If you’re among the 40% of the U.S. population taking multivitamins each day, you may already have found a daily supplement you like and plan to stick with. Indeed, you’re in good company – with the body requiring upwards of 40 essential vitamins and minerals to function optimally every day, it’s certainly not easy to get all of the nutrients we need from diet alone. In addition to helping us fill nutritional gaps in our diet, taking multivitamins may also have long-term health benefits: one study shows men and women who took daily vitamins greatly reduced their risk of a first heart attack.
With that said, it’s important to remember that not all multivitamins are created equal. As with any supplement, you should consider a few key factors before taking a multivitamin. Discover how to choose the best option for your needs with the helpful guide below.
Look for the Seal
First and foremost, any vitamin brand you consider should feature a seal from a third-party certifier. This might include NSF International, USP, or UL. Keep in mind that while a seal demonstrates the brand’s commitment to industry best practices, the absence of the seal doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is of poor quality. Instead, the seal verifies that the vitamins are manufactured in alignment with that inspection agency’s standards. Still, this bit of assurance can provide peace of mind – especially if you’re taking the same vitamin every day.
Consider Your Needs
If you’ve ever stumbled upon men’s and women’s multivitamins and wondered why they’re separated by sex, there’s a good reason for this: men and women have different nutritional needs. For instance, women can benefit from added calcium, as the nutrient can help prevent against osteoporosis. For men, on the other hand, too much calcium can actually be harmful. Women also need more iron then men, while men should avoid it in excess as it can cause dangerous deposits throughout the body’s critical organs.
In addition to these gender-based differences, your body’s nutrient needs may vary by age and dietary practices. A nutritionist may be able to help you pinpoint possible deficiencies more precisely, and you may also wish to speak with your physician to determine whether there are any specific needs to consider from a medical standpoint.
Read the Ingredients
Next time you shop for multivitamins, take a look at the labels and read the ingredient list. A good multivitamin will contain vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. It should also have vitamins B6 and B12, D2 or D3, A, E, and K, as well as the following additional nutrients: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iodine, borate, molybdenum, folic acid, pantothenic acid, biotin, selenium, and zinc.
Check for Appropriate Values
While you’re reviewing the ingredients, browse through the list of nutrients and look for appropriate daily values. While certain nutrients, including calcium, cannot be provided in pill form at 100 percent, many can. Pay special attention to the daily values of fat-soluble vitamins, or those which your body stores, instead of expelling through urine as is the case with water-soluble vitamins. These can be toxic if taken in excess and should not exceed a daily value of 100%. Some fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K.
Remember that while taking a daily multivitamin is a good practice, it won’t compensate for unhealthy habits. Supplements, as their name suggests, are only meant to fill voids that can be left in even the healthiest diets. Fill your diet primarily with whole foods and try to exercise most days of the week in addition to taking a multivitamin for the most effective and comprehensive approach. Always speak to your physician first before implementing a new diet and exercise plan and to also help determine which multivitamin is right for you.