The Fruitful Life

What's the Difference | Tablets, Softgels & More!

What's the Difference | Tablets, Softgels & More!
Delivery systems are designed to allow each supplement’s active ingredients to be best presented to the body, making them easily released and absorbed by the body. NOW offers a number of unique delivery systems that include hard shell capsules, tablets, softgels, liquid concentrates, liquid extracts, powders, and even effervescent powders. Although these systems deliver essentially the same nutrients, their functions can differ greatly based on the manner in which they deliver nutrients to specific areas of the body.

Hard Shell Capsules

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The most common delivery system provided by NOW Foods is the hard shell capsule. Hard shell capsules are available in a vast assortment of sizes. NOW also uses three varieties of capsules: gelatin (animal derived), hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (vegetarian), and a new polysaccharide matrix that is also vegetarian. Each hard shell capsule is required to dissolve in water in 30 minutes, and all are tested. To the delight of many users, hard shell capsules are known for being much easier to swallow than tablets, and capable of delivering nutrients more quickly.


The next type of delivery system commonly sold by NOW is tablets. A large assortment of tablets are available today, and include coated, uncoated, chewables, lozenges, time/sustained release, as well as enteric coated. In most cases, NOW uses an aqueous coating. This safe, external barrier provides a smooth layer for easy swallowing, protection from oxygen, light, and moisture, and masks that "vitamin-y" taste. In the event that a product does not require these barriers, a tablet may be left uncoated. This measure helps eliminate additional costs that would otherwise make the product more expensive for our shoppers.
NOW also offers several flavored, chewable tablets. Chewable tablets are welcome for individuals who experience difficulty swallowing pills — especially children. A lozenge, however, is designed to remain in the mouth without chewing until completely dissolved. Though lozenges may vary in size, they’re often used to deliver nutrients that absorb more effectively through the lining of the mouth — as opposed to chewables that better absorb in the stomach or small intestines. 


Similar to hard shells, softgels are usually made from gelatin, though NOW does use some vegan alternatives. The contents inside the softgel are suspended in oils that create an ideal delivery system for lipid and fat soluble nutrients such as CLA, Vitamin E and others. Additionally, fish oils can be encapsulated in softgels to curtail the negative tastes and aromas inherent to these oils. The outer shell of any softgel can contain opaque materials such as carob to mask the appearance of the contents, while providing additional protection from light. The base, or oil, forms layers within the softgel that help provide additional protection from oxygen permeability. Like hard shell capsules, softgels are fairly easy to swallow and strongly preferred by users who experience difficulty with larger tablets.


Shifting our focus from pills to liquids, NOW manufactures an extensive, ever-evolving assortment of concentrated liquid products. These are ideal for individuals who enjoy complementing their smoothies with additional nutrients, as well as those who dislike pills. Liquid concentrates can contain water, glycerin, and lecithin as a base, along with natural flavors and colors to enhance taste and texture. Plus, they'll contain the minimal amounts of natural, needed preservatives. Liquid concentrates require meticulous, skillful design to ensure the control of microbial contamination. Additionally, they may require preservatives such as grapefruit seed extract, potassium sorbate, and sometimes sodium benzoate. Some liquid concentrates are homogenized (processed to blend water and fat soluble parts of a product). All liquid concentrates should be refrigerated after opening! This ensures freshness through the life of the expiration date.
NOW’s liquid extract offerings may contain natural solvents — typically water, food grade alcohol, and/or glycerin. These are used to extract vitamins/minerals from the raw materials. Liquid extracts are usually taken in liquid form, and can be done so in a manner that allows generous potencies from surprisingly small quantities. The ingredients used for extraction are freshly harvested in order to provide the best nutrient profiles. Liquid vitamins and supplements also include a wide variety of compounds, as opposed to more singular vitamins.


Pure powders and effervescent mixes are both are dry powders, and are offered in either pure forms or formulas created by NOW. Pure powders are highly versatile, and can be used in many ways such as baking, or in your oatmeal. However, they still require the consumer to control the dosage and find something to add it to. Effervescent, formulated mix powders generally contain flavors and colors, and are included for the sole purpose of adding to water or other liquids. Like powders, effervescent mixes contain a number of ingredients, with the most important coming from acids and bicarbonates. These result in carbon dioxide bubbles when combined with water. Effervescence tends to eliminate the need to stir, and provides a pleasant bubbly effect.
With such a large and technologically impressive selection of delivery systems available, the choice really boils down to the user’s own preference. Today’s advanced delivery options are remarkable in their ability to enhance nutrient bioavailability (how much of a vitamin/mineral/nutrient can actually be used by the body when taken), provide versatility, and offer individualized options. Anyone willing to take the time to learn more about them is on their way to more supplementation more tailored to their tastes and needs. We hope you enjoyed this informative article from NOW. Let us know your favorite delivery system in the comments below!

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