The number of health supplements on the market has exploded in recent years. From pills to powders, there’s no end of products to choose from – many of which promise impressive health benefits.
With so many options, it can be a nightmare trying to find the right supplement for you. But a good place to start is with certified organic products. Just like fresh produce, organic supplements are free from artificial additives such as emulsifiers, colors and flavors. This means they contain more of the good stuff, and zero hidden nasties.
So how do you identify organic supplements? In this guide we give you the lowdown on organic labeling, helping you find supplements you can trust.
Products Labeled as ‘USDA Organic’ or ‘Organic’
Products labeled as ‘USDA organic’ must contain only organically produced ingredients, with absolutely no added ingredients or additives.
On the other hand, products labeled as ‘organic’ must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Any remaining ingredients must only consist of non-agricultural substances that feature on the NOP National List.
GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice)
In 2006, the FDA began to phase in oversight for GMP compliance – a set of standards for dietary supplements that ensures high quality products. Good manufacturing practice guidelines provide guidance and quality assurance to ensure all manufacturing facilities are clean, manufacturing processes are controlled, and ingredients are written in clear and unambiguous language.
Supplement manufacturers should make clear whether their products are GMP compliant. But if they don’t, steer clear – buying poor quality supplements is never worth the risk.
QAI (Quality Assurance International)
QAI is North America’s largest organic certifier, based in San Diego. Its job is to confirm by inspection whether the producers, processors and handlers seeking the ‘Certified Organic’ stamp are adhering to organic standards. This rigorous certification process means you can rest assured that products stamped with QAI can trace their organic integrity all the way from the farm to your table.
Products stamped with the non-GMO seal are not made with Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. This might not seem like a big deal, but actually the process of going GMO-free can be tricky for supplement manufacturers. Figures from 2011 indicate that 88 percent of corn, 90 percent of cotton and 96 percent of sugar beet has been genetically engineered in some way, so the chance of some GMO ingredients slipping into supplements is high.
But many organic manufacturers have pledged to drive GMO ingredients out of their entire food line. An honorable decision – and one that makes for safer supplements that have a much smaller environmental footprint.
A Quick Guide to Buying Organic Supplements
1. Read the Labels Carefully
Now that you’re armed with labeling know-how, it should be much easier to ensure you’re getting a quality, organic product. But it’s still worth taking a look at the ingredient list – if you come across any suspicious ingredients, steer clear.
2. Choose Single-Ingredient Supplements
Combining multiple ingredients in a single supplement doesn’t necessarily add any health benefits, and it means you lose control over exactly what you’re consuming. So stick with a good quality single-ingredient supplement – that way you have full control over what you’re putting in your body.
3. Choose a Trusted Brand
Regulations on dietary supplements are not as stringent as they are for medicines, so quality can vary massively. While an organic certification is a good guideline for quality, it’s always best to opt for a brand you can trust. So make sure you do plenty of research before you buy.
4. Ensure They are Tested for Contaminants
Each batch of supplements should be tested at source for any extra contaminants, but also again in the manufacturer’s country. Buying only GMP compliant products ensures the supplements have been manufactured in GMP certified facilities, removing the risk of cross-contamination.
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