What is the purpose of taking a multivitamin?
A multivitamin can address nutritional gaps in your diet, making it a great option for people who are deficient in certain vitamins. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiency around the world—typically from nutrients like iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and C.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are just that – supplemental – so it’s important not to overdo it. News has swirled around in recent years that dietary supplements can be detrimental to one’s health, and can even cause an increased risk of cancer if you ingest high levels of them.
If you do choose to take a multivitamin, it’s important that you speak with your personal physician or nutritionist to discuss the type of dietary supplement and dosage that will best complement your body type and lifestyle. From there, you can do your own research and check labels, just as you would in your grocery shopping!
Different types of multivitamins:
Multivitamins vary in what’s included and in what amounts, so taking your own nutritional needs into consideration is important. Some of the most common multivitamin supplements include the following:
- Omega-3 Fish Oil - This essential fatty acid has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce triglycerides, preventing heart disease and stroke.
- Vitamin D – This isan essential vitamin that the body needs to absorb calcium and build strong bones, teeth, and muscles.
- Vitamin B12 –This nutrient helps the body maintain healthy nerve and blood cells in order to make DNA. It also helps prevent anemia, a medical condition that make you feel weak and tired.
- Iron –A mineral that your body needs to produce hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to all areas of the body.
Considering trying a multivitamin? Here are some things to consider:
Check the Daily Value (DV).
The Daily Value is the level of vitamin and nutrients that the product contains in relation to a 2,000-calorie diet. You’ll likely want to choose a multivitamin that provides as close to 100 percent of the DV as possible for the vitamins and minerals listed in it. If your typical diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables (good sources of vitamins A, C, and E), a 100 percent DV can help you reach the recommended intake in these areas.
If your diet is already balanced, avoid overdoing it with supplements, as nutrients can build up in the body and become toxic. These include fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. As an example, excess vitamin A built up in the body (often from animal products) has been shown to cause migraines or bone pain.
Buy based on your specific needs.
Nowadays, there are multivitamins made specifically for men, women, seniors, and children, adapted to fit specific needs according to body type, hormonal function, and healthy development.
1. Women’s vitamins
Women’s dietary supplements will typically include calcium, as women can start to lose bone density in their twenties. Biotin is another helpful nutrient made up of water-soluble B vitamins that improve dry or brittle skin, hair, and nails.
During pregnancy, prenatal vitamins which usually include folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, and iodine are recommended. These nutrients promote healthy growth and development and have been shown to prevent birth defects. Iron, in particular, is beneficial for when a woman is lactating after pregnancy.
2. Men’s vitamins
Men require a lot of vitamin D in order to produce testosterone, as well as to support brain health and maintain strong bones. Most supplements will include the active form of folate, an easily digested B vitamin, that supports red blood cell health, and vitamin K, which promotes proper blood clotting.
3. Senior vitamins
Older adults may benefit from a higher intake of vitamin D, supporting skeletal health and reducing injuries from falls. They may also need a boost of vitamin B12, since adults over the age of 50 may have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food. Potassium is another key nutrient that can aid in lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk for chronic disease development as one ages.
4. Children’s vitamins
Children’s multivitamins focus on healthy growth and development, and are especially helpful for picky eaters. One of the most crucial nutrients for kids is vitamin A, necessary for tissue and bone repair as well as a healthy immune system. Calcium is also key, as it is the building block of the skeletal system. Children’s supplements may also include vitamins B12 and D for optimal brain development.
Consider whole-food vitamins.
Your body thrives when you nourish it with products made from whole foods. If you have the budget, you may want to consider buying organic or whole-food based multivitamins rather than synthetic multivitamins. These vitamins are higher quality and free of chemicals that may be difficult for the body to absorb. Whole-food vitamins are condensed from real fruits and vegetables from which the nutrients are more bioavailable, meaning that the body has an easier time absorbing and assimilating the nutrients than from their synthetic counterparts.
Check for an industry seal.
You can check to see if your multivitamin passes industry standards by looking for an industry seal from 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.
These types of tests can also help determine if vitamins will dissolve properly in your body. The USP, for example, immerses the vitamins in a simulated stomach acid solution to make sure that they will be effective as a dietary supplement.
Focus on your diet over supplementation.
A multivitamin should be a supportive addition to your health routine rather than becoming the primary source of essential vitamins and minerals. Your body will feel and function at its best when you eat a well-rounded nutritious diet, giving you the best chance at dissolving nutrients efficiently and obtaining the most bioavailable version of the vitamins present. Making a habit of eating whole-foods is a sustainable and less expensive way of getting the nutrients that your body needs. It’s also a great way to crowd out less nutritional food choices, as you will be prioritizing foods that provide the nourishment you need to improve and maintain your health.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program curriculum covers these foundational nutrition concepts, as well as dives deeper into more advanced nutrition science, to provide a well-rounded health education. Download the Curriculum Guide today to gain an understanding of the many factors that contribute to creating holistic health.