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Understanding Vitamin & Supplement Labels: What You Need To Know

Choosing the best vitamin and supplements is important to your health. Consider these tips to help you make informed purchases and help you to read vitamin and supplement labels.

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Understanding Vitamin & Supplement Labels

When it comes to time to shop for vitamins and supplements, the number of choices available can quickly become overwhelming. Eating a well-rounded diet full of nutritious whole foods is the best way to ensure you're meeting your daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. However, we all need a bit of support from vitamins and supplements from time to time.

Tips for Reading Vitamin & Supplements Labels

Understanding vitamin and supplement labels can be a challenge, making it difficult to determine which products to buy. Before you purchase vitamins and supplements, consider these 5 tips to help you make informed decisions about which products to buy.

Look for Products Tested by Third-Party Organizations

As you read the labels of many brands of vitamins and nutritional supplements, you may see various certification marks from third-party organizations. NSF International is one of the largest independent testing standards and product certification programs that are specifically for vitamins and supplements. NSF tests common vitamins and supplements for harmful contaminants and reviews quality. If you want to learn more about the quality of a brand, check out NSF's search feature, where you can search for certified dietary supplements.

NSF is just one of the many third-party organizations that test vitamins and supplements. You may see a "verification seal" or symbol on the product's packaging, signifying approval by the organization. Other common third-party organizations include ConsumerLab, International Fish Oil Standards, and United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

If you're looking for products that meet specific health standards, using the information provided by third-party organizations can also be helpful. This might be helpful for those searching for USDA Organic, Non-GMO, vegan, or gluten-free supplements.

Check Expiration Dates

As per the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) guidelines, supplements are not required to list an expiration date. Although not required, most reputable manufacturers will clearly list an expiration date on the packaging. It is best to steer clear of any vitamin or supplement that does not private an expiration date.

A product's expiration date lets you know how long the potency is guaranteed and how long it is safe to consume. Proper storage of your supplements can help keep them fresh for the entire duration. However, it is not recommended to take any vitamin or supplement that is past the expiration date.

You may also notice "Lot Number" next to the expiration date on the label. In the event of a recall or specific issue, it can be helpful to know where to locate your product's lot number.

Read Ingredients Carefully

The ingredients of vitamins and supplements will be broken down into two sections: active ingredients and inactive ingredients. The active ingredients will be listed first and will highlight the main components of the vitamin or supplement. If a supplement is a blend of several ingredients, each component and its specific amount will be listed.

Inactive ingredients are sometimes listed as "other" or "other ingredients." These ingredients are not considered a part of the active formula; however, they are still a part of the capsule. These are often fillers or other materials needed to make the product or bind it together. If you have specific allergens you wish to avoid, it's especially important to pay attention to the "other" part of the ingredient category. Before purchasing any supplement, always be sure to read the ingredients carefully.

You are most likely to have side effects from dietary supplements if you take them at high doses or instead of prescribed medicines, or if you take many different supplements. Some supplements can increase the risk of bleeding or, if taken before surgery, can change your response to anesthesia. Supplements can also interact with some medicines in ways that might cause problems.

Understand Recommended Dosage

Before purchasing, always review the "Supplement Facts" box on the back of the packaging. In this box, you'll find a few key pieces of information. At the top of the box, you'll find the "serving size," which indicates how much of the product should be taken at one given time. The "suggested usage" will indicate the recommended dose frequency (for example, take one capsule two to three times per day).

The Supplement Facts box also contains the % daily values of each of the ingredients within the supplement. These numbers are calculated based on the "average" recommended guidelines. Of course, each person's dietary needs will differ depending on medical conditions, age, etc. If you're not sure what the appropriate dosage to take is, it's always a good idea to consult a medical professional.

Be Aware of Potential Side Effects

Every type of supplement or vitamin will produce different side effects. As mentioned above, taking the appropriate dosage will help reduce the risk of side effects. Consuming too many specific vitamins and minerals may cause side effects.

It is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting new supplements. For individuals taking prescription medications, it's important to be aware of potential adverse reactions. Your doctor will be able to review your medical history and advise you of the potential side effects associated with certain vitamins. Drugs used for blood pressure, kidneys, heart conditions, etc. may interfere with some vitamins.

Choose Vitamins and Supplements Wisely

Vitamins and supplements can play an important role in supporting your health in some instances. However, it is important to carefully read vitamins and supplements before purchasing. Choosing brands that have been reviewed by third-party organizations can help you to feel more confident in your decision.

Always check for expiration dates before buying and carefully read both the active and other ingredient sections on the label. Be sure to take the appropriate dosage and familiarize yourself with potential side effects before taking any supplements.


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