Nutrition vs Supplements: Which is Better?

What sets GEM apart from the rest of the vitamin aisle? A lot of things – convenience, price, sustainability. But above all else, we’re made real.

Unlike other vitamins synthetically made in a lab, GEM is made from the ground-up with 13 real foods like dates, pumpkin seeds, and mushrooms.

Because we use real ingredients, GEM is regulated by the FDA as a food, not a supplement. This is a big deal. Because it not only means that GEM is produced differently (in a facility with other organic food products and not in a lab of pills and capsules), but we’re regulated and labeled differently.  

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty on what this means for consumers:

On the top is GEM's nutritional fact panel and the bottom is a randomly chosen supplement panel.



These two labels highlight three key differences that illustrate why a nutrition fact panel is better than a supplement one: 

1. No Shady Ingredients: The Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of food ingredients that they have tested and determined as “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS, for short). Only products that use all GRAS ingredients can have nutritional fact labels. Let’s take energy drinks for example. Most energy drinks on the market are labeled as dietary supplements because they contain ingredients that are not GRAS. Therefore they aren’t required to list ingredients on the label and can be sold with increasingly dangerous levels of caffeine and toxins. This is why Four Loko took a dangerously long five years to get regulated by the FDA. 

2. No Hidden Ingredients: A nutritional fact panel requires all ingredients to be listed on the label by order of volume, from most to least used in the product. Supplement panels are able to list their ingredients as part of a “proprietary blend,” which means the specific amount of each individual ingredient in the “blend” does not have to be listed, only the total of the blend itself. So as a consumer, you have no idea if the product has more corn syrup or kale. Worse, in each of these “proprietary blends,” companies can conceal ingredients – this is where you get hidden fillers and toxic binders. You have no idea what dirty ingredients may be lurking beneath the surface of a supplement label.

For example, this label lists the active ingredients as a Premium Proprietary Blend– but all of its fillers and binders are left out. We have no idea what’s in each softgel or how much of it.

Inherently by design, consumers don't have full transparency into what they are taking. Unless a company provides a full label disclosure, we are left in the dark as to what we are putting into our bodies.

Worse, even when a company doesn't have a "proprietary blend" and lists the full ingredients, there could still be sneaky binders and fillers that they don't have to disclose to you as a supplement.

For example, most vitamin D3 on the market, like the product below which is listed as the first ever "vegan vitamin D3", comes from what a labels says is lichen (a type of algae). Given how much we love algae, we got really excited and went all over the world trying to find this single vegan source of vit D3 for GEM.

Yet when we received the health inspector's production panel (bottom image) from the vitamin D3 powder, we found there was a lot more than just algae but "maltodextrin, unmodified cornstarch, sucrose, and silicon dioxide." So this vitamin D3 supplement contains not just 3 ingredients (chamomile, lichen, & chicory), but also corn, sugar, and other questionable additives. That's why we chose our vitamin D from mushrooms, and just mushrooms. 


3. No Misleading Claims: Supplement fact panels are able to make unsubstantiated claims that are not pre-approved by the FDA. There are three types of claims supplements can make:

1. Functional Claims: Any claim describing the role of a nutrient or ingredient that will affect or maintain the day-to-day function of the human body

a.  Example: Calcium builds strong bones.

2. General Well-Being Claims: Claims about a nutrient leading to general well-being after consumption
a.  Example: Contributes to good health.

3. Nutrient Deficiency Claims: Claims that outline a benefit to the product related to a nutrient deficiency or disease
a.  Example: Vitamin C prevents Scurvy.

Despite any kind of egregious or life-saving claims a supplement might make on the front of the label, they then often include a disclaimer on the back that reads: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

So you have a label with a front and back that contradicts itself – is it life-saving or not at all? Who knows. The point is that we believe in transparent and truthful labels, not misleading ones.

In summary, we're proud to be a real food replacing your multivitamin and with a nutritional fact panel that is transparent, real, and safe.