4 Things To Consider When Choosing A Multivitamin

by Victoria LeMaire, RD, LD

Last Updated: September 10, 2020

A multivitamin is like an insurance policy for the body - it acts as a safeguard if there are vitamin gaps in your diet. Aiming to get all your nutrients from whole foods in your kitchen instead of the medicine cabinet should be your first line of defense. But realistically, that’s not always possible. Some individuals may take a multivitamin due to being limited in food choices due to food allergies, health conditions, or dietary preferences. Additionally, there are other factors that can contribute to your body needing more nutrients than usual like pregnancy, chronic conditions, or menopause.

Choosing a multivitamin might feel overwhelming when shopping in the store as there are many to choose from. Below are guidelines to help direct you when incorporating a multivitamin into your diet. Before adding any supplements to your regimen, consult with your physician to make sure it’s the right choice for you.
  1. USP verified supplement.
    USP is a nonprofit independent organization that determines if a product contains the ingredients listed on the label (in the declared potency and amounts), does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants, and will break down and release into the body within a specified amount of time. Choosing a supplement with this verification ensures what you’re taking will be safe and absorbed in the body. USP has a particular seal that brands are able to use on products if they have gone through testing with the organization. Verify online to see if your supplements are USP verified.
  2. Nutrients
    Your body requires micronutrients to help it work at its peak function. According to the dietary guidelines of 2015-2020, nutrients consumed below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) by many Americans include potassium, dietary fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A (including beta-carotene), D (look for D2 or D3), E, and C. Additional vitamins and minerals to look for in a multivitamin include:
    • Folic acid, pantothenic acid, and biotin
    • Vitamin B6 and B12
    • Selenium and zinc
  3. Keep in mind your age and gender.
    Depending on what stage of life you’re in and what gender you are, your nutrient requirements will vary. For example, older adults will need to consume more vitamin D and calcium to help support bone health. Those who are pregnant will require higher intakes of folic acid and iron due to the varying physiological needs. A registered dietitian or physician can help determine what specific nutrients are needed based on lifestyle factors.
  4. Safety
    Taking a multivitamin can help increase overall nutrient intake in conjunction with the nutrients you consume from food sources. Generally, taking a multivitamin may not pose health risks to most individuals, but it’s important to be an informed consumer. If you typically consume food and beverages that are fortified (like cereals or drinks in which they add vitamins or minerals) along with supplements, you may be getting more than your body can use in a day. For information on safe upper levels of nutrients, visit the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

It’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t rely on a multivitamin to get all your nutrients, and aim to get them from real food first. Supplements are an added bonus, not a replacement to food. The body is designed to absorb vitamins and minerals ingested from food. Try creating a rainbow on your plate to vary the vitamins you’re incorporating before heading to the vitamin aisle.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria is a dedicated dietitian with a love for helping others develop a positive relationship with food, while setting realistic goals. Victoria has professional experience with various conditions such as strokes, diabetes and weight management. She strives to make a nutritious lifestyle attainable for all. You can catch Victoria scratch-cooking at home, trying new workouts at her local gym or spending time with her dog, Jack.