You know the usual advice about staying healthy: stay physically active, eat a nutritious, balanced diet and get enough z’s. But what about taking a vitamin every day? Do you need to add a daily multivitamin to your lifestyle? As you ask the question, “Should I take a multivitamin?” it’s important to think about your diet, lifestyle and health needs. This article can help you explore the question of whether a multivitamin could benefit you as well as the difference between a multivitamin and individual vitamins.
How do you know if you should take a daily multivitamin?
Looking at your diet and lifestyle can help you answer the question, “Should I take a multivitamin?” A great place to start is taking our vitamin quiz to identify any nutrient gaps due to your diet, lifestyle, environment and other factors. So, what is a nutrient gap? A nutrient gap refers to the difference between the recommended intake for a vitamin or a mineral and how much of it you’re regularly getting in your diet.
If you discover any gaps after taking the quiz, taking a multivitamin or individual vitamin supplement every day can be a convenient and effective way to help you meet daily nutritional needs.
Multivitamin vs individual vitamins: What’s the difference?
Depending on your diet, life stage, lifestyle and environment, you may need a multivitamin to fill nutritional gaps. You may end up also needing additional individual personalized vitamins and supplements. However, what’s the difference between a multivitamin vs individual vitamins and supplements? And how do we know if a multivitamin meets our needs or if we need any additional vitamins and supplements?
You can think of a multivitamin as the swiss army knife of the supplement world. Multivitamins are a collection of essential vitamins and minerals in daily doses that may help meet your basic needs to support your overall health and wellness. The goal is to eat a healthy diet to meet these daily needs, but diets often fall short. When this happens, a multivitamin can help fill these gaps.
You can find specific multivitamin formulas for different ages, genders and life stages. However, sometimes a multivitamin doesn’t provide enough of the important nutrients your body needs. Your nutrient needs are affected by your life stage, lifestyle and environment, and individual vitamins and supplements can help when you have a nutrient gap due to any of these factors. Our vitamin quiz can help you find out which multivitamin will work for you, and if you need additional individual vitamins and supplements.
The vitamins you find in multivitamins and individual supplements offer many benefits.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that supports the immune system, neutralizes free radicals and aids in iron absorption. †
The B vitamins are also water-soluble vitamins, and they support cellular energy production and help support normal nervous system function. †
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s the ultimate utility player, as it supports bone, teeth, muscle and immune health. Vitamin K works with Vitamin D to help support healthy bones †
Vitamin E is another powerful, fat-soluble vitamin, and it helps to neutralize free radicals in the body. †
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in supporting healthy vision. †
As for minerals, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc are among the most common you will see.
Calcium works with vitamin D to support bone health. †
Iron plays a vital role in red blood cell formation, which is important for women of reproductive age. †
Magnesium plays many roles in the body, including supporting bone health, supporting nerve and muscle function, and converting food into energy. †
Zinc is known for supporting a healthy immune system and normal growth and development. †
It is recommended to take multivitamins and individual vitamins with food. Doing so helps with the absorption of the nutrients and avoid stomach upset.
What do you need to consider when selecting a multivitamin formulation?
As you look for a multivitamin, you’ll likely notice that there are many different formulas available. It’s easy to find the right multivitamin for you when you think about your age and gender.
For example, women and men have different needs when it comes to the mineral iron. Women of reproductive age also have different iron intake requirements than women over the age of 50. Women of reproductive age need 18 mg of iron each day, but adult men and women over the age of 50 only need 8 mg. Because it’s possible to get 8 mg of iron from a healthy diet, most multivitamins for men and women over age 50 don’t contain an iron supplement. In contrast, multivitamins for women under 50 should contain at least 18 mg of iron.
The nutrients in multivitamins provide varying benefits. These multivitamins may contain fish oil to support a healthy heart with vitamin D3 to support bone, teeth, muscle and immune health. You may also find that these multivitamins contain the mineral chromium, which may help with carbohydrate metabolism and utilization.†
Women who are pregnant or who are thinking about conceiving are probably familiar with prenatal vitamins. This is a special type of multivitamin that delivers the essential nutrients that mothers-to-be and their babies need. Some of the most common nutrients in prenatal vitamins include folic acid, iron, vitamin D and iodine, as well as omega-3 fatty acid DHA to help support brain and eye development in babies during pregnancy. †
Postnatal vitamins are also available for mothers who are breastfeeding their babies. These daily multivitamins contain DHA and important B vitamins that support cellular energy production. The goal of postnatal vitamins is to help support the health of breastfeeding mothers as well as the health and development of their growing babies. †
“Should I take a multivitamin?” The final takeaway
It’s always best to get your vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet, but it’s not always easy to do. Thankfully, this is where a multivitamin and/or individual vitamins and supplements can come into play. They can help fill in any gaps and ensure that you get the nutrients you need to support health and wellness. †
† 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.