How-To Choose the Best Supplements [10-step guide]

Several varieties of supplement tablets and capsules
Supplements come in all forms

When it comes to supplements, quality is of great importance.

However, choosing between the myriad of different products out there can be daunting. There are just too many choices, and most of them look okay at first glance.

Yet, the quality of the supplement matters—a lot.

So, how do you know which one to buy? Put all the alternatives in front of you, close your eyes, and point? No, that’s a bad idea.

I have a method—a list of criteria that I go through whenever choosing a dietary supplement. I’ll share that list with you in this article.

If you want to see the results of me using this guide, I recommend heading over to our page named Top Recommended Supplements.

Table of Contents

Interactions With Other Medications

If you are taking any medication, you can not decide on supplementation yourself. You have to speak to your physician. I cannot stress this enough.

A major concern about the safety of dietary supplement ingredients is the interactions between a supplement and other medications.

For example, two substances may each affect the same organ, but in different ways. When taken together they may increase the risk for organ damage or other adverse health effects.

Before Using Supplements - Consult With Your Physician

Before you read any further, we have to agree on how-to-use and what this article and my recommendations aim to do.

My aim with this article, and my recommendations, is to help you choose between different supplement products based on my experience and the criteria I describe below. I update and revise these criteria, and the recommendations, regularly.

This article or my recommendations are not intended to help you decide whether you should or not use/take supplements. That is a decision you have to take yourself with the help of your physician/health professional.

So, before you decide to take a supplement, you should always consult with your physician/health professional. And also, be sure to follow the dosages from your physician/health professional to the letter. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you as well.

Many supplements contain active ingredients that can have strong effects in the body. Always be alert to the possibility of a bad reaction, especially when taking a new product.

In short, for instance, if you are after an iron supplement, use these criteria below to recognize a high quality product to buy out of the myriad of available products. Don’t use them to decide whether or not to use supplements.

So now that we’re clear about what this article and my recommendations are all about, let’s continue!

Few Dietary Supplement Companies Produce Their Own Products

Many companies all over the world sell supplements. The vast majority do not produce their own products, few have their own laboratories, and even fewer have their own raw material production.

Less than 1% of all dietary supplement companies own and are responsible for the entire manufacturing chain. It includes production and handling of raw materials, manufacturing, and final control tests of the dietary supplement itself.

Don’t Get Distracted By Marketing When Choosing Between Supplements

It is not easy to choose a high-quality supplement. There are so many different supplements on the market.

Unfortunately, it is hard to judge the quality based on the label's appearance or marketing material.

They can be both appealing and well made, but that says nothing about the quality. It takes a bit of digging to find out if the supplement has some quality.

When it comes to using supplements, you should never think that it is better to take something than not taking any.

That's a bad idea.

If you take a supplement of low quality, it might do you more harm than good. For instance, it might not provide you with the amounts of the nutrient you need.

How-To Choose The Right Supplement (Step-by-Step)

There are many things to consider when choosing between dietary supplements.

If you at first glance think that the list below is a bit too complicated and/or seems to require too much work, I can happily say that it becomes almost second nature after a while.

10 steps to find the best supplement

1. Who is this for? (Adults, children or other)

This is the first thing you need to find out. You know who you are buying supplements to. It’s usually easy to find out.

The labeling on the product should clearly state if it’s for adults, children, other specific age-group, and/or sex.

2. Authority of the seller/manufacturer

You want to check out the company that sells the product.

Where is it stationed? You might be one of those that value a product made in your country. But unfortunately, with our global economy, that does not automatically mean that the supplement is made in the same country as the marketing and/or labeling says.

How large is the company? Are they, for instance, large enough to have their own scientists?

Do they have trust within supplements? Have they been doing this for a long time?

3. Is the production chain intact?

This is closely related to the company.

Does the company own the whole manufacturing chain, or do they just put a label on a jar?

In what country is the supplement made? Is it shipped all over the world to different factories, ending up with just a company's logo on it?

4. Quality/Source of raw materials

What kind of raw materials have they used in the supplement, and where does it come from? This information is often quite hard to come by. It takes a bit of research.

But it’s important to know that it contains good quality materials.

Can these raw materials have been contaminated?

Are quality controls performed on the raw materials?

5. Quality controls throughout manufacturing process (In-house or external)

Are quality controls made during production of this supplement?

At what stages in the production chain?

Who does the quality control? Is it the seller, the manufacturer, or perhaps a third party independent company?

You want to see that the company has implemented controls during the entire production chain. Even better if they use a third-party quality controller. It increases the possibility of a good quality supplement.

6. What is the active ingredient?

The active ingredient in a supplement is the substance that you are after. For instance, if you want an iron supplement, iron is the active substance. Some supplements can contain more than one active substance.

Some active substances are better than others. Some are absorbed better than others.

For instance, in a vitamin D supplement, you can find ergocalciferol (D2), cholecalciferol (D3), calcifediol or 1,25-Dihydroxycholecalciferol as the active substance.

7. Other ingredients?

It’s good to know about the other ingredients in the supplement. For instance, if it has a lot of unnecessary fillers or sugar, or other undesirable ingredients.

The first step is to be able to understand the ingredient list. You don’t want a long, long list with ingredients that you don’t recognize.

The second step is to decide where you draw the line. For instance, can you take a supplement containing sugar, even though you know it's better to take one without?

It is, of course, crucial to read the ingredient list if you have any allergies.

8. Interaction between the active substances or ingredients

Some active substances can interact when taken together. They can either help each other or prohibit or make it harder for the body to absorb the substance.

For instance, Vitamin B12 and folate work better together than taking just one of them. Together they support some of the most fundamental processes of cell division and replication.

9. Does it contain animal products?

This is more of a personal preference than a quality criteria but as I use this method myself I include it as well.

Bovine gelatin consists of the protein collagen that has been hydrolyzed. It is a byproduct of the beef industry. By boiling the bones, cartilage, skin, tendons, and hooves, they extract the collagen that is used in, for instance, the supplement industry.

I prefer to stay away from gelatin and bovine gelatin as much as possible, but if you are okay with consuming them, you have even more supplements to choose from.

10. Expiration date

Always check the expiration date on the package. I know it's difficult when shopping online but you can always send it back if it's too old.

You want a supplement that's not too old.

A supplement in solid form can be viable for about two years after the manufacturing date if stored correctly. After two years, the active substances begin to decline. Check the labelling for storage instructions.

Supplements in liquid form only hold their concentration for about a year.

Here I look for products that seem to be popular, that sell in moderate to large quantities over a given period. My thinking is that the more you sell, the less you have stored in your warehouse collecting dust.

I'd Love To Hear From You!

So this is my list I go through when I’m choosing between supplements.

The better and more thorough job you do, the better supplement you get.

If you have any questions and or comments, I’d love to hear from you.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I'm using this guide to be able to recommend high quality products. As you can imagine, it takes quite a bit of work, but I believe it's well worth it.

You can find the fruits of my labor in our page called Top Recommended Supplements.

Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator

Author Image of Sara Niemelä

Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.

I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.