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.
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:
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.
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.
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) *
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 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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!