There are 1000’s supplements and nutritional health products (NHPs) out there on the market today. Choosing the right ones can be a challenging task if you are unsure what the differences are for the goals you want to accomplish. For starters it takes understanding what the product categories are, next, you need to understand the differences between the ingredients in each product. And that takes some label comparing! The first thing I do, when evaluating a product is flip that product around to take a look at the ingredient label, I dissect the claims on the front of that product, to see if they match the ingredients on the inside. But, being able to do that can be quit tricky without years of experience on the subject matter! So, in this post, I’m going to uncover the basics on how to read the label on a supplement or health product you are considering for use.
The Nutrition Facts Panel
The Nutrition Facts table provides information on calories and 13 nutrients in an amount of food including: fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, fibre, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
Nutrition Facts can be used to:
- Compare products
- Determine the protein, fats and carbs
- Help manage diet needs
% Daily Value
The % Daily Value is a benchmark for evaluating the nutrient content of food quickly and easily, and is based on recommendations for a healthy diet of 2000 calories.
Nutrition Claims are based on the following rules set in place for making a nutrition claim on a label or advertisement.
Source of Fiber
Manufacturers of food can highlight a product’s nutrition features using claims such as “Source of fiber”. “Source of fiber” means the food contains at least 2 grams of dietary fiber in the amount of food specified in the Nutrition Facts table.
“Low” is always associated with a very small amount. “Low fat” means that the food contains no more than 3 grams of fat in the amount of food specified in the Nutrition Facts table. In a healthy diet, the recommended range for fat intake is approximately one third of total Calories.
The claim “Cholesterol-free” means that the product has a negligible amount (less than 2 mg of cholesterol in the amount of food specified in the Nutrition Facts table) and it is also low in saturated fat and trans fat.
“Free” is an amount of a nutrient so small that health experts consider it nutritionally insignificant. A “sodium-free” claim means the amount of food specified in the Nutrition Facts table contains less than 5 mg of sodium.
Reduced in Calories
“Reduced in Calories” has at least 25% less energy (Calories) than the food it is being compared to.
When referring to a nutritional characteristic of a product, “light” is allowed only on foods that are either “reduced in fat” or “reduced in energy” (Calories). “Light” can also be used to describe sensory characteristics of a food, provided that the characteristic is clearly identified with the claim (e.g., light tasting, light colored).
List of Ingredients
List of ingredients is mandatory on the nutrition facts panel. All of the ingredients for a food are listed in descending order by weight. The ingredients present in the greatest amount in a product are listed first. It can also indicate food items to avoid.
Products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel
Supplement foods that would have a Nutrition Facts Panel include:
- Protein Powders
- Ready to Drinks
- Protein Bars
- Greens Powders
Medicinal Ingredient Panel
The Medicinal Ingredients Panel is the equivalent of the Supplement Facts Panel in Canada for all Natural Health Products (NHP).
The medicinal ingredients provides a list of the active ingredients in the products. For each medicinal ingredient found in the product, the quantity per dosage must be listed in descending order of quantity, along with the source material for the ingredient. Be sure to look up each ingredient contained in an NHP to be sure it can help you achieve your goals.
All NHPs must have a health claim on the label that is linked to the efficacy of the product for treating a health-related condition. Claims can not be made for prevention or cure of disease. Claims can be therapeutic, risk reduction, structure-function claims. If the product is of good quality, the claims and supporting ingredients will be supported by sound clinical research.
Recommend Dose, Storage and Risk Information
The recommended dose, the number and frequency of dose and duration of use must be included along with the information for storage and risk information if applicable.
Every product batch has a lot number that must be represented on the product package.
The expiry date is expressed at minimum as a year and month, up to and including which a NHP maintains its purity and physical characteristics and its medicinal ingredients maintain their quantity per dosage unit and their potency. The date, expressed at minimum as a year and month, after which the manufacturer recommends that the NHP should not be used.
This is a number assigned to each NHP approved to go to market under the Regulations as an indication of authorization by the NHPD. (e.g. NPN 8000 0001).
All ingredients that are used in the product but do not provide any medicinal or active properties. These are not listed in any order and do not need to include the amounts.
Products that have Medicinal Facts Panel
Supplements that would have a Medicinal Facts Panel include:
- Weight Loss Products
- Muscle Builders
- Energy and Focus