How to Read Food Labels and Understand the Nutrition Facts

Controlling your weight and improving your health can be as simple as knowing what it is that you’re eating. One of the keys to eating right and avoiding unhealthy products starts with checking the nutrition facts on your food labels. After reading this article, you will see that it’s pretty easy to understand.

When we start looking at labels, it helps to ask a few questions.  What does it all mean?  What should we be looking for?  What are all of these nutrients?  Which nutrients should be high?  Which should be low?  Which should be avoided altogether?

Let’s start at the top, and then work our way down.

Serving Size

Right under the word “Nutrition Facts”, at the very top of all food labels, is the serving size. The serving size is one of the most important pieces of information on the label.  All of the nutrition information shown is based on this serving size.  If we ignore the serving size, then the rest of the information is useless to us.

Depending on what we are eating or drinking, the serving size could be described in a few different ways. It will usually be in grams, ounces, cups, or pieces. Often the serving size is given in more than one unit of measure.

For example, “Serving Size: 4 Pieces (100g)”.

With this example, we know that the nutritional facts are based on a serving size of 4 pieces (or 100 grams) of that food. This means that if you were to eat 2 pieces (or 50g), you can cut all of the nutritional information in half.  If, however, you ate 8 pieces (200g), then you should double all of the nutrition facts. This is all pretty easy to figure out when your food’s serving size is actually listed in “pieces” (or even something like “cups” or “scoops”), but often this is not the case.

Serving sizes tend to be given in a unit of measurement that is nearly impossible to tell by eye.  Grams and ounces may be difficult to distinguish unless you weigh your portions out on a food scale.  Most food scales weigh food in both grams and ounces.  Obviously, this isn’t very practical if you are eating out, but for when you’re home, it’s perfect.  For times when a food scale is not an option, you can estimate the serving size based on the servings per container.  More helpful tips for determining serving size without having to rely on a scale can be found in our article “Eating Right Is All in Your Hands.”

Servings per Container

Serving per container tells you how many of the above serving sizes are found in the entire box/bag/can/jar/package/whatever container that your food came in.  This is pretty simple.  If a serving size is 2 cups, and it says, “Servings per Container: 5,” that means there are 10 cups in that container.  If a bottle claims that there are 2 servings, then you know that the nutritional facts given apply to a serving size of one half of the bottle.

Calories

Next on the label are the calories.  This represents the total calories in exactly 1 serving of the food/drink. If you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight, calories are easily the most important nutritional fact on the entire label. 

Calories are energy. If you consume more total calories than your body actually needs for energy, then you gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than your body needs for energy, you lose weight. These, however, are just the basics, if you want to know more, you can check out our article, “What are Calories”

Also keep in mind the serving size.  If you are eating/drinking exactly 1 serving, then the calorie information given is the number of calories that you have consumed. However, if you ate 2 servings, you must now double the amount of calories to figure out how many you are actually consuming. If you ate 3… you do the math. The same goes for if you ate half of 1 serving (divide all the nutrition facts in half).

Calories from Fat

“Calories” already includes the “calories from fat” (as well as calories from protein and carbs). So, you already know the total calories in 1 serving.  Then, what are calories from fat, and why is it shown on food labels?

That’s actually a good question.  Fat content is important to know, as high levels of fat negatively affect your overall health, and can lead to heart disease. However, this does not mean that cutting out fat is a healthy solution.  Dieticians recommend that a little less than one third of your total calories for the day come from fat.  As you’ll see below, nutritional facts panels also contain information on the Total Fat in a serving.  Since there are nine calories per gram of fat, you could figure the Calories from Fat out for yourself, but the “calories from fat” section does the math for you.

Total Fat

Working your way down on nutritional facts, you’ll find that Total Fat is next. This is the total amount of fat in 1 serving size. Please notes this is the Total Fat, because the next few nutritional facts listed are often specific types of fat.  Remember you do not need to add them all together, because “total fat” is already listed. Since we already know that one gram of fat has 9 calories, we can figure out that food that has 10 grams of fat contains 90 calories from fat.

Paying attention to the amount of total fat and the amount of each type of fat is important. Because there are different types of fat, it’s hard to say where you want the total fat of your food to be. Some forms of fat are very unhealthy, and should be avoided as much as possible, while others are actually good for you. You’ll learn which types you want to be high and which you want to be low next, as each type of fat is explained.

Saturated Fat

Just below “total fat” is usually a list of anywhere from 1-4 specific types of fat contained in 1 serving. While only some of these fats may be listed on certain food labels, these indented nutrition facts are definitely important, and should always be paid attention to. The first one listed is saturated fat, and it is the fat listed most often. Saturated fat also happens to be one of the so-called “bad” fats. Now, how “bad” it actually is too complicated of a topic to get into here. (We will have an article coming soon on Fat).  I will say, however, that it definitely shouldn’t be avoided completely, nor does it really deserve its reputation as the devil of the fat world. It should still be limited in most people’s diets, though, with a maximum of 1/3 of your total fat intake being a common recommendation.

Trans Fat

One thing few people will debate is how bad trans fat is. As a possible cause of heart disease (among other things), this is the fat that you want to avoid completely. In the opinion of many experts, if you see any trans fat on your food label, you should most likely not eat that food at all… ever.  Trans fats are seldom found in nature, and are almost always artificially created.  As a result, your body can’t process these fats, and they end up clogging your arteries and causing health problems for you.

There is something else you should know about trans fat. Food labels don’t tell you the whole truth. You see, the FDA has this rule about trans fat that says that if 1 serving of food contains less than 0.5 grams, food companies are allowed to put “Trans Fat: 0” in their nutrition facts. It’s insane, I agree, but, this is how it is. That means your food may say it contains 0 grams of trans fat per serving yet still actually contain 0.4999 grams of it. That means in this example, if you ate 2-4 servings of this food, you’d eat about 1-2 grams of trans fat and not even know it. There is a way to spot trans fat lie in action, though.

Look through the ingredients of the food. If you see  any mention of the words “hydrogenated”, “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening,” then whatever food you are looking at contains some amount of trans fat, whether the food label says it does or not. So, if an amount of trans fat is listed in the nutrition facts, then it obviously contains trans fat. However, if it says 0 grams, yet has any of those three words I just mentioned in its ingredients, then it still contains trans fat.  The only way to know for sure that it doesn’t contain trans fat is to see both “trans fat: 0” and none of these words anywhere in the ingredients.

Some examples of foods that contain significant amounts of these two “bad fats” are chips and cookies, fast food, pastries, and many of the snacks we label as “junk food”.

Polyunsaturated Fat and Monounsaturated Fat

Now that the two “bad” fats are out of the way, next on the list of fats are polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. These are the good guys. While the above “bad” fats can cause a variety of health problems, “good” fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated actually prevent health problems.

Often, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats aren’t actually listed on food labels. This is because they’re just not found in too many foods. Saturated and trans fat are far more common, so they are more commonly shown on labels. However, when these two good fats are present, while at the same time there is little to no saturated or trans fat, then congratulations! You are most likely eating healthy food.

Some uninformed people continue to scan the nutrition facts of their food for fat, and, if there is a significant amount, they avoid eating it. If the food is high in total fat because of saturated and/or trans fat, then this would be a good decision. However, if it’s due to polyunsaturated and/or monounsaturated fat, then that product probably should not be avoided.

Some examples of foods that contain significant amounts of these two “good fats” are fish (and fish oil supplements), nuts and seeds, and olive oil.

Cholesterol

Next up on our food labels is cholesterol, which is a waxy, fat based substance.  Cholesterol is essential in the construction of your cell walls and in manufacturing many of your body’s hormones, bile acids and vitamin D.  However, your body can produce enough cholesterol from fats on its own to make consuming more unnecessary.  While not quite as terrible for the average healthy person as something like trans fat, it is still another nutrition fact that you don’t want your diet to be too high in. Some examples of high cholesterol foods include beef, eggs (the yolk), cheese, poultry, and certain junk foods and pastries.

Sodium

Continuing down the list is sodium. While your body actually needs some sodium to function properly, a diet too high in sodium can lead to health problems. So, add sodium to your growing list of nutrients that you’d like to see very little of in your foods. Some examples of foods high in sodium include canned soup and vegetables, salted nuts and pretzels (and potato chips, etc.), ham, bacon, sausage and processed deli meats.

Total Carbohydrate

Now we come to total carbohydrates, aka carbs, which are our body’s main source of energy. Unlike fat, carbs contain 4 calories per gram (compared to 9 calories per gram for fat) and, like fat, are equally one of the more misunderstood nutrition facts on food labels. Some people who are interested in weight loss tend to incorrectly think carb content is the most important thing to look for on a food label. However, that title goes to calories, which are the true key to weight control. Now, that doesn’t mean carbs should be ignored, because the type of carbs you eat are important, as well.  Not just for weight control, either, but for health in general.

There are basically two types of carbs, simple (bad) and complex (good). While there is no need to eliminate it completely, you most definitely want to limit your intake of simple carbs and get most of your carb intake from complex carbs. Hearing this will probably make you wonder how to tell if a high carb food is complex or simple. I’ll tell you how.

The first way is by knowing the types of foods that fit into these two categories. For example, some simple (bad) carbs include white bread, white rice, chips, cookies, candy, soda, and pretty much every type of junk food. Some complex (good) carbs include oatmeal, beans, whole wheat bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and most other fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The second way of knowing if your food is a simple carb or a complex carb is by reading the food labels. Listed directly below total carbohydrate are two other nutrition facts, dietary fiber and sugars. If a food has a good amount of fiber, it’s most likely higher in complex carbs. If it has a good amount of sugar, it’s filled with simple carbs.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is one of the few nutrients found on your food label that you actually want to be high. Granted, fiber is rarely ever “high,” however, even a few grams per serving is a good thing. Fiber is one of the things that makes a complex carb so good in the first place, as fiber slows the digestion of carbs by our body, which in turn improves its effect on our blood insulin levels. On the other hand…

Sugars

High sugar content in your food usually means the opposite of what high fiber content means.  Simple sugars are the very definition of simple carbohydrates.  Which means very quick digestion and a bad effect on our blood insulin levels. This, in turn, is the cause of many health and weight related problems.

So you can add sugar to your ever increasing list of nutrition facts that you’d want to see very little (or none) of on your food labels.

Protein

The last nutrient on this list is protein, which contains 4 calories per gram, just as carbs do. Protein plays an important role in muscle, cell, organ, and gland function, thereby making it another nutrient that you certainly would not mind seeing a high number next to. Some examples of high protein foods include meat, fish, chicken, turkey, nuts and beans.

Finishing Thoughts

Yes, there are many other nutrients that may or may not be shown on certain food labels; however, the ones discussed above are both the most common and most important nutritional facts listed. Now that you have a good understanding of what it all means, improving your diet, your weight, and your health becomes much simpler.

Eating Right Is All In Your Hands

Everyone is trying figure out what is a serving size when you are on the go.  You have the perfect tool at the end of your arms to help you eat right and stay healthy.

Your fist, or when you cup your hand, will equal about 1 Cup

One cup is good for:

  • 1 ½ – 2  Serving of fruit Juice
  • 1 oz. of cold cereal
  • 2 oz. of cooked cereal, rice or pasta
  • 8 oz. of milk or yogurt 
    Your thumb is about 1 oz. of cheese.

    Consuming low-fat cheese helps you meet the required serving form the milk, yogurt and chees group 1 ½ oz. of low-fat cheese counts as 8 oz. of milk or yogurt.

    A handful is about 1-2 oz. of snack food.

    Snacking can add up.  Remember, 1 handful equals 1 oz. of nuts and small candies for chips and pretzels, 2 handfuls equal 1 oz.

    Your Palm is about 3 oz. of meat.

    Choose lean poultry, fish, shellfish and beef.  One palm size portion is about 3 oz. adult and 1-2 oz. for a 5 and under child.

    Thumb tip is about 1 teaspoon.

    Keep high- fat foods, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise at a minimum.  Once teaspoon is equal to the end of your thumb, from the knuckle up.  Three teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon.

    Pretend to hold a tennis ball a tennis ball is about ½ cup of fruit or Vegetables

    Healthy diets include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables every day. 

    Suggested Servings from Each Food Group

    1600 to 2000 calories a day

    Grains At least half of your servings should be whole-grain.

    6 servings per day 

    6-8 servings per day

    Vegetables Eat a variety of colors and types

    3-4 servings per day 

    4-5 servings per day

    Fruits Eat a variety of colors and types

    4 servings per day 

    4-5 servings per day

    Fat-free or low-fat dairy Products

    2-3 servings per day 

    2-3 servings per day 

    Lean meats, poultry, and seafood

    3-6 oz (cooked) per day

     Less than 6 oz per day 

    Fats and oils Use liquid vegetable oils and soft margarine most often

    2 servings per day 

    2-3 servings per day

    Nuts, seeds, and legumes

    3-4 servings per week 

    4-5 servings per week

    Sweets and added sugars

    0 servings per week 

    5 or fewer servings per week

    • and ices
    • 1 cup lemonade

     

    Here is the nice thing about using your hands if you need fewer calories than shown below, decrease the number of servings and increase the servings if you need more calories.

    You Can Eat and Still Lose Weight

    The Trick Is To Know What To Eat

    (and when it eat it)

    This article will help you choose things you can snack on. This way you can keep the weight off or help you loose the weight. Come back to see about the right time to eat.
    Negative calorie or calorie free foods are what they sound like. They are foods that actually cause the body to use more calories in processing them (either directly, or though the food triggering a reaction to other bodily functions) than they contain. This means that you actually lose weight when eating these foods. Negative calorie foods are fruit and vegetables.

    Commonly agreed negative or calorie free foods:

    Vegetables
    Asparagus
    Aubergine
    Beetroot
    Bok and Pack Choy
    Broccoli
    Brussels Sprouts
    Cabbage
    Carrots
    Cauliflower
    Celery
    Chicory
    Collard greens
    Courgette / Marrow
    Cress
    Cucumber
    Endive
    Fennel
    Garlic
    Gourd
    Green beans
    Leeks
    Lettuce
    Mushroom
    Okra
    Onion
    Peppers
    Potatoes (in skins) and sweet potatoes
    Radish
    Snow peas / mangetout
    Spinach
    Tomato
    Turnip / swede
    Fruit
    Apple
    Apricot
    Banana
    Blackberries
    Blackcurrants
    Blueberries
    Cranberry
    Damsons
    Grapefruit
    Kiwi
    Mango
    Melons
    Papaya
    Peaches
    Pear
    Pineapple
    Plums
    Pomegranate
    Raspberries
    Rhubarb
    Small citrus (small oranges, limes, lemons)
    Strawberries
    Watermelon.

    Some more suggested negative calorie foods:

    All fruit and vegetables – Some nutritionists say that all fruit and vegetables are negative calorie foods in their natural state.
    Nuts – Some say all ‘raw’ (not dry roasted or salted) nuts and seeds are fat burning. Others say keep to almonds, coconut, macadamia, peanuts and walnuts.
    Soup – Some research has found that eating soup keeps weight off.  An oil free vegetable based soup will probably be negative caloric.
    Avocados – Often avoided due to their high fat content, they are in the ‘good fats’ category, and suggested by many as a fat burning food. Use in salads, but also as a base for dips and creams.
    Quorn – Quorn is a high fiber source of protein. Note that some people are allergic to quorn. 
    Air popped popcorn – Appears on some lists as it is a whole grain and full of fiber. The main trick is to cook in air and do not cover with sugar or oil.
    Dark chocolate (min 70%) – Only some chocolate. Not milk, sweetened or white, but dark chocolate which has a minimum of 70% cocoa, preferably 80% or 90% (Lindor even has a 99% bar). Watch portion size and only eat small amounts.

    How to talk about VitaMist

    The following article is taken right from the FDA Website. It is to help us make sure we stay with in the guidelines so we don’t step out side what is right to say about VitaMist products. Among the claims that can be used on food and dietary supplement labels (when we say labels or labeling please realize what we say is a extinction of our label) are three categories of claims that are defined by statute and/or FDA regulations: health claims, nutrient content claims, and structure/function claims.

    I. Health Claims

    A “health claim” by definition has two essential components: (1) a substance (whether a food, food component, or dietary ingredient) and (2) a disease or health-related condition. A statement lacking either one of these components does not meet the regulatory definition of a health claim. For example, statements that address a role of dietary patterns or of general categories of foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables) in maintaining good health are considered to be dietary guidance rather than health claims. Dietary guidance statements used on food labels must be truthful and non-misleading. Statements that address a role of a specific substance in maintaining normal healthy structures or functions of the body are considered to be structure/function claims; see Structure/Function Claims. Unlike health claims, dietary guidance statements and structure/function claims are not subject to premarket review and authorization by FDA.
    Health claims describe a relationship between a food substance (a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient), and reduced risk of a disease or health-related condition. There are three ways in which FDA exercises its oversight in determining which health claims may be used on a label or in labeling for a conventional food or dietary supplement: 1) the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) provides for FDA to issue regulations authorizing health claims for foods and dietary supplements after reviewing and evaluating the scientific evidence, either in response to a health claim petition or on its own initiative; 2) the 1997 Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (FDAMA) provides for health claims based on an authoritative statement of the National Academy of Sciences or a scientific body of the U.S. government with responsibility for public health protection or nutrition research; such claims may be used 120 days after a health claim notification has been submitted to FDA, unless the agency has informed the notifier that the notification does not include all the required information; and 3) as described in FDA’s guidance entitled Interim Procedures for Qualified Health Claims in the Labeling of Conventional Human Food and Human Dietary Supplements, the agency reviews petitions for qualified health claims where the quality and strength of the scientific evidence falls below that required for FDA to issue an authorizing regulation. If FDA finds that the evidence supporting the proposed claim is credible and the claim can be qualified to prevent it from misleading consumers, the agency issues a letter of enforcement discretion specifying the qualifying language that should accompany the claim and describing the circumstances under which it intends to exercise enforcement discretion for use of the claim in food labeling. The differences between these three methods of oversight for health claims are summarized below. 

    II. Nutrient Content Claims

    The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) permits the use of label claims that characterize the level of a nutrient in a food (i.e., nutrient content claims) if they have been authorized by FDA and are made in accordance with FDA’s authorizing regulations. Nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient in the product, using terms such as free, high, and low, or they compare the level of a nutrient in a food to that of another food, using terms such as more, reduced, and lite. An accurate quantitative statement (e.g., 200 mg of sodium) that does not otherwise “characterize” the nutrient level may be used to describe the amount of a nutrient present. However, a statement such as “only 200 mg of sodium” characterizes the level of sodium by implying that it is low. Therefore, the food would have to meet the nutritional criteria for a “low” nutrient content claim or carry a disclosure statement that it does not qualify for the claim (e.g., “not a low sodium food”). Most nutrient content claim regulations apply only to those nutrients that have an established Daily Value: A Food Labeling Guide – VII. Nutrition Labeling. The requirements that govern the use of nutrient content claims help ensure that descriptive terms, such as high or low, are used consistently for all types of food products and are thus meaningful to consumers. Healthy is an implied nutrient content claim that characterizes a food as having “healthy” levels of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, as defined in the regulation authorizing use of the claim. Percentage claims for dietary supplements are another category of nutrient content claims. These claims are used to describe the percentage level of a dietary ingredient in a dietary supplement and may refer to dietary ingredients for which there is no established Daily Value, provided that the claim is accompanied by a statement of the amount of the dietary ingredient per serving. Examples include simple percentage statements such as “40% omega-3 fatty acids, 10 mg per capsule,” and comparative percentage claims, e.g., “twice the omega-3 fatty acids per capsule (80 mg) as in 100 mg of menhaden oil (40 mg).” 

    III. Structure/Function Claims and Related Dietary Supplement Claims

    Structure/function claims have historically appeared on the labels of conventional foods and dietary supplements as well as drugs. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) established some special regulatory requirements and procedures for using structure/function claims and two related types of dietary supplement labeling claims, claims of general well-being and claims related to a nutrient deficiency disease. Structure/function claims may describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient intended to affect the normal structure or function of the human body, for example, “calcium builds strong bones.” In addition, they may characterize the means by which a nutrient or dietary ingredient acts to maintain such structure or function, for example, “fiber maintains bowel regularity,” or “antioxidants maintain cell integrity.” General well-being claims describe general well-being from consumption of a nutrient or dietary ingredient. Nutrient deficiency disease claims describe a benefit related to a nutrient deficiency disease (like vitamin C and scurvy), but such claims are allowed only if they also say how widespread the disease is in the United States. These three types of claims are not pre-approved by FDA, but the manufacturer must have substantiation that the claim is truthful and not misleading and must submit a notification with the text of the claim to FDA no later than 30 days after marketing the dietary supplement with the claim. If a dietary supplement label includes such a claim, it must state in a “disclaimer” that FDA has not evaluated the claim. The disclaimer must also state that the dietary supplement product is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” because only a drug can legally make such a claim. Structure/function claims may not explicitly or implicitly link the claimed effect of the nutrient or dietary ingredient to a disease or state of health leading to a disease.
    Structure/function claims for conventional foods focus on effects derived from nutritive value, while structure/function claims for dietary supplements may focus on non-nutritive as well as nutritive effects. FDA does not require conventional food manufacturers to notify FDA about their structure/function claims, and disclaimers are not required for claims on conventional foods.

    Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know

    You’ve heard about them, have probably used them, and have even recommended them to friends or family. But how much do you really know about dietary supplements?

    Yes, some can be beneficial to your health, but taking supplements can also involve health risks. Read on for important information for you and your family about dietary supplements.

    Some Common Dietary Supplements:

    • Acidophilus
    • Echinacea
    • Fiber
    • Ginger
    • Glucosamine and/or Chonodroitin Sulphate
    • Minerals
    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    • St. John’s Wort
    • Saw Palmetto
    • Vitamins 
    Q. What are dietary supplements?

    A. Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, and other less familiar substances — such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes. Dietary supplements are also marketed in forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps and sprays. While some dietary supplements are fairly well understood, others need further study.

    Q. What are the benefits of dietary supplements?

    A.  Some supplements may help to assure that you get an adequate dietary intake of essential nutrients. However, supplements should not replace the variety of foods that are important to a healthful diet — so, be sure you eat a variety of foods as well.

    Unlike drugs, supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases. That means supplements should not make claims, such as “reduces arthritic pain” or “treats heart disease.” Claims like these can only legitimately be made for drugs, not dietary supplements.

    Q. Are there any risks in taking supplements?

    A.  Yes. Many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong biological effects in the body. This could make them unsafe in some situations and hurt or complicate your health. For example, the following actions could lead to harmful — even life-threatening — consequences.

    • Using supplements with medications (whether prescription or over-the-counter)
    • Substituting supplements for prescription medicines
    • Taking too much of some supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and iron
      Some supplements can also have unwanted effects before, during, and after surgery. So, be sure to inform your health-care provider, including your pharmacist, about any supplements you are taking — especially before surgery.

       

      QWho’s responsible for the safety of dietary supplements?

      A.  Dietary supplements are not approved by the government for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. If the dietary supplement contains a NEW ingredient, that ingredient will be reviewed by FDA (not approved) prior to marketing — but only for safety, not effectiveness.

      The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe BEFORE they go to market. Manufacturers are required to produce dietary supplements to minimum quality standards and ensure that they do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled.

      Manufacturers are required to report all serious dietary supplement related adverse events or illnesses to FDA as of December 2007.

      FDA can take dietary supplements off the market if they are found to be unsafe, adulterated, or if the claims on the products are false and misleading.

      QHow can I find out more about the dietary supplement I’m taking?

      A.  If you want to know more about the product you are taking, check with the manufacturer or distributor about:

      • Information to support the claims of the product
      • Information on the safety and effectiveness of the ingredients in the product
      • Any reports of adverse effects or events from consumers using the product
      QHow can I be a smart supplement shopper?

      A.  Although the benefits of some dietary supplements have been documented, the claims of others may be unproven. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Be a savvy supplement user. Here’s how:

      • Watch out for false statements like: 
        • A quick and effective “cure-all”
        • Can treat or cure diseases
        • “Totally safe” or has “no side effects”
      • Be aware that the term natural doesn’t always mean safe.
      • Don’t assume that even if a product may not help you, at least it won’t hurt you.
      • When searching for supplements on the Web, use the sites of respected organizations, rather than doing blind searches.
      • See Health Fraud Scams for general information on fraudulent dietary supplements.
      • See the FDA’s Tainted Supplements page for a list of some of the potentially hazardous dietary supplements marketed to consumers.
      • Ask your health-care provider for help in distinguishing between reliable and questionable information.
      • Always remember — safety first!
      Before making decisions about whether to take a supplement, see your health-care provider or a registered dietitian. They can help you achieve a balance between the foods and nutrients you personally need.