January 29, 2023 7 min read

What You Need to Know About Supplement Labels (and Why You Should Read Them!)

What You Need to Know About Supplement Labels - and Why You Should Read Them!

If you’ve ever been curious about the ingredients in your multivitamins or other supplements, then you’ve likely noticed the “Supplement Facts'' label on the bottle. These labels provide important information, such as serving size, nutrient type and forms, and the amount of each ingredient included.  

At Abundant Earth Labs, one of the top requests we receive from inbound emails and comments is, “Will you compare your Whole Food Multivitamin Formula with X brand’s formula?” or “How is your formula different or better than X brand’s formula?”

We absolutely welcome these questions because we’re ridiculously proud of our Supplement Facts panel and love inquisitive consumers!   When you know how to read and understand a Supplement Facts panel, it becomes pretty simple to compare different formulas on the market.

Why is Reading a Supplement Label Important?  

With so many supplements available in the market today, it’s vital that consumers know what to look for (and what to look out for) on a Supplement Facts panel to make intelligent, well-informed purchasing decisions.  It’s unfortunate that brands do exist that count on consumers being too confused to determine quality apart from clever marketing.  These same brands then get away with two things: charging customers a lot of money for very little product and using cheap and poorly absorbed ingredient forms.

So, how can you make sure that you know what to look out for when reading a Supplement Facts label?  Let’s break it down, using the label of our Whole Food Multivitamin Elite as an example:

Serving Size and Servings Per Container

This helps you determine how much of the supplement you need to take to get the desired effect and receive the strength of the ingredients listed on the panel. 

For example, our Whole Food Multivitamin bottle says on the front that it contains 90 tablets and lists a serving size of 3 tablets. This means that if you want all of the benefits that come with taking our particular formula, you need to take all three tablets together each day —or else risk not getting the benefits.  This also explains why the “Servings Per Container” says: 30 and not 90.  

Consumers frequently mistake “Servings Per Container” for how many tablets or capsules total are in a container, which is incorrect.  Likewise, it’s incorrect to assume that just because a supplement says “100 tablets” on the bottle, it equals 100 servings.  You must look for the serving size and servings per container.

Hot Tip - Look Out For: Your multivitamin is one supplement where a one-tablet-a-day formula is never going to cut it. In the realm of whole food vitamins, any quality formula will have you taking more than one a day. You simply can't fit an effective dosage strength into one capsule or tablet. Some companies try to sneak in a bunch of ingredients on their label in their one-a-day formula, but if you look closely, you'll notice that the amounts of their vitamin nutrients and whole food ingredients are very low. This leads us to our next section of the Supplement Facts Panel.  

Nutrients and Amounts

The next section lists all of the nutrients in the supplement product, along with their amounts per serving and %DV, which stands for “Percent of Daily Value.” This section is the most important as it’s where you’ll determine a supplement's actual quality and strength.  

Amount Per Serving

This describes the quantity of an ingredient in each dose.  The three units you’re likely to see are  milligrams (mg),  micrograms (mcg),and  International Units (IU).  

These quantity descriptors are not interchangeable.  For example, Vitamin D3 at 2,000 IU = Vitamin D3 at 50mcg.  This is important.  If your doctor instructs you to take 3,000 IU of Vitamin D, and you buy a supplement using mcg’s on the label and end up taking 3,000 mcg - you will be grossly overdosing the intended dosage.  Google, "vitamin conversion calculator" to easily convert the four vitamins that need converting the most often: Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D3, and Folate.

Hot Tip: Here is a quick way to tell if your supplement brand follows protocols and compliance.  Since 2020, the FDA has required all US supplements to list the below five nutrients using the following units of measure:

  • Folate as micrograms dietary folate equivalents (mcg DFE) and not just mcg.
  • Vitamins A and D as micrograms (mcg) instead of International units (IU)
  • Niacin as milligrams Niacin Equivalents (mg NE) and not just milligrams (mg)
  • Vitamin E as milligrams (mg) instead of International Units (IU) *
We frequently catch labels that aren’t FDA-compliant, so this is essential information when discerning which brands are operating in compliance and with diligence. 


%DV - Percent Daily Value

This shows what percent of the daily amount recommended by the FDA is included in one serving of the listed nutrient.  

Please note, the daily recommended amount is completely different from toxicity levels.  The %DV is the “try to get this amount” recommendation.

For example, our Vitamin E is listed at 20 mg, which = 133%DV, or 133% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin E by the FDA.

If you don’t see any %DV numbers listed next to an ingredient or a blend in a supplement but maybe see a “ - “ or “ .. “ instead, it’s because that nutrient or blend doesn’t have a daily value issued by the FDA.  You’ll see this frequently with whole food ingredients, herbs, and botanical ingredients.

Nutrient Names and Forms

Nutrient names are provided on the label, often with the source and form of the nutrient listed in parenthesis ( ) next to it.  For example, our Vitamin A is listed as Vitamin A (as Beta Carotene).  Our Vitamin B12 is listed as Vitamin B12 (as Methylcobalamin).

We’ll be writing another blog post soon detailing the best forms of vitamins and minerals to look for in supplements, but below is a short list of some general things to keep an eye out for that we repeatedly see in formulas:

  • Cheaper synthetic and often less active and bioavailable nutrient forms:  Vitamin C as ascorbic acid instead of whole food based, Vitamin D2 as Ergocalciferol instead of Vitamin D3 as Cholecalciferol, Folic Acid instead of Methylfolate, and Vitamin B12 as Cyanocobalamin instead of Vitamin B12 as Methylcobalamin. We could go on, but if you see these forms used, better formulas are available.
  • Multivitamins that have very small %DV of almost all of their vitamins and minerals.  A bunch of ingredients at weak dosage strengths does nothing for you, even though it appears like a robust Supplement Facts panel.  The majority of vitamins listed should be at or over 100% DV, with the exception of things like Vitamin A, Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium, and Copper and a few others.  We’ll explain why in an upcoming blog post.
  • “Whole Food” based supplements with whole food blends that amount to hardly anything.  Frequently seen sneaky marketing: Wow, 56 fruits and vegetables in your whole food blend!  But, only 250mg total in your “blend”? It’s not just what’s in a formula, but is there enough of the ingredients to be effective?  We like to see at least 900mg+ of whole food ingredients in a formula that is advertising as being a whole food multivitamin OR advertising to include whole food blends.
  • Whole food ingredients that aren’t organic.  If the blend listed or the whole food nutrient listed doesn’t say “organic” in front of it, the company just saved itself a ton of money on that formula and you are putting yourself at risk of ingesting pesticides and unknown chemicals.  Always opt for a whole food formula that only uses organic forms of their whole food nutrients.
  • Watch out for the word “natural” or “all-natural” before or after a nutrient name. Unlike the term “organic,” “all-natural” is not an official term that is regulated by the federal government and does not offer any guarantee as to the product’s safety. Because of this, it is used frequently for marketing.
  • Watch out for the word “fermented” before or after a nutrient name.  This is another slippery slope.  While there are some genuinely fully fermented formulas, the truth is that several common vitamins, like Vitamin B2, B12, etc.* are usually made through microbial fermentation through bacteria, yeast, and fungi, so brands use the term “from fermentation” not because their formula is uniquely fermented, but because they know it’s a hot marketing tool.  Dig deeper and inquire into the brand and formula first.

Other Ingredients

The last section lists any additional ingredients in the supplement that the FDA does not require to be listed with a specific amount.  This can include binders to keep formulas together, sweeteners, flavoring, tablet coating ingredients, etc.  The ingredients here should be listed in decreasing order by weight. 

It is important to be aware of any potential allergens in this section, as well as any artificial sweeteners or food dyes.  


Supplement Facts labels provide important information about what's inside your supplement bottles, so it's essential to read through them carefully before taking any new vitamins or supplements. Pay attention to serving size and servings per container, nutrient content, and other ingredients listed on the label—all of which will help ensure that you're getting exactly what you need from your supplement without putting yourself at risk for potential health problems. 

We hope that this knowledge helps you compare formulas and enables you to make an informed decision when choosing supplements!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our fantastic customer care team at  support@abundantearthlabs.com  with any questions about Supplement Fact panels or our wonderful Whole Food Multivitamin Elite ingredients and dosage strengths.  We love our customers and are always happy to help!