Nutritional supplement brands talk a lot of big talk. They love using buzz words like “superfood” and “micronutrients” to get you to fork out your cash… even if those words are misleading. But there’s one place you can go to find the straight facts: the Supplemental Facts panel on the label. This panel is highly regulated by the FDA, so companies can’t insert any false language here or leave out questionable ingredients.
On the Supplemental Facts panel (SFP), you’ll find out exactly what you’re paying for… as long as you understand Latin. Just kidding. It’s not that complicated, but scientific and regulatory language on the panel can be tough to understand. That’s why we’re doing a quick breakdown of the SFP to help you learn how to read and better understand it.
Navigating the Supplemental Facts Panel
Thanks to the FDA, every supplement label has the same, uniform structure. The info you need is always listed, no matter which supplement you buy. All you have to do is learn this information once and you’ll always be able to interpret the labels. So let’s get to it!
1. Serving size
Serving size tells you how much of the product you should take at one time. This might seem pretty self-explanatory, but brands can get tricky here. You might buy a bottle of 200 multivitamins, thinking you’re getting a great deal. But the label may say to take 5 tablets per serving! That’s a lot of pills to swallow and a lot less value.
Trustworthy brands put their nutrients in manageable serving sizes, such as 1-2 capsules or a teaspoon of liquid. For example, Manna’s Liposomal CoQ10 antioxidant has a serving size of just 6 ml, or about 1 tsp.
2. Servings per bottle/container
Just below the serving size, you’ll find the servings per bottle. This tells you how many individual servings are in each container. Keep an eye on this, as some companies will sell you a big bottle of vitamins with way fewer servings than a smaller bottle.
Many of Manna’s supplements are sold in 30-serving bottles. This makes it easy to determine your monthly supplement expenses. To make it easier, you have the option to get each of your supplements in a subscription (which will save you money!).
The active ingredients are listed on the left side of the label. Each ingredient is listed using its common name. So, vitamin C has to be listed as “Vitamin C” and cannot be listed only as “dehydroascorbic acid.”
Brands will often list the more complicated scientific name of the ingredient in parentheses. This is a good sign. It means the brand is transparent. It also makes it easy to google the source of the nutrient to find out if the ingredient is highly bioavailable (easy for your body to absorb) or kind of useless. Check out the label of Manna’s Liposomal Vitamin C above. We list the precise ingredients in parentheses, both of which are super potent sources of vitamin C!
4. Daily Value (%DV)
Now, let’s look at the percentages. For many vitamins and minerals, the FDA recommends getting a certain amount each day. This is called your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). It’s measured by the Daily Value (DV) on the label in the form of a percentage. Take a look at the Manna Liposomal D3 + K2 label below.
Under the “%DV” column, you can see that this supplement contains 313% of your vitamin D3 RDA and 167% of your vitamin K2 RDA per serving.
Why so much?
The RDA is a standard reference for all people ages 4 and up. It doesn’t necessarily reflect your individual needs or the optimal levels of nutrition a person should attain. Your unique needs are based on your weight, lifestyle, genetics, and more. That’s why it’s always recommended to talk to a nutritionist or a doctor about which supplements are right for you. We’ve found that taking a little bit more essential nutrition is a good way to ensure your body absorbs what it needs. In many cases, getting more of the good stuff per serving is a lot better—and a much better value.
When shopping for vitamins and minerals, watch out for very low %DV numbers. Some brands will sell you a “bargain” and then list that you only get 16% of your daily value per serving.
5. Amount per serving
In the middle of the label, next to the ingredients, you’ll find the exact amount of each ingredient per serving. This is usually given in milligrams (mg). This is really important info to know when you come across ingredients that don’t have a recommended daily allowance. Without an RDA, there won’t be a Daily Value percentage either. So, how do you find out if the amount on the label is a little or a lot?
One way is to consult a nutritionist. But you can use Google too. Search the ingredient on the label to find out what professionals are saying about how much to take. Let’s look at the Manna Liposomal CoQ10 label again.
You can see that CoQ10 doesn’t have a %DV. This is because it doesn’t have an RDA. Manna’s supplement contains 100 mg of CoQ10. A 30-second search reveals that recommended daily intakes of CoQ10 range from about 60-200 mg .
6. Other Ingredients
Below the active ingredients, you’ll find a list of “Other Ingredients.” These are non-active ingredients, meaning they usually don’t add any nutritional value. These are the ingredients used to make the capsules or tablets, add flavor, or keep the product from breaking down or clumping during the production process.
It’s important to give these ingredients a quick look (and a quick search) because some of them can impact the bioavailability of the product. For example, ingredients such as magnesium stearate, glazes (used to make pills look shiny), and modified ingredients (GMOs) could minimize the nutritional value in your supplements.
Now, you know how to read a vitamin label and get even more out of every supplement you buy. Want to hone your SFP reading skills? You can put Manna’s liposomal supplements to the test. We display all our labels front and center and practically beg people to look at them. We’re just too proud of our ingredients and our liposomal delivery system not to!