First things first: Should you even take a multivitamin at all? That’s a tricky question. Some say a multivitamin can fill the void of nutritional deficiencies, especially because many Americans aren’t getting the recommended vitamins like A, C, D and E from their diets. (A whopping 70 percent don’t get enough vitamin D, says Wellness Today.) On the other hand, news has swirled around in recent years that vitamins can be bad for our health or even cause an increased cancer risk if you take too many of them. Yet, other research has shown that multivitamins are basically doing nothing and have little or no effect on the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease or mortality in postmenopausal women.
If you do choose to take a multivitamin, it’s a good idea to do your research and check the labels, just as you would for your food. Here’s what to look for in a multivitamin:
Check the Daily Value In general, opt for a multivitamin that provides 100 percent of your Daily Value for the vitamins and minerals listed in it. However, there are some exceptions to this. For instance, your multivitamin probably contains a lot less than 100 percent of calcium and magnesium, WebMD points out, so you may have to take an additional vitamin if you aren’t getting enough of these from your diet. And keep in mind that excess of some vitamins may cause health issues.
Buy based on your specific needs Nowadays, there are multivitamins made specifically for men, women, seniors, kids and more, so you can choose one that best fits your needs. Senior vitamins may contain more vitamin D, for example, and women’s vitamins may have extra calcium, says Consumer Reports. And if you really want to personalize things, there are even vitamin subscriptions nowadays! (Read more here.) You can also choose a multivitamin based on your dietary restrictions. If you’re vegan, be aware that some multivitamins may use crushed bone meal as a source of calcium, or duodenum substances from the digestive tracts of cows and pigs, PETA cautions.
Consider whole-food vitamins If you have the budget for it, consider going organic or at least whole food-based with your multivitamin, rather than synthetic—meaning made in a lab. Whole-food vitamins, on the other hand, come from real food. U.S. News & World Reportsuggests searching the vitamin packaging for the words “whole-food multivitamin or all ingredients derived from whole foods.” Even better, you can choose organic varieties made from whole foods.
Check for an industry seal If you want to go a step further, check to see if your multivitamin passes industry standards set by organizations such as U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP), NSF International, ConsumerLab.com or UL. Vitamins approved by these organizations have been tested for contamination of arsenic, bacteria and lead (not all brands want to do the testing, though). Consumer Reports found that two vitamins among those they looked at didn’t break down properly in the dissolution test, which determines whether they will dissolve properly in a person’s body.
What do you look for in a multivitamin? Share your thoughts here.