Verywell Fit's Dietary Supplement Methodology

How we choose dietary supplements to recommend on Verywell Fit

The content of this methodology is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any question you may have regarding dietary supplements.

Part of our mission at Verywell Fit is to provide you with thorough and unbiased information on products that can improve your health and well-being.

Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement your diet, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes. Other popular dietary supplements include omega-3s, probiotics, and protein powders.

We work hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain dietary supplements and offer you easy-to-comprehend information to help you select the best product for your needs.

In order to navigate the dietary supplement industry, our team of registered dietitians carefully reviews the research, interviews experts with decades of experience in the field of dietary supplement research, and utilizes unbiased resources that are rooted in science, including the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. Beyond this, our methodology is medically reviewed by a doctor to ensure its accuracy.

Because the supplement industry is unregulated, and each person's needs and responses to supplements is different, we encourage you to consider the benefits and risks of dietary supplements and talk to a medical professional before beginning any supplement regime.

To explain our methodology of selecting nutrition supplements, we will cover the following:

  1. Which supplements we choose to feature (and what we skip) on Verywell Fit and why
  2. Our top priorities when making supplement recommendations
  3. Other attributes that matter to us and the evidence to back up these choices
Tips for Using Supplements Safely VW Health Original Photo

 Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Supplements should not be used as a substitute for prescription medications recommended by your healthcare provider. Always speak with your healthcare provider about all of the supplements and medications you are taking or plan to take.

Which Supplements Does Verywell Recommend?

Supplements can be tricky territory, so we do the tough work of weeding through multiple products and brands to present you with a variety of high-quality options based on your values, budget, and preferences.

Before we get to the stage of choosing specific products, we make choices about what we ethically support and what we don’t.

We take a food-first approach—whenever possible, we recommend meeting nutritional needs through foods as close to their original state as possible rather than through supplements. When needs cannot be met through the diet, we may recommend, depending on the scenario and demonstrated needs: individual vitamin and mineral supplements, multivitamins, certain probiotic strains, electrolyte solutions, and macronutrient supplements.

As the research is sparse and inconclusive on many concentrated herbal supplements, and there are high rates of interactions with other supplements and medications, we will only make recommendations on herbal supplements if and when the research supports it.

If there is contradicting research on the efficacy of certain supplements, which is often the case, we will present both sides of the research so that you and your doctor can come to your own decision around whether or not to take the supplement.

Our recommendations will evolve as more research comes to the forefront and new products come to market. Our team will continuously question the safety, validity, and effectiveness of supplements and modify our recommendations accordingly.

We Do Not Support:

  • Supplements with claims that are not supported by clinical research
  • Supplements that are potentially dangerous (beyond the typical risks associated with nutritional supplements)
  • Weight loss supplements, including diet pills
  • Exercise and sports performance products that may be harmful to athletes
  • Supplements with sexual enhancement claims

It’s important to note that many potentially dangerous and poor quality supplements claim to be supported by research. Any company can conduct research strategically to uphold their claims, so it is critical to look at the study design, size, and conflict of interest statement to analyze whether the study is valid.

The type of research that makes the strongest case for supplement effectiveness consists of randomized controlled studies. This means that people are randomly assigned to take a specific amount of a supplement or to be part of the control group (not taking the supplement), and researchers look at the differences between the two groups after a certain amount of time. The strongest evidence comes from analyses that include multiple randomized controlled trials that include large groups of people and are not conducted or paid for by any individual or organization with a financial interest in the supplement.

Moving forward, in order to recommend a supplement, we ensure that there is substantial good-quality research to demonstrate its efficacy and safety.

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Our Top Priorities When Choosing Supplements

Have you ever walked down the supplement aisle and stared blankly at a shelf, overwhelmed by the amount of choices for a simple multivitamin tablet or vitamin C capsule? We certainly have. We aim to do the research for you so you can easily choose what works best for you.

Our team of experienced editors, including an on-staff dietitians, chooses which topics to cover on Verywell Fit. This team collaborates with expert writers to choose the best products in each category, such as vitamin D, elderberry, and vitamin C. We aim to provide you with simple, evidence-based information to help you make an educated buying decision.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products, and articles are reviewed by healthcare professionals for medical accuracy. You can learn more about our how we test products here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Research-Backed Efficacy & Safety

At Verywell Fit, we know how confusing it can be to navigate the supplement world. Manufacturers fill their websites with vague promises of what their supplements will do for your body, like helping you perform at your peak or supporting emotional wellness, weight management, or digestive health. These claims can make us excited to try supplements to feel better and look better, but often these claims are not backed by research.

That's why our number one priority is to recommend products that have substantial, good quality research to back their efficacy and safety. We carefully comb through the research and don’t recommend supplements with only one study to back them up; we ensure there are a multitude of good quality studies to support a recommendation. If there is research that makes us skeptical about safety, we will not recommend that product. If there is contradicting research, we discuss it.

Independent Third-Party Tested & Certified

Unlike medications, which have to be proven safe before they can be marketed, supplements are allowed to be marketed without any proof that they are safe or that they actually provide the benefits they claim to provide. Supplements can only be restricted or removed from the marketplace if the FDA proves that they are unsafe, which often means it is after harm has already been done.

Because nutrition supplements are not regulated or broadly tested in the United States, selecting a third-party tested product is important to ensure that you’re choosing a safe product. Third-party testing is a control process where an independent lab assesses a product to see if it meets certain criteria and standards.

Popular third-party organizations include NSF, USP, and ConsumerLab. We prioritize products that have been third-party tested and certified by one of these three reliable organizations, and we will always highlight whether or not each product is third party tested and certified. These certifications can be expensive, so, if a supplement is not third-party tested or certified, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is not a good product. However, these certifications are the only way to feel confident that the labeling of the products is accurate.

Please note that these third parties do not test for product efficacy, so, just because a product is third party verified, it does not mean that it is effective. Third-party testing simply helps ensure that a product contains what it says it contains and is not contaminated with other ingredients.

The FDA does regulate what types of claims supplement labels can make. Supplements cannot claim to serve as a treatment, prevention, or cure for any disease. However, they can make three types of claims:

Health claims

  • What they are: Health claims describe the relationship between a supplement ingredient and reduced risk of a disease or health condition.
  • Example: Adequate iron helps reduce the risk of anemia.

Nutrient content claims

  • What they are: Nutrient content claims state the percentage of a dietary ingredient that a supplement contains. 
  • Example: One capsule contains 100% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin D or One capsule contains twice the calcium as in one glass of milk.

Structure/function claims

  • What they are: Structure/function claims can describe how consumption of a nutrient or dietary ingredient that may affect the body’s normal structure or function, works to support that normal structure or function, contributes to general well-being, and/or may provide a benefit related to a disease caused by nutrient-deficiency 
  • Examples: Iron is needed to transport oxygen in the body or Fiber supports digestion and satiety.

Other Attributes We Value

We value some other attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. These attributes are listed below with an explanation of why we value each attribute and the evidence to support the attribute.

It’s important to note that supplements we select do not need to have all of these attributes, but these are values we find important when deciding between various products available on the market.

Always be sure to read all of the ingredients in your supplement and their quantities, and research the purpose, action, and risks of each ingredient, including potential interactions with other supplements or prescription medications. Like with food, it is usually the case that the shorter and simpler the supplement’s ingredient list, the better.

We emphasize products that are:

  • Non-GMO
  • Organic
  • Allergy-Friendly
  • Free of Unnecessary Additives
  • Minimally Sweetened

Beyond these standards, it's important to note that:

  • There are no supplements that are beneficial for everyone.
  • The most important use of supplements is to manage an existing deficiency.
  • Supplements will not solve any physical or mental health condition aside from deficiencies. Deficiencies are diagnosed by your doctor via laboratory tests.

Non-GMO

When possible, we select products that use non-GMO ingredients. While there is a variety of evidence that argues whether GMO products are safe or dangerous, we generally choose to recommend products closest to their natural state that are not genetically modified. While the evidence is inconclusive, choosing non-GMO products may be better for your health and the environment.

We also look for the Non-GMO Project Verified certification on product packaging, which means that a product is compliant with the Non-GMO Project’s strict guidelines.

When we think about genetically modified crops, such as soybeans and corn, another concern is glyphosate, an ingredient in herbicides such as Round-Up that are used to control weeds. This herbicide has been detected in a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Glyphosate is legal in the US, but some governments around the world prohibit it since glyphosate has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.

For this reason, it may be beneficial to limit unnecessary exposure to glyphosate. Non-GMO does not mean free of glyphosate; however, it may limit the amount you’re exposed to. If you’re concerned about glyphosate, there is a Glyphosate Residue Free Certification that you can look for.

Organic

While some studies show that minimal amounts of chemical residue from non-organic foods are not dangerous to your health, it is thought to be safer to avoid pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals by purchasing organic products, including supplements. For this reason, we recommend choosing supplements made with organic, whole-food ingredients when possible.

Organics may seem like a more expensive version of the same item, but the term is closely regulated. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”

Note that the term “organic” can be used in various ways on a product label. Products labeled “organic” must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, except for added water and salt, and may not contain sulfites as a preservative. The remaining 5% of ingredients may be non-organic.

Products with a label claim stating “made with organic ingredients” need to contain at least 70% organic ingredients, except for water and salt. Supplements made with this label may not use sulfites, either.

Many organic supplements are made using whole food rather than synthetic ingredients (although organic is not synonymous with “whole food”). Whole food supplements are generally preferable, as they’re made from ingredients concentrated and derived from real foods, whereas synthetic nutrients are made from artificial ingredients. Some evidence shows that supplements derived from whole food ingredients are absorbed more efficiently than synthetic nutrients.

Note that some supplements are labeled “organic,” whereas some are “USDA Organic.” These terms are not the same. The “USDA Organic” certification assures that the ingredients are grown and processed according to federal guidelines. Some of these guidelines require that the soil used to grow the produce has been free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for three years before harvest.

Vitamin Toxicity

 Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Free of Unnecessary Additives

We recommend dietary supplements with  ingredients that are as close to their natural form as possible.

Artificial colors can make supplements look more appealing and uniform in color, but artificial food coloring and dyes may be harmful, especially for children.In general, artificial colors are not a necessary ingredient in supplements, and therefore we recommend supplements that do not use artificial colors or dyes.

Flavoring can help to improve the taste of unpalatable supplements. For example, adding lemon flavoring to an omega-3 capsule makes it have a less fishy aftertaste, and fruit flavors make gummy vitamins more enjoyable for children and adults. When a product label says “natural flavors” or “artificial flavors,” it’s important to note that both types of flavorings are synthesized in a lab and are often chemically identical. This is why we prefer supplements without ambiguous additives such as these.

Preservatives help to extend the shelf life of supplements so that they don’t break down prematurely. They also help to keep mold, fungi, yeast, and bacteria away. Natural preservatives, such as vitamins C and E, are preferable choices over potentially dangerous artificial preservatives.

It’s important to note that some supplements, such as particular probiotics, require refrigeration as a form of preservation. Always read your supplement label to find out how to store them.

Most non-refrigerated supplements are best stored in a cool, dry place in the original container with the lid tightly closed.

Minimally Sweetened

Many people are concerned about consuming too much added sugar and choose to replace sugar with low calorie sweeteners and sugar alcohols. However, both artificial low calorie sweeteners and natural low calorie sweeteners may have the opposite effect than intended and affect blood sugar control, the gut microbiome, and appetite, and may actually lead to increased food consumption. Sugar alcohols can cause digestive problems such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially when consumed in large amounts.  For these reasons, we seek out supplements with minimal added sweeteners in any form. 

The Health Benefits of Lemon Balm

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Additional Considerations When Choosing Supplements

When choosing which supplements to recommend, we are conscious of the quality-focused attributes listed above and consider individual preferences, such as form, price, and availability. We also care about the conditions in which the supplements are made.

  • Form: Supplements come in many forms, including tablets, capsules, liquid, powder, lozenges, spray, and gummies. We aim to offer the highest quality supplements in a variety of forms that suit your preferences, as we understand that some individuals prefer gummies over capsules and vice versa.
  • Price: Price is not always reflective of quality. A more expensive supplement doesn’t guarantee a better product. It’s also prudent to be skeptical of very inexpensive supplements. We aim to offer the best quality supplements at a variety of prices to fit most budgets. Some supplements are inherently more expensive to make than others, and the price is mostly dependent on ingredients.
  • Availability: We select over the counter nutritional supplements that are widely available. While some supplements are only available by prescription, subscription, or mail order, we include supplements that are in stock at local or online retailers for your convenience.
  • Quality Control: While there is a lack of quality control on supplement ingredients, safety, and effectiveness, the FDA does have regulations for the supplement manufacturing process. Referred to as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) or cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices), these regulations set the requirements for supplement companies to ensure that the supplement is made in a safe, clean laboratory that’s registered with the FDA. We recommend products that are made in GMP facilities.

Meet Our Team

Autumn Rauchwerk, MS, RDN, RYT
Senior Commerce Editor, Nutrition
Autumn Rauchwerk
Personal Detail

Through her own nutrition and yoga business, Autumn has spent 5 years working with graduate students and professors, local businesses, yoga studios, public and private schools, and individuals to spread nutrition knowledge and yoga practice to New Yorkers ages 4 to 84. 

Autumn has published on the Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size approach to nutrition in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior as well as for a wide array of nutrition practices in the city. 

Autumn's first career was in food social justice and sustainability, where she spent much of her time helping college students start food recovery and donation programs and speaking at conferences, events, and in college classrooms throughout the country as well as creating and revamping employee trainings. 

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Ashleigh Morley
Editorial Director, Commerce
Ashleigh Morley
Personal Detail

Ashleigh is the editorial director for commerce at Verywell where she oversees health, fitness, family, and mind content.

She received a B.A. in Journalism from Baylor University.

Her work has appeared in Men's Health, Women's Health, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, and more.

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Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN
Senior Editor, Verywell Fit
Eliza Savage
Personal Detail

Eliza Savage, MS, RD is a senior editor at Verywell Fit, a registered dietitian, and a published author. She is also a fitness enthusiast who has completed 2 full marathons and more than 25 half marathons.

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Rachel Berman, RD
General Manager, Verywell
Rachel Berman
Personal Detail

Rachel Berman, RD is general manager at Verywell, a registered dietitian, published author, and national nutrition spokesperson. She has been with the company for 10 years and oversees the content and business strategies for Verywell Fit, Verywell Family, and Verywell Mind.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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