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With so many supplements on the market, it can be a challenge to know which ones are the best to buy. Here are eight tips for buying supplements that will hopefully lead you to the best quality and effective products possible.
Beware of fillers and additives
Shop for supplements that are free of fillers and other added ingredients. A list of fillers is usually separate from the list of added ingredients or the statement that says what is not in the supplement, such as wheat, yeast, milk, salt, soy, corn, starch, and sugar. People who want to avoid all animal products need to check labels for gelatin, which is made from animals. Capsules can be made from gelatin or a vegetable-base.
Consider the form
Nutritional supplements come in different forms, including tablets, capsules, gel caps, liquid, powder, and sprays. Herbal remedies are available as tablets, capsules, tinctures, solid extracts, fluid extracts, and teas. Choose a form that suits your needs and lifestyle. If you have difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules, for example, look for a liquid form or a powder that you can dissolve in liquid.
Read the warning statement
Supplements should have a statement that says whether it is not safe for people who have certain medical conditions, including pregnancy, allergies, or high blood pressure, for example.
Check the recommended use statement
The product should state exactly how to take the supplement—how much and how often. It may also include different doses for different ages or for children, men, and women.
For herbal remedies, choose standardized supplements
Herbal supplements are often labeled as “standardized” or “guaranteed potency extract.” This means that the product is guaranteed to contain a predetermined (standardized) amount of active ingredients.
Check for an expiration date
This should appear on the packaging. If you cannot find an expiration date, do not buy the product. An item on sale may be close to its expiration date. Also check when items may be selling as “buy one get one (or 2) free,” as they may be close to their expiration date and thus may lose their potency by the time you get to use them.
Look for the USP designation
The United States Pharmacopeia, or USP, is an independent, nonprofit organization that establishes standards of quality, strength, purity, packaging, and labeling for drugs and nutritional supplements. It is an indication that the product meets high standards.
Look at serving size
Take note of the servings required to deliver the stated dosage on the labeling. Some capsules may claim, for example, 320mg of saw palmetto but you may need to take 4 capsules to get the stated dose. This can be a problem for people who have problems taking capsules. Also, some “men’s health” or “prostate health” brands often throw in 20-30 ingredients thinking more is better when in reality, the active ingredients only have trace elements of the required herb or supplement and not enough to make a real difference.