Multivitamin and multimineral supplements fill the nutrient gaps in a less-than-perfect diet and provide a firm foundation for your other healthy lifestyle choices. Whether you’re a one-a-day kind of person or are really looking to be therapeutic with your supplement intake, a quality multi is a smart daily choice. But how can you tell one multi from the next?
Here are five things to look for when shopping for the best multivitamin for you.
Daily Value is the quantity of a vitamin or mineral that government researchers have determined is the minimum you need to ward off a nutrient-deficiency disease.
For example, you need between 75 and 90 milligrams per day of vitamin C to not get scurvy—that age-old pirate gum disease. But there’s a chasm between the amount of vitamin C you need so you don’t get diseased and the amount you’d like to get to experience optimal living conditions. So don’t be afraid of nutrients that meet or exceed the 100% Daily Value.
What’s with the * next to some numbers? The asterisk means there is no Daily Value set for these ingredients, such as herbs, CoQ10 or omega-3 fats. Chances are, if you want a therapeutic dose of these nutrients, you’ll have to buy them separately. Also, beware the “pixie dust” effect— trendy ingredients added (and sometimes touted on the package) but actually present in insignificant doses.
In the past, there was a single, one-a-day multivitamin for everyone. Today, savvy supplement makers create different kinds for men and women. There are also multis for children, teens, pregnant women, seniors and more. It’s time to get personal with your multis. Start by finding one that is tailored to your gender and age.
Pills per serving
You may be OK with taking a multi that has six capsules per serving (three in the morning and three with dinner). But if taking a supplement just once a day is more your style, have it with dinner instead of breakfast. That’s because dinner is the meal that traditionally has more fat, and fat from your food will help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients (vitamin A, D, E and K) better. If you’d rather take your multi in the mornings, however, or if you tend to skip breakfast, consider eating a tiny bit of healthy fat when you take your multi, such as a spoonful of peanut butter.
Natural is better
The natural form of vitamin E is absorbed twice as well as synthetic, but it’s really hard to tell the difference. On supplement labels, natural vitamin E is listed as “d-alpha-tocopherol” while synthetic is “dl-alpha-tocopherol.” Did you notice that lowercase “l” in there?
These are nonnutritive fillers listed under the Supplement Facts box. They carry names like magnesium stearate and stearic acid.
These ingredients keep tablets intact, fill capsule space or facilitate how the ingredients flow through the manufacturing machinery to make more pills faster. But none of them do anything for your health, which is the reason you’re taking a multivitamin in the first place. Look for cleaner “binder” ingredients (such as coconut oil, rice or tapioca syrup) found in natural brands that don’t sound like chemicals.