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Decoding a Nutrition Label

By , Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
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The world of vitamins can be a confusing place. If you don't fully understand what you're getting when you're opening your bottle, it can have serious repercussions on your health.

That's why we're cracking the code today to help you shop smarter when it comes to your health!

How Nutritional Information is Organized
When you first turn over a product to find the nutrition or supplement facts, you probably see a long list of ingredients/nutrients (depending on the product). You may be wondering why they're listed the way they are and you're right, there is a system in place. Most supplement manufacturers list the most important ingredients at the beginning. For example, in a multivitamin, this will be the essential vitamins, followed by minerals and so on. As you travel further down the list, the potency of the ingredient decreases as well as the, for lack of a better word, importance. This means the ingredients you don't "need" to maintain general health or those without a determined daily dose, will be further down.

Additives, chemicals used in tableting or a capsule's ingredients are found underneath the nutrition facts. You may have seen cellulose, magnesium stearate or silica -- these ingredients are either used to bind the ingredients together, fill out the capsule or tablet, encase the ingredients or are byproducts of manufacturing. They don't necessarily impact the potency of the ingredients, but they can be avoided.

Common Terms
Now that you know how the table is set up, it's important to know what the other words, symbols and abbreviations found on the label mean:

  • Patent or Copyright Symbol -- Either the little "r" in a circle (patent) or the little "c" in a circle (copyright) both represent ownership. This may mean the name of the product, logo or blend is legal property of the manufacturing company.
  • Daily Value Not Established -- Scientists haven't established how much of that herb or vitamin should be taken during the span of a day. This doesn't mean it's dangerous, you should just start with a small dose, one recommended by health care professional.
  • IU -- Found after dosages for vitamins A, D and E, IU stands for "international unit" which measures the effect the vitamin has instead of its actual mass. 
  • "L-" -- Placed before an amino acid, this indicates the amino acid is a free form, which means it's not attached to anything and can be properly absorbed by your body.
  • Percent Daily Value -- This measures the percentage of a certain vitamin, mineral or nutrient one serving contains, in reference to the the ingredient's daily value, if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet. Most people don't need an exact 2,000-calorie diet so your actual amount will vary.
  • Proprietary Blend -- This term means there are a variety of healthy ingredients in the blend but a company isn't specifying the ratio or quantity. Some will do this to protect the blend from being copied, while others may be using more fillers. When in doubt, call the manufacturer.
  • Percent Daily Value -- Checking this number lets you know how much of that nutrient you're getting per serving in relation to what you need. 
  • RDA -- RDA stands for "recommended daily allowance" and refers to the amount needed of a particular nutrient to maintain good health. These values may change as research continues.
  • Time Release or Timed Release -- These supplements are designed to slowly release nutrients over an extended period of time to evenly distribute the dose so your levels remain constant.
  • Units of Measurement -- Capsules are traditionally measured in mcg (micrograms), mg (milligrams) and g (grams). One microgram is equal to 0.000001 grams while a milligram is equal to 0.001 grams.

A Bit About Extracts and Essential Oils 
With essential oils and fruit and vegetable extracts becoming more popular over the course of the past few years, it's important to know exactly how these products are made.

An extract is made by removing a part (usually the blossom, stem or root) of a raw material. Extracts can be removed by either expression, absorption, maceration and distillation. Oils are removed by pressing. The more virgin or pure an extract, the less filtered or processed. For essential oils, be sure to follow instructions carefully. Most doses are very small amounts (just a few drops) and they need to be diluted properly either in water or a carrier oil, especially if being applied topically.

If you're still unsure about any of these terms or others talk to your doctor or one of our products specialists at eVitamins. Stay informed to stay well!


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