There’s a reason why multivitamins are known as dietary “supplements.” They’re meant to help supplement and complement the nutrients found in your diet.1 But every multivitamin is different. This can make it difficult to find answers to specific questions like “when is the best time to take multivitamins” or “should I take a multivitamin.” Finding the best multivitamin for you, however, is just as much about the multivitamin as it is about you. Your age, gender, life stage, and eating habits all play a role in whether or not you’re meeting the nutritional needs for each essential vitamin and mineral. Whether you are interested in vitamins for sleep support or immune health support packs, finding the right health regimen for you is crucial. So, if you’re going to find the best personalized vitamin or personalized multivitamin for you, it can help to first take a look at your diet.
Your Diet Is Your Ultimate Multivitamin
Ideally, you would get all the nutrients you need from your diet. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), following a healthy diet will help promote overall health and provide enough of the most essential nutrients.2 The DGA states that a healthy diet is one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk dairy products, lean meat, poultry, fatty fish, beans, eggs, seeds, and nuts.2 Unfortunately, the data shows that 9 out of 10 Americans don’t meet their essential nutrient needs from diet alone.3
Most Americans Don’t Meet Their Nutrient Needs From Diet Alone
Over 50% of Americans have poor-quality diets, which can leads to a substantial nutritional gap of key essential nutrients .4 Adults age 19 and over don’t consume enough of vitamins A, C, D, E or of the minerals of calcium and magnesium.5 For example:5
45% don’t consume enough Vitamin A
46% don’t consume enough Vitamin C
95% don’t consume enough Vitamin D
84% don’t consume enough Vitamin E
43% don’t consume enough Calcium
53% don’t consume enough Magnesium
Getting nutrients from your diet is the optimal choice, but it takes a lot of time and effort to change healthy eating habits and to practice a balanced diet. Not to mention that healthy food in the United States is often harder to find, less convenient, costs more money.4 Even the healthiest among us have to admit asparagus just doesn’t quite hit the spot like a bag of chips. There are a lot of reasons why we may be missing out on the essential nutrients we need every day from our diets—that’s where a dietary supplement like a daily multivitamin can help.
Multivitamins can help fill the nutrient gaps found in your diet.3 One large study showed a multivitamin mineral supplement (MVM) can virtually eliminate most nutrient gaps.6 An MVM can also lower risk of a deficiency in some nutrients.6 When taken every day for at least 3 weeks, an MVM was shown to lower deficiency risk by up to 75% for vitamins B6, B12, C, and D.6
It’s important to remember the different vitamins and minerals found (or not found) in our diet are “essential nutrients.” They’re required for almost every metabolic, developmental, and growth processes in the body, not to mention supporting our overall health throughout our lives.6 A multivitamin supplement can help ensure you’re getting the nutritional support you need—every day.†
In general, a good multivitamin should provide 100% of the Daily Value for at least 10 essential vitamins and minerals.1, 3 Technically speaking, however, there isn’t one standardized definition of a multivitamin.1 They can contain varying quality and quantities of nutrients, and some may have herbs and even phytochemicals.1 That said, there are a few basic tips that can help when choosing the best daily multivitamin for you.
Start With A Multivitamin Already Made For You
A good place to start when choosing your multivitamin is to look for a personalized multivitamin that’s already specially formulated for your life stage and gender. Many multivitamins are already separated into categories, such as Men’s, Women’s, Women 50+, Kids, Prenatal, or Postnatal.1 The dosages found in these supplements are based on the general micronutrient recommended intake for people of that gender and life stage.1
Check For Quality Statements
Make sure your multivitamin is vetted by an independent, third-party organization, such as the US Pharmacopeia (USP).1 The USP verification ensures dietary supplements meet quality standards for important measures such as identity, purity, strength, and composition.1 If this isn’t immediately obvious on the label, you should be able to find this information on the product’s website.
Make Sure Your Multivitamin Gives 100% (Of The Daily Value)
When it comes to multivitamin supplementation, your multivitamin should offer 100% of the Daily Value (nutrient requirements for healthy people) for most of the nutrients listed. Some nutrients may go higher than the Daily Value if they are shortfall nutrients, such as vitamin D.1 But because there are no rules mandating dosage levels, it’s best to double-check the label. Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium are too bulky at their Daily Value dosages to fit into a multivitamin formula and may require additional supplementation6
Do A Double Take For Dosages
The vitamin and mineral dosages provided in a multivitamin are typically well within a recommended intake range generally considered safe for healthy people.1 Some vitamins and minerals, however, have a tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). These ULs are the highest levels for daily intake of a specific nutrient that’s likely to not pose a risk of adverse health effects.7 While these ULs are pretty high, you don’t want your overall intake from foods, fortified foods, or additional supplements of a specific nutrient to go over its UL. If you are taking nutrients with dosages above the UL, make sure to work with your doctor.1
Certain medications may impair nutrient absorption and metabolism, so if you are taking multiple medications, it’s important to work with your healthcare practitioner when determining which multivitamin formula is best for you.
Dig Deep on Your Nutritional Deficiencies
If you want to find out specifically which nutrients your diet may be lacking, you can consult with a dietitian or take the vitamin quiz. If you are concerned about an actual nutrient deficiency, there are blood tests available from your health care provider. Although multivitamins are a great tool for providing the nutrients for your daily needs, higher dosages may be needed for a particular vitamin deficiency. When addressing nutrient deficiencies, work with your health care provider to help find the dose that’s right for you.
Getting The Most Out Of Your Multivitamin
Once you’ve found your dream multivitamin that’s suited specifically to your needs, there are a few tips for continuing to get the most out of it.
What Is The Best Time To Take A Multivitamin?
In general, however, you can take multivitamins at any time of day, with food for optimal absorption.
Is It Good To Take A Multivitamin Every Day?
Yes. Multivitamins work best when taken consistently and long-term. One large multivitamin study showed it worked best for decreasing nutrient inadequacies when taken daily for a minimum of 3 weeks.6
How To Remember To Take Your Multivitamin
The trick to getting the most out of your men's multivitamin or women's multivitamin lies in one word: consistency. Every day, for weeks even months at a time. Like any other habit, this may require a bit of an adjustment. Some tips that could help are:
Put your multivitamins in a visible place (kitchen counter or dining tables)
Set a reminder on your phone
Establish a ritual (after you work out or before you cook dinner)
Some people like to keep all their supplements together (if you’re taking a multivitamin and then some), while others prefer to spread them out throughout the day depending on which rituals they’ve established. Have fun creating your new routine and do whatever works for you!
Should I Take A Multivitamin?
Whether or not you want to implement a vitamin or supplement like a multivitamin into your routine is a decision only you can make. There are lots of reasons why it can be a struggle to get enough healthy food into our meals each and every day. Multivitamins are meant to be your nutritional sidekick, supplementing any micronutrients your diet is missing. They’re here to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your healthy diet, every day, and for all the other less-than-healthy-diet days in between.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Carroll is a nutrition scientist and communicator with over 25 years of experience as a clinician, researcher, and educator at major universities, medical centers, and nutrition industry settings. She is a passionate advocate of nutritional health and established the nutrition education and science platforms at Pharmavite. Carroll is an expert in personalized nutrition and has published several scientific papers on vitamin and mineral inadequacies and the impact on health and wellbeing. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Carroll taught nutrition at UCLA Medical School and Santa Monica College and was a chief clinical dietitian and researcher.
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