Shop Smarter: Tips For Reading A Supplement Label

Shop Smarter: Tips For Reading A Supplement Label

This is part 2 of a 6-part series about supplement ingredients, common industry practices, and how to both educate and protect yourself as a consumer.

You’ve likely heard companies boast about their high-quality supplements. Many claim to have the best ingredients and superior formulations.

How do you really know if those claims are true? How do you know those quality ingredients aren’t blended with other ingredients of lesser quality, or which might even pose health risks?

Understanding what's really in your supplements is key to ensuring you get the benefits you expect, without hidden risks.

Here we’ll teach you how to call out the bluffs and spot quality ingredients on your supplement label, ensuring you’re getting exactly what you pay for.

Understanding the Supplement Facts Panel

The Supplement Facts Panel (SFP) is your first stop when evaluating a product. This section lists all the active ingredients, their amounts, and the percentage of the recommended daily value (%DV). Here's what to look for:

Serving Size

Understanding the serving size is important because all the nutritional information is based on this amount. Be aware that some supplements might require multiple servings per day, so adjust your intake accordingly.

For instance, if a supplement suggests three capsules per day, make sure you’re comfortable with this routine and that it fits your lifestyle.

Active Ingredients

Active ingredients are the primary substances that provide the intended health benefits.

Look for recognizable vitamins, minerals, and herbs in appropriate dosages. Are the ingredients list stuff you’re familiar with or do you instead read fancy words followed by a ™ or ® symbol? Those often indicate a “proprietary blend” of ingredients that allows a brand to potentially mask what’s in their product.

For example, in a multivitamin, you might see vitamins A, C, D, and E, along with minerals like calcium and magnesium. Make sure the ingredients listed align with your health goals and recommended daily allowances.

Daily Value (%DV)

The %DV indicates how much of each nutrient a serving provides relative to the daily recommended amount. Remember that amount is a recommendation. A nutritional DNA test or a vitamin C calibration process can help you identify vitamins and minerals where your body may want more than the recommended daily amount.


📌Here’s a tip for smarter shopping:

Some brands promote products with extraordinarily high amounts of this or that. They do this because many consumers fall for the “more must be better” marketing ploy. In fact, unless you know that your body needs more than the recommended DV%, more is just wasted and flushed from your body after serving no purpose.


Aim for supplements that offer significant percentages of your daily needs without exceeding safe limits. For example, a supplement that provides 100% of the daily value for Vitamin C ensures you meet your recommended DV without overconsumption.

Recognizing High-Quality Ingredients

High-quality ingredients are often backed by scientific research and sourced from reputable suppliers. Here are some key characteristics to look for:


Bioavailability refers to how efficiently your body can absorb and utilize the ingredient.

Ingredients like methylated forms of B vitamins (e.g., methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin) are more bioavailable than some alternatives, meaning your body can use them more efficiently.

Whole Food-Based Ingredients

Supplements derived from whole foods are typically more natural and contain a broader spectrum of beneficial nutrients.

For example, whole food-based multivitamins are often more effective than synthetic ones because they provide nutrients in their natural forms, which your body can more easily recognize and absorb. Read the label beyond the facts panel. Any mention of utilizing whole foods versus cheaper, less effective synthetic ingredients?

Scientific research suggests that our bodies likely absorb vitamins better in their natural form.

Avoiding Harmful Additives

Just as important as knowing what to look for is knowing what to avoid. Harmful additives can undermine the benefits of a supplement and even pose health risks.

These additives are deemed safe and allowed into products without the consideration of long term exposure through long term supplementation.

Here are some common ones to watch out for:

Artificial Colors & Flavors

Artificial colors and flavors are often unnecessary and can cause adverse reactions in some people with high sensitivities or allergies. Look for products without FD&C dyes or artificial flavorings. Linked to hyperactivity in children and other health issues, making it better to choose supplements with natural alternatives​.


Some preservatives are necessary for shelf life, others, like sodium benzoate, can form harmful compounds when combined with other specific ingredients.

Sodium benzoate, when mixed with Vitamin C, can produce benzene, a known carcinogen. It’s wise to avoid supplements with these preservatives, especially if they contain other interacting substances​.

Fillers & Binders

Ingredients like magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide are used to aid manufacturing but can inhibit nutrient absorption or cause digestive issues. Magnesium stearate, for instance, can create a barrier that prevents your body from fully absorbing the nutrients in the supplement.

Opt for supplements with minimal fillers and binders to ensure better absorption and fewer side effects​. Avoiding these harmful additives can help you choose supplements that are safer and more effective.

Researching The Manufacturer

The company behind the supplement is as important as the ingredients themselves. Here are some tips for evaluating manufacturers.


Reputable companies are transparent about their sourcing, manufacturing processes, and quality control measures. In those cases, the product label will likely have some info about how the product is sourced and principles that company stands for like sustainable practices, ethical processes, and ingredient integrity.

Visit the company’s website. Look for detailed information about how they source their ingredients and their manufacturing practices. Brands committed to quality and safety often provide Certificates of Analysis (COAs) for their products, which confirm that the supplement has been tested for purity and potency.

Transparency in these areas is often a strong indicator of a trustworthy brand​​.


Look for brands with a good reputation and positive reviews from consumers and health professionals. Check Google or other sources for any history of recalls or safety issues. These can be red flags.

Trusted brands are often well-reviewed in health and wellness communities, and their products are frequently recommended by healthcare professionals.

Customer Service

Good customer service is a sign of a company that stands behind its products. They should be responsive to inquiries and willing to provide detailed information about their supplement ingredients and processes, even if they can’t outright provide medical advice (see your doctor or licensed practitioner for those questions).

Contact the company with your questions about their products or practices and gauge their responsiveness and willingness to help. Understand that some level of granular detail may be protected at the formula level, to protect the business’s interests, but they should be able to go into some depth. 

Companies that prioritize customer satisfaction are more likely to produce high-quality supplements​.

Now You’re More Prepared

Spotting quality ingredients on supplement labels doesn't have to be complicated. By understanding the Supplement Facts Panel, recognizing quality ingredients, avoiding harmful additives, and researching the manufacturer, you can make more informed decisions that support your health.

Armed with this knowledge, you're ready to navigate the supplement aisle with confidence and choose products that truly benefit your well-being.

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