How to Buy the Best Dietary Supplements | Food Confidence

Supplement Recommendations

How to Buy the Best Dietary Supplements

As an integrative dietitian and empowerment coach with 20+ years of experience, my main goal is to help women age well, feel confident in their bodies, and create the healthy lifestyle they desire and deserve.
danielle omar

How to Buy the Best Dietary Supplements

There’s no shortage for places you can find dietary supplements on the internet. But how do you know which are the best to buy? How do know if you’re actually getting what you paid for? Let’s find out!

Inactive Ingredients

Unfortunately many supplements are formulated with poor-quality ingredients that aren’t easily absorbed in the body. Some may contain unapproved ingredients that aren’t listed on the label, while others have inactive ingredients, known as excipients. Excipients are components (other than the active ingredients) that are present in a supplement or medication.

Think of excipients in supplements like you would food additives in foods: ingredients added for the purpose of improving taste, texture, appearance, nutritional value, and preservation. A common concern with additives or excipients is their potential negative health effects, but when used as directed, excipients are generally safe and pose few health risks. That said, common adverse effects of excipients include allergic reactions, GI upset, and skin hypersensitivity reactions. If you’re sensitive to supplements or have allergies to certain ingredients (think artificial sweeteners, gluten, or lactose) you should carefully read supplement labels to make sure the product doesn’t contain these ingredients or is clearly listed as allergen free. 

Active ingredients

Active ingredients are therapeutic ingredients meant to trigger a biological effect so the supplement can work as it’s tended to. This is the very reason we take supplements! 

What’s most concerning with poor-quality dietary supplements is they may contain harmful heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. We’re already exposed to heavy metals and various other toxins on the daily (heavy metals are found naturally in the water we drink, some of the foods we eat, the products we use each day, and the environments in which we live) — and taking contaminated, poor-quality supplements only adds to our toxic load.

Over time, a high toxic load can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. Especially when we’re not hydrating or eliminating well. Supplements can support our body’s natural detoxification process, but choosing high quality dietary supplements is key! 

Let’s take a closer look at what it means to buy quality dietary supplements that support digestion, brain health, detoxification, sleep, mood, and overall health and wellness!

Why I Recommend Targeted Supplementation

Before I dive into the topic of buying dietary supplements, let’s discuss why I commonly recommend supplementing our healthy eating habits with probiotics, vitamin D, Omega-3s, vitamin B12, and magnesium.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to get all the vitamins and nutrients we need from the food we eat. Unfortunately, this is often not possible. About a third of U.S. adults follow a specific diet that limits or eliminates one or more food groups such as grains, legumes, carbs, dairy, oils, and animal proteins. Think low-carb diets, vegan and vegetarian diets, gluten-free diets, ketogenic diets, and high-protein diets. And let’s be real: there are some foods we just don’t like! Many of my clients don’t eat seafood at all.

What’s more, carnivore-based diets — those that exclude all foods except for meat — are becoming super popular. As a lifelong advocate of plant-based eating, I’m not a huge fan. I mean, yes, clean animal proteins certainly have a place in our diet, but plant foods do as well! There are tons of health benefits of eating the rainbow and I’m always leery of advice that recommends cutting back on plants.

In addition to these restrictive diets, there are many medical conditions that impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients through food: celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are just a few. This doesn’t even account for the approximately 20 million Americans with food allergies to peanuts, eggs, shellfish, milk, lactose, gluten, and tree nuts. 

If we aren’t getting the nutrients we need from the food we eat — and we don’t take vitamins and supplements to fill in the gaps — we put ourselves at risk of nutritional deficiencies (and the long list of symptoms that come along with them). Kids and teens included!

how to buy dietary supplements

What to Look for (& Avoid) When Buying Dietary Supplements

Now that I’ve discussed the importance of targeted supplementation, I’ll share some tips to help you find the highest-quality supplements from brands and dispensaries you can trust. This brings me to my first recommendation…

Be Wary of Where You Purchase Supplements

Amazon may have some impressive deals on dietary supplements and fast, two-day shipping, but there are a few reasons why it’s best NOT to buy your supplements on Amazon. For starters, there’s some recent evidence that purchasing supplements on Amazon is no guarantee that you’re getting the product you think you are. You could be getting something else entirely (and potentially, products with contaminated ingredients). 

One recent analysis looked at the accuracy of labels for select dietary supplements sold on Amazon, finding that 17 of the 30 immune health products tested had inaccurate labels. Of these 17 products, 13 had ingredients listed on the labels that were not detected through analysis, and nine products contained ingredients that were not listed on the label. Five of the 17 supplements were misbranded. 

Along with the potential for label inaccuracies, contaminated ingredients, a lack of active ingredients, and the risk of purchasing counterfeit products altogether, we don’t really know how or where supplements sold on Amazon are stored prior to shipment. Are the products temperature-regulated? Were they exposed to extreme heat or humidity? Are they shipped with a cold pack? Are products nearing expiration? We just don’t know. 

This is why I partnered with Fullscript to create my own online dispensary. Fullscript is a practitioner-based dispensary that sells quality supplements from professional grade brands. They also meet the highest quality shipping and storage standards. 

Use my free online dispensary to find supplements that you’ll feel confident about buying.

Look for Third-Party Certifications

I the above-referenced Amazon study, none of the supplements analyzed had third-party certifications listed on their labels. These independent certification seals ensure that supplements have been third-party tested for quality assurance. 

These seals don’t guarantee a product’s safety or effectiveness, but they do provide assurance that the supplement was:

  • Formulated without harmful levels of contaminants. 
  • Properly manufactured according to the FDA’s good manufacturing practices (GMPs).
  • Accurately labeled to include each active and inactive ingredient. 

Look for third-party certifications from independent organizations like, NSF International, and the US Pharmacopoeial (USP) Convention Dietary Supplement Verification Program. 

Keep an Eye Out for Fillers

As I mentioned earlier, many supplements are loaded with fillers or inactive ingredients known as excipients. Binding, coating, and coloring agents; emulsifiers; preservatives; and sweeteners are just a few examples of excipients. 

While the excipients in supplements and medications are regulated by the FDA, these ingredients have the potential to trigger allergic reactions in some people, increase inflammation in the body, and add to our toxic load (which is already quite high in many cases!). 

I recommend looking for dietary supplements from brands that don’t use additives, fillers, and other unwanted ingredients. Feel free to reach out to me for recommendations or visit my Fullscript Dispensary to discover a few of my favorites!

Need Help Finding the Best Dietary Supplements?

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