One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Do I need to take a multivitamin?” As an NTP, I always recommend starting with the foundation of a nutrient-dense whole-food diet – with a balance of veggies, fruits, quality proteins & healthy fats. That being said, the inevitable stressors & demands of our modern life often lead me to respond with a tentative yes. And the answer to the inevitable follow-up question is often much more involved. “Which one is best?” That depends – on your unique bio-individual needs & your health status.
I can’t stress enough is how important it is to choose wisely! A cheaply made, low quality multivitamin is literally money down the drain, and could even do more harm than good.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciphering between the multitude of multis…
FORM AFFECTS FUNCTION.
It’s a good general rule of thumb to avoid multis in tablet form. More often than not, they’re made into tablet form using extreme pressure and heat, a process that can prevent easy breakdown in your gut, and also degrades some of the nutrients. If you’re confident in your current tablet, consider crushing it or chewing it (before swallowing) to help with digestion and absorption.
KNOW THE SOURCE.
Big Pharma is in the business of selling drugs. These guys are the last source I’d rely on for preventive health & wellness. Some of the most common ones on the market are Centrum by Pfizer and One a Day by Bayer. If you’re unfamiliar with a brand, do some digging… or reach out to your friendly, neighborhood NTP! 😉
SCAN FOR SUGAR.
Multivitamins are not food, just as sugar is not a vitamin. Multivitamins shouldn’t contain sugar, and aren’t intended to taste good. Their sole purpose is to supplement your less than ideal diet and lifestyle with added support… not to satisfy cravings. Watch for sugar in any of its sneaky forms, like maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, sucrose, ethyl maltol, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. (the list goes on!). In some cases, children’s multis may contain some sweetener for palatability, but even then the source of the sweetener should be carefully scrutinized.
BEWARE OF BINDERS.
All tablet forms of multis contain binders… and for the most part, the majority are considered safe. However, they’re also one of the main reasons you may not be digesting and absorbing the vitamins & minerals (and instead, flushing them down the toilet). There are a few specific binders that are NOT safe for consumption: hydrogenated oils, talc (magnesium silicate), titanium dioxide, and propylene glycol. These should never be in your multivitamin.
AVOID ANYTHING ARTIFICIAL.
Beware of artificial colors or other synthetic chemicals. Big Pharma loves these. Some examples: Centrum contains coloring agents like FD&C Blue No. 2 Aluminum Lake and FD&C Red No. 40 Aluminum Lake, both of which may be toxic. Children’s multis, like Flintstones, also have these nasty additives.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV or in real life. With that in mind, here are a few of the more researched and widely agreed upon guidelines for things to look for in a multivitamin:
- Real Vitamin A in the form of Retinol, Retinal, & Retinyl Esters; not just Beta-Carotene
- A complete complex of Vitamin E or Mixed Tocopherols (d-alpha, d-beta, d-delta, and d-gamma)
- Real Folate; not the synthetic form, Folic Acid
- Very little or no Iron unless you are anemic or premenopausal
- Vitamin D in the form of D3 (Cholecalciferol); not D2 (Ergocalciferol)
- Active B12 in the form of Methylcobalamin; not Cyanocobalamin
- Iodine (unless you’re sensitive to it or have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s)
- A complete complex of these B-Vitamins: Methylcobalamin (B12), Folate (B9), Pyridoxine (B6), Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin or Niacinamide (B3), Biotin (B7), and Pantothenic Acid (B5)
To add to the already vast array of factors you should consider when attempting to choose the BEST multivitamin for YOU, you also should know that the efficacy is not solely determined by its quality. A supplement (vitamin, mineral, etc.) won’t improve your health if your body isn’t healthy enough to digest & absorb it, or if you don’t have right cofactors.
Taking a multivitamin is just one approach to improving health, and may or may not be the right choice for you. The best way to know is to work with a professional who can evaluate your individual needs, health status, preferences, & lifestyle, and help you develop the most effective and safe plan to make the most of your resources (aka time, money, energy). Ready to dig deeper into what will work best for YOU? Send me a note.