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by Jo Power |

Strolling through the supermarket, you often see people pausing, picking up a product and turning it around to study its label.

It’s a good habit to get into, but the majority of people only look at two or three items from the ingredients panel or the nutrition facts. Perhaps that’s because they’re only interested in those items, but it’s more likely that they don’t know what else to look for.

Labels are confusing and ingredients lists are long – who has time to decode it all to make the right choice? 93% of Australians aren’t getting enough nutrients, so it seems that most people don’t have that time.

At Activated Nutrients, we’ve built transparency into our brand. Our ingredients lists are complete and literal; our claims are straightforward and verified through extensive product testing. One of our missions is to help people cut through the hype of the health industry and feel empowered to make the right choices. So with that in mind, we’ve put together a guide on how to read product labels and understand nutrition facts as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

1. Food codes 

If an ingredient is identified by some strange code (eg. E20), you can be certain it’s man-made.

2. Vitamin sources 

When you see a specific vitamin listed by name as an ingredient (eg. Vitamin A), that indicates a synthetic or isolated vitamin. A synthetic vitamin is entirely man-made and an isolated vitamin has been extracted from its food source to get a higher concentration. The issue with consuming vitamins in this form relates to absorption. When you get vitamins from their wholefood source, you also get a range of enzymes and micronutrients that naturally occur in the food and help your body utilise the vitamin optimally.

3. Loopholes 

Many companies get away with selective label claims by using ‘proprietary blends’. These blends are protected by the company’s patent and therefore they’re not required by law to disclose the contents of the blend. But for the consumer, this means a company can advertise a certain ingredients in their product without actually stating how much of the ingredient is in it. It could be no more than a dusting!

4. Quality 

Go for raw and the best quality you can find. Remember that chances are this product is going to replace nutrients that you may be missing from food. You probably wouldn’t buy the cheapest food you can find so why do that with your supplements? It may cost a little more than a cheap factory synthetic vitamin, but long term you’ll be making huge savings on your health.

5. Personalise

Most supplements take a one-size-fits-all approach. But supplements should at least be formulated separately for each gender. It’s true that many nutrients are equally important for each gender, but the optimal amount of them often varies. And then there’s the physiological systems unique to each gender – a one-size-fits-all supplement can’t provide truly targeted support for those.

It’ll take a little bit of effort to read labels and research products, but it’s a worthwhile use of your time. A good supplement can give your body a much-needed boost by helping you meet RDI for essential nutrients. One Activated Nutrients customer said, “Really, results speak for themselves, I noticed a huge different after the first week. Absolutely big difference in energy levels, no questions asked.” The right supplement could do the same for you, so get out there and start reading those labels like a boss!

Originally published on WOD Magazine's blog 18 May 2016.