Peas, Carrots, Green Beans, and Gray Matter

Color Coded Labels Can Reveal the Truth About Supplements

I love how the generic store brand supplements at my local supermarket (Shoprite) are color coded, and I think all stores should be doing this with their in-house brands. Unfortunately, for those that do shop at Shoprite, very few people know what the various label colors actually mean.

Red Label

The red label means it has a real medical value and actually can do something beneficial.

Here you will find the standard vitamins and minerals, things that a doctor can actually write a prescription for, if you have a deficiency. And your health insurance may even cover the costs.

Generally speaking, these are the lowest priced supplements in the store, stocked at eye level.

Products in this category usually do not change, except on rare occasion, to add a product that has proven that it can be beneficial to one’s health, ones that previously had a yellow label. They rarely ever are put on clearance or discontinued.

Buy these if your doctor has run tests and says you should take them, to correct a deficiency.

Yellow Label

The yellow label means there is some evidence to suggest that it could do something beneficial, but more research is needed.

Here you will find things the average doctor might suggest you try, under certain circumstances, but he can’t write a prescription for it, such as CoQ10, melatonin, and a few others. These will not be covered by your insurance, since they have not been sufficiently proven to work.

For products in this very small category, the label color is subject to change, over time, as more research is done. They might be moved up to the red label, or more frequently, down to green label. Occasionally, they are put on clearance, usually when there is a label color change, to rid the store of the older yellow label stock.

Green label

The green label means snake oil and woo. Don’t waste your money on it.

This is where you will find all of the “food in a capsule” items, such as garlic, cinnamon, parsley, and other common kitchen herbs & spices, along with other plant powders for which their hawkers make dubious, unsubstantiated claims.

They are located on the lowest shelves, making them more awkward to access.

The products offered in this category changes frequently, to keep up with popular trends. For this reason, you will often find discontinued items on clearance, usually for half price. But even at half price, they are still a complete waste of your money.

You’d be better off buying most of these from the spice aisle and using them to season your food, but only because they taste good. Buying them in capsule form costs a much higher price per gram, and there is little or no evidence to suggest they can actually do anything beneficial for your health.

For the ones not located in the spice aisle of any supermarket, you should probably stay far away, since at best, they do nothing but take money out of your pocket or provide a placebo (magic candy) effect, and at worst they could be harmful, especially if taken in high doses or over a long period of time.


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