiola crenulata instead of Rhodiola rosea, the buyer could be misled by the labeling in a way that they are getting rosea within their supplements. We will not get sick from crenulata, but it does contain completely different active ingredients. If we see a label and there is not a species name listed, we can assume that we do not know what is in the supplement, and unfortunately making the product undesirable.
You may be more overwhelmed then you were before, we get it, it’s a lot of information. But our hope is that this information provided will increase your understanding in order to make better decisions for the supplements you choose and your health overall!