Choosing a Multi-Vitamin

Our bodies need their fill of over 40 nutrients each and every day to perform at their best. Are you hitting all those quotas? Most of us don’t manage to get our fill on all of them on our own. Where our day-to-day diets fall short, a multivitamin can help pick up the slack.

The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) reports that about 40 percent of adults in America follow this advice and take a multi-vitamin daily. And yet, a 2010 Consumer Reports study indicated that 56 percent of adults expressed concerns about what was in their multi-vitamin.

With so many multi-vitamin options out there, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Don’t leave your health to guesswork—consider these factors when choosing a multi-vitamin.

Needs differ by sex
There are some significant differences in men and women’s health needs, particularly from 18 to 50 years old. Women in their child-bearing years require more iron and folic acid than others. Men, on the other hand, need higher doses of several vitamins and minerals, but significantly less iron. For this reason, a mult-vitamin specific for your sex is best.

Don’t hide your age
Many multi-vitamins are designated by age group—kids, adults, and seniors. Be sure to take a multi-vitamin designed for your age group, as our bodies need different things at different stages of life. Kids’ growing bodies need lots of vitamin A, B, C and D, as well as calcium and iron. After 50, the body’s ability to absorb vitamins D and B12 slows down, something multi-vitamins for seniors can help address. 

Check the ingredients
A multi-vitamin doesn’t hold much value if it’s missing the nutrients you need. Always check the label to make sure it’s got high levels of everything your body needs.

Don’t go overboard
Go for a multi-vitamin with 100 percent of your daily recommended intake of as many nutrients as possible (some nutrients like calcium and magnesium rarely include 100 percent because it would make the pill too large). But never go for a multi-vitamin that goes beyond the daily recommended intake amounts—in large doses, some nutrients can become toxic. 

Consider diets and conditions
Individuals on a diet that cuts out entire food groups (such as vegetarian or carb-free) are more likely to be deficient in certain nutrients, as are those on a diet limited to 1,200 calories a day or fewer. Certain health conditions can also cause your body to have an increased need for certain nutrients, including cancer, diabetes, pancreatitis and others. Be aware of any special needs your body has.

Check the source
Vitamins derived from whole foods are better for the body than synthetic ones. How can you tell? Just look at the ingredients list for phrases like “derived from citrus fruits.”

Unlike food, a longer list of ingredients is better for a multivitamin, indicating a wider range of nutrient sources. If you want to take your multivitamin purity an extra mile, look for vitamins derived from organic and raw foods. 

The Best Source of Nutrients is Food

Always remember, the best source of nutrients is always natural ones—your food. Don’t use a multi-vitamin as a crutch; use it to fill the gaps where a balanced diet falls short. Follow these steps and you can take a multi-vitamin with confidence that your body’s needs are being met.