When you're trying to make healthy choices, it can be difficult to know what items to pick. This becomes especially complicated by the wealth of health terms and lingo out there. We rounded up 20 of the most commonly used phrases on the packaging of supplements, natural foods and beauty items to help you make the best choice possible.
1. Balanced Diet
A balanced diet typically includes fruits and vegetables accompanied by grains and proteins like fish, poultry or meat. Many health experts today recommend a diet that is predominantly plant based, making up one half of your plate, with the other half split between grains and and proteins. In general, you should limit consumption of processed foods as well as trans and saturated fats and sodium.
2. Regular Exercise
Making exercise a part of your weekly routine is considered regular exercise, usually three to five times a week for an hour. Or, you could make sure to exercise for 30 minutes every single day. Exercising on a regular basis is essential for weight management, heart, bone and joint health and more. If you choose to engage in more intense exercise, make sure to add one or two rest days to your week.
3. Recommended Daily Amount
This amount is how much of a nutrient the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) recommends you consume on a daily basis and it can be listed in several formats, including grams, milligrams and international units. Next to this number in the nutritional facts table, you'll usually see what percentage of that amount the food or supplement contains. Be leery of products with amounts well above the daily recommendation, unless instructed to take them by a medical professional.
4. Timed Release
Any supplement labeled as timed release will not completely enter your system all at once. This means the full potency of the supplement will be released gradually, keeping a steady amount in the body for up to 12 hours, providing longer-lasting benefits. Sleep aids are commonly timed-release formulas to help you stay asleep throughout the night and wake feeling rested.
5. Standardized Extract
This term is most often applied to herbal supplements, either in capsule, tablet or liquid form. Concentrated herbal extracts that are standardized contain a set amount of the active ingredient. This ensures the same strength in every dose of the supplement so you can be sure you're getting consistent quality and benefits.
6. Guaranteed Potency
Similar to a standardized extract, guaranteed potency supplements are meant to provide the exact amount indicated on the package before the date of expiration. These ingredients are guaranteed to contain a specific amount of their active compounds, which can help you gage how the supplement is affecting you and if you're having any side effects.
7. Fat Soluble
Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are needed regularly but can be stored within the body. Processed by the liver, these vitamins can be stored in the fatty tissues as well. You typically get them vitamins from fatty foods like meat or oils and you don't need to consume these foods on a daily basis. Don't take more than the recommended daily amount in supplement form unless recommended by a doctor.
8. Water Soluble
Vitamins that are considered water soluble (B complex and C) need to be taken in on a daily basis for optimal health. When consumed, the body absorbs exactly what it needs to carry out specific functions and then allows the rest to be flushed out of the body through the urine. This is why your urine may turn a neon yellow or green color shortly after taking a supplement or drinking an energy drink that contains a high amount of water-soluble vitamins. That's right, those superdoses aren't doing anything for you unless you have a known deficiency.
9. "Take with food."
Some vitamins and minerals may upset the stomach when taken between meals or on an empty stomach. This can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and other symptoms, which is why taking the supplement with solid food is suggested. Taking the supplement during a meal will also assist in the absorption and utilization of the nutrients where they're needed in the body.
10. Made from Whole Food/Whole Food Vitamin
This is a tricky one and can mean some different things. Supplements can be made with whole foods, which provide nutrients through extraction. Supplements can also be manufactured using isolates from non-food sources that are engineered to function within the body the same way those nutrients are when consumed in food. This means the body more easily recognizes them and gets the most out of them.
A product is considered organic when it’s been made with ingredients that were grown, harvested and processed according to approved organic processes. This means they were free of chemicals and pesticides and other artificial agents. To be absolutely sure what you’re getting is an organic product, look for the USDA seal on the package, which means the product has been tested and proven to be organic.
12. Non GMO
Foods that haven’t been genetically modified in any way are considered non GMO. Genetically modified organisms have been altered scientifically, usually to make them less prone to bugs and parasites and to improve size, color and other characteristics. These foods grow more easily, but opinions are mixed on whether or not these practices make them safe for long-term consumption. Currently, the FDA has ruled they are. You can look for the seal of the Non GMO Project if you’re trying to stick to non GMO products.
13. Suitable for Vegans
Vegans don’t consume anything that comes from an animal and stick to a plant-based diet free of meat, fish, poultry and dairy. This also includes animal products like honey, which is produced by bees and harvested from their hives. In order for a product to be suitable for vegan consumption, no animal products or byproducts should have come in contact with the ingredients during manufacturing.
14. Suitable for Vegetarians
Vegetarians don’t consume the flesh of animals, but dairy products are often part of the diet. A product that is labeled as suitable for vegetarians is free of meat products, but not necessarily any animal products or byproducts. It’s important to read labels carefully to see what animal products are within the supplement, like dairy or fish oil.
The term “pure” is a tricky one. A supplement that is pure is free of any binders, which are used to hold tablets together, or fillers that are used to expand or stretch the extract to create more volume. These binders and fillers can be water, oil, silica and others. Pure extracts can often be found in capsule form and you can even open the capsule and add the contents to water to avoid taking that as well.
16. Other Ingredients
You’ll find this term beneath the nutritional facts table on a supplement or food. This list includes anything not found in the table. This is where binders, fillers and processing agents are listed as well as additional flavorings and dyes. The ingredient with the largest presence in the final product is typically listed first.
17. High Potency
Any supplement that is well above the recommended daily amount or contains a highly concentrated dose of an extract or nutrient that doesn’t have a published recommended daily amount is considered high potency. These supplements are meant for those with a demonstrated medical need due to a medical condition or deficiency. They should be used only when recommended by a medical professional who can monitor their effects.
18. Proprietary Blend
When looking at the nutritional facts for a sports supplement or an herbal combination, you may see a proprietary blend, which is a list of ingredients combined for a desired benefit. The issue here is you can’t see how much of each individual ingredient is in the blend, only the total amount. This may be of concern for particular ingredients, like stimulants, that can have different side effects in everyone.
What makes a food “super?” A food gets this distinction when it’s very high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Like one-stop shopping, these foods provide a wide variety and megadose of nutrients that you can’t find in all foods. Berries and dark leafy greens are some of the best known superfoods that nourish the immune system, digestive system, skin and so much more.
20. "Healthy Fats"
Like good and evil, there are fats that help us and fats that hurt us. Bad fats, like trans fats and saturated fats can clog the arteries, raise the cholesterol and lead to weight gain and heart disease. Good, or healthy, fats, like omega-3s, don’t have all of these damaging effects. However, that doesn’t make them free to consume in excess. Fats are high in calories, so they need to be consumed in moderation to avoid wight gain.
Use this guide to help you “decode” a product you’re shopping for a at eVitamins to make sure it’s the right one for you. If you have any more questions, just let us know!