What to Look out for in Supplements

What to Look out for in Supplements

Contributed by Eve Persak, Nutrition Advisor, MS RD CNSC CSSD

Take a stroll down any supplement aisle and you’ll be faced with a mindboggling array of products with colourful labels, long exotic names and attractive claims that promise to resolve almost any and every ailment.

How do you ensure that you’re really getting a high quality dose of vitamins? How do you avoid the unnecessary ‘extras’ that can sometimes cause more harm than good?

Don’t just leave your health to chance and hope for the best. We’ve got a few expert tips to guide you along as you scout for the best bottle for your buck – and your body.

Industry Reputability
We often assume that our supplements are legally held to the same standards as our food products or even our medication. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 

It’s easy to fall for the marketing mumbo jumbo – the words ‘premium’, ‘quality’ and ‘best’ always look great when emblazoned in gold across any supplement bottle.

As a start, look for any mention of good manufacturing practices – more commonly known as GMPs - on the label. This usually refers to industry or government protocols – often from the United States Food and Drug Administration - for sourcing, processing and packaging. 

Next, check if the supplement has a seal of approval from a well-recognised certified third-party inspection agency. On top of reaffirming that it follows strict production processes, it also validates that the bottle contains the types and amounts of the active ingredients listed on the label. 

Some companies choose to further raise the bar and conduct testing for any possible contaminants and potency. These supplements are likely to be your safest and smartest bet. 

Nutritional Content
How many calories and how much fat, sugar and sodium can one little supplement pill contain, right? While we may take note of the nutritional value of every morsel we put in our mouths, it often doesn't occur to us that supplements also count towards our daily dietary intake.  If you take a cocktail of supplements over the course of the day or if you have a restricted diet, you’ll need to factor these in. 

The ‘Nutrition Facts’ panel on each bottle will also show you how much each pill contributes to your daily requirement of specific micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Not all pills fulfil 100 per cent of your needs, and others might push you into the realm of excess. 

Other Ingredients
These are often listed below the bolded and often boxed-up nutritional information. While often overlooked because they’re in fine print, take some time to study these details. Get clued in on what additives – such as sweeteners, excipients, fillers, colourings and flavourings - there are in the supplements. Whether you have a sensitive system or just prefer to stick to natural products, keeping this list as short and non-synthetic as possible is usually a wise move.