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Reviewed by Pete Nastasi, Certified Sports Nutrition Coach and Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner
Make sure to talk to a healthcare professional about your individual needs and appropriate dosages before adding a supplement to your routine.
Everything You Need to Know to Find the Best Multivitamins
Deciding if adding supplements to your diet is right for you can be tricky—and multivitamins are no exception. There are a ton of brands on the market today, not to mention an overwhelming amount of information about if you should or shouldn’t take a multivitamin and which one might be best multivitamin for you.
The reality is, many health experts say you’re better off striving for a balanced diet instead of supplementing your routing with vitamins. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, though half of all American adults take a multivitamin, vitamin or mineral supplement, multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive or an early death.
But what if you’re struggling to meet your nutritional needs through diet alone? That’s where multivitamins come in.
“Individual vitamin supplementation may also be essential in certain cases, such as a deficiency caused by long-term poor nutrition or malabsorption caused by the body’s digestive system not functioning properly,” says Harvard School of Public Health in The Nutrition Source. Such cases might include older age or pregnancy, as well as instances where an individual is experiencing a malabsorption condition that impacts digestion or is taking a medication with side effects that impact nutrient absorption.
Another important factor to consider: Like any other supplement you’re considering adding to your diet, taking vitamins and minerals is not without risks—especially if you take too much of a single type. For example, an excess of Vitamin C may cause nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
As you peruse the multivitamin market, be mindful of potentially “scammy” or overly sales-y language. Steer clear of brands that claim to “cure” conditions or promise to solve a large assortment of health problems.
Finally, the most important consideration of all: It’s absolutely critical that you consult professional advice from your doctor before deciding if adding a multivitamin to your diet is right for you. A medical professional can help assess your unique nutritional needs, as well as other factors like your age, gender and any underlying medical conditions to determine the best course of action for you. They can also help you answer important questions such as:
- What types of multivitamins are available?
- Are multivitamins beneficial for you?
- What important health considerations are good to know?
What are multivitamins?
“Multivitamins are supplements containing a combination of various micronutrients that are required by the body in small quantities for optimal health,” says Pete Nastasi, Certified Sports Nutrition Coach and Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner.
“A classic multivitamin contains only vitamins and minerals; however, newer formulations are sometimes fortified with additional nutrients such as antioxidants, essential fatty acids and phytochemicals (plant chemicals found in many fruits, vegetables and grains that may reduce the risk of major chronic diseases). All these nutrients are used as coenzymes and cofactors for many of the complex metabolic reactions in the body.”
Many consumers use supplements as insurance to receive 100% of their daily vitamins and minerals, even if their diets are not perfect. These products also offer a unique opportunity for individuals who may have trouble eating nutrient-rich foods, such as people with health conditions, dietary restrictions or food allergies.
“A micronutrient rich diet contains a variety of fruits, dark leafy greens, red and orange vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole-grains, legumes and starchy vegetables,” says Nastasi. “Unless you are eating a wide variety of produce, cooking the majority of your meals at home and spending time outside in the sun it’s possible that you might be low or deficient in some micronutrients. If necessary, a multivitamin can help you fill in some of the gaps where you might be deficient.”
Once you’ve considered your health status and how you’d like to proceed, reviewing some of the best multivitamins in the market is the next logical step. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best options based on specific criteria.
Our top picks include:
If you’re looking for a comprehensive, well-rounded multivitamin, Thorne Research Basic Nutrients 2/Day is tough to top—and the reason it gets our “Best Overall” distinction. Each serving contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals along with more than 40 other nutrients such as antioxidants and superfood extracts—that’s significantly more than most multivitamins offer. Thorne Research Basic Nutrients is a great option if you’re committed to getting all your daily nutrients but need something affordable and convenient that doesn’t come with any fillers (as many one-per-day healthy adult multivitamins do).
If you’re looking for a multivitamin formulated specifically for women (or anyone with specific dietary needs), we highly recommend this one. Containing a hefty dose of 24 organically grown fruits and vegetables, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Multivitamin for Women includes iron, B12, folate and vitamin C. It’s also vegan-friendly, soy-free and gluten-free. The supplement doesn’t contain any added sugars or fillers (like gelatin), making it a great choice for people with dietary restrictions or food allergies.
If you’re looking for a multivitamin designed specifically for men, look no further than Ritual Essential for Men 18+. This multivitamin offers a high daily value of vitamins and minerals in an easy-to-swallow tablet. It’s a particularly good option for adult men who may have higher vitamin requirements and prefer a simple, all-in-one solution.
This multivitamin has more than 20 vitamins and minerals and several natural ingredients to ensure you get what your body needs. One serving provides your daily value of calcium and magnesium—minerals that are often deficient in male diets. With this tablet, you’ll be in good shape to keep your vitamin levels where they should be.
Our top pick for the best gummy multivitamin is the Nature Made Multivitamin + Omega-3 Gummies. These chewy, fruit-flavored snacks contain a complete multivitamin formula with added omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. They taste great, have natural ingredients and are easy to take every day. What more could you ask for?
Each serving provides vitamins A, C and D. They also contain minerals like calcium, iron and zinc. Together, these gummies are an excellent way to get your daily dose of multivitamins. It also serves as a preferred solution for people who have trouble swallowing tablets.
Concerned about cost? Consider the Nature Made Multivitamin Complete. It’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a multivitamin at an affordable price. These tablets contain all of your basic vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also help keep your immune system strong and improve overall health. This multivitamin is proof that you can get your required nutrients every day without breaking the bank. However, some reviewers report this multivitamin is less aesthetically pleasing than some other more expensive options like Ritual. (It’s your standard brown pill.) Reviewers also note an unpleasant smell.
Perfect Energy Multivitamin is a unique product because it covers the need to provide nutrients and boosts energy. One of its key ingredients is green tea, designed to give you the lift you need without making you jittery or nervous. In that way, it’s ideal if you struggle with low energy and the ability to focus throughout the day. With an extensive list of vitamins, minerals and herbs, Perfect Energy Multivitamin will give men and women alike complete nutritional coverage—and then some.
If you’re looking for a good, basic multivitamin for adults, look no further than Pure Encapsulations – O.N.E. This is the solution for you if you need an easy way to get all your vitamins and minerals in one pill and don’t want any artificial ingredients or coloring. Some other features of O.N.E. are that it comes in an easy-to-swallow tablet form and contains zero genetically modified organisms or G.M.O.s. For adults who struggle with getting the adequate daily value of vitamins, O.N.E. should be one of your top choices for a daily multivitamin.
Kids will love taking these yummy gummies and parents will love them even more because they contain essential vitamins and minerals often left out of children’s daily diets. And since they’re a soft chewable gummy, they’re also easy for kids to digest. SmartyPants Kids Formula Daily Gummy Multivitamin is an obvious choice given their overall nutritional profile. It is packed with everything kids need, including probiotics, calcium and vitamin D. Plus, it tastes great, so kids definitely won’t want to miss their daily vitamin.
Ingredients to Consider
There are two main categories of ingredients that go into multivitamin supplements: vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are organic compounds, while minerals are inorganic compounds. Most experts agree that multivitamins containing both should be taken daily. Here is a list of vitamins and minerals you should consider looking for in your multivitamin supplements.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s synthesized in our bodies when exposed to sunlight. It is also found in fortified milk, cheese and fish. It helps regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which aid in building and maintaining healthy bones.
When exposed to sunlight, our bodies produce vitamin D in photosynthesis. The liver converts vitamin D into calcitriol, which is responsible for maintaining blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. These two minerals are necessary for building strong bones and teeth. Research has shown that people who suffer from low levels of vitamin D have an increased risk of suffering from high blood pressure, strokes, cancer, heart disease and kidney stones.
Calcium: The importance of calcium goes beyond its ability to help build and maintain healthy bones. It also helps with nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and hormone secretion. Without it, we would not be able to function. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet—or happen to be at risk for vitamin D deficiency—then taking a supplement is a good idea. You should also make sure that you check for vitamin D3, which is an essential nutrient for bone health. Additionally, calcium and vitamin D work to support bone mineralization and promote bone strength.
Vitamin C: This vitamin is important for helping our bodies absorb iron and build collagen, which is what makes healthy skin, blood vessels, gums and teeth. Taking a multivitamin with a good dose of Vitamin C helps prevent deficiency. If you do not regularly eat foods high in Vitamin C (such as citrus fruits), you’ll want to add a multivitamin to your routine.
B Vitamins: Of all the vitamins, B vitamins are some of the most important. They are responsible for various bodily functions, including energy production, proper digestion and D.N.A. synthesis. Deficiency can cause everything from physical weakness to mental impairment. Most multivitamin supplements contain all of the essential B vitamins.
Folic acid: The importance of folic acid is often overlooked, but it is just as important as vitamin C and vitamin D. One of its main roles is in red blood cell formation. Without enough folic acid, red blood cells become unhealthy and weaken. Or worse, they can rupture. And in some cases, these ruptures can lead to anemia or even heart attacks. Deficiency can lead to physical weakness or mental impairment.
Vitamin A: One of the most important roles vitamin A serves is as an antioxidant. It also helps maintain eye health and boosts immunity. Deficiency can cause dry eyes, skin irritation and frequent infections. If you don’t regularly eat foods high in vitamin A (such as dark leafy greens), a supplement may be beneficial.
Antioxidants: Taking a multivitamin with antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E are important for maintaining health and boosting immunity. In addition to being included in a multivitamin supplement, these antioxidants are best obtained through eating fruits and vegetables.
Other Factors to Consider
Multivitamins come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of ingredients for addressing a different range of needs. The best multivitamin for you will depend on factors like lifestyle, diet, health concerns and weight loss goals. If you have any existing medical conditions that might require extra supplementation or medical attention upon supplementing, be sure to consult your doctor first.
Below are some additional factors to consider when choosing a multivitamin:
We recommend avoiding multivitamins that use artificial colors. Instead, choose ones with natural dyes like beet juice or turmeric extract. Artificial colors are linked to various health issues such as hyperactivity, irritability, depression, hives and asthma.
Some brands offer chewable versions of their multivitamin, which might appeal to kids and adults who have issues swallowing tablets. Chewable vitamins are typically made from compressed tablets, so there’s no nutritional difference between chewing or swallowing.
If you don’t like swallowing tablets, a vitamin-pill alternative might be right. Gummy vitamins are one option; others include effervescent tablets or chewable tablets, as mentioned above. These all-in-one solutions make it easy for you to meet your daily nutrient needs and get your vitamins and minerals without taking any additional steps.
Most multivitamin products come in a daily formula, so these will work for most people. But if you’re an athlete or do a lot of manual labor, you may need a more potent multivitamin. The dose you choose depends on your health and activity level—and it’s always worth consulting with your doctor before taking any supplement. Also, keep in mind that different multivitamin formulas can have different doses.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s not uncommon for people to have questions about multivitamins and how to incorporate them into their daily routine. Consider these frequently asked questions, as well as their supporting answers:
How do you know if you need vitamins?
The first step to addressing your supplement needs is figuring out if you even need them in the first place. Do you feel tired all day? Nauseous? Bloated? Are your joints stiff and painful? Such symptoms may indicate that you’re not getting enough of certain vitamins or minerals. For confirmation, speak with your doctor about conducting a blood panel for micronutrient deficiencies.
When should I take my multivitamin?
A good multivitamin should be taken daily, with or without food. It is important to take your multivitamin on a consistent schedule every day to receive all of its benefits. Taking them on a consistent schedule also increases your chances of making vitamin consumption a healthy habit. Make sure to consult your doctor to determine the right schedule for you.
Are there any side effects of taking multivitamins?
Taking more vitamins and minerals than you need can potentially cause issues, even from a multivitamin. If you’re getting all of your nutrients from your diet and following recommended dietary guidelines, you may not need additional supplements. The nutrient excess that results may be enough to cause side effects. For example, consuming too much iron can lead to anemia, while taking too much zinc can actually interfere with immune function. Reach out to your doctor to learn if you’re a good candidate for multivitamins.
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