In a perfect world, we’d eat “five to seven cups of vegetables per day and a wide variety of brightly colored produce” to get the nutrients we need, according to naturopathic doctor Kate Denniston. But in our imperfect lives, multivitamins can be a smart “safety net,” as registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition Amy Shapiro says. That’s an opinion seconded by Jennifer Maeng, a registered dietitian and founder of Chelsea Nutrition, who sees them as an “insurance policy, filling potential gaps in the diet.”
There is one caveat to consider, however: The efficacy of multivitamins is not exactly agreed upon in the medical community. “Most trials and studies show no (or a modest) effect of multivitamins in the general population,” says Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of health science at Ball State University. And naturopath Ashley Margeson stresses that “multivitamins should always be approached as an addition to your regular nutrition, not the whole thing.”
To get the most out of any multivitamins you take, it’s important to choose the very best ones you can find in your budget. And before you start stocking up on supplements, consult your doctor rather than picking whatever you find first at your local Walgreens. To help you even more, we asked Denniston, Shapiro, Maeng, Margeson, and seven other doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists for their favorite multivitamins as well as those they would recommend for different age groups and specific needs. If you already know what you’re looking for, you can click through the table of contents below to skip ahead. Otherwise, keep reading for every one of our expert recommendations.
Best overall for women | Best subscription-based for women | Best overall for men | Best for senior men | Best for senior women | Best for sensitive stomachs | Best lower-dose | Best overall gummy | Best vegan gummy
What we’re looking for
Third-party certifications: The market for vitamins can be, well, rather complicated. Vitamins aren’t regulated by the FDA, so they don’t have the same strict regulations as, say, prescription drugs — instead, they’re seen as “generally safe until proven otherwise,” Maeng explains. Shapiro suggests choosing options that have been third-party tested “to make sure they contain what they say they contain.” Leann Poston, a physician and medical-content expert for Invigor Medical, suggests checking products for the seal from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Another thing to check for is the National Science Foundation’s Good Manufacturing Practices (NSF-GMP) certification, which naturopath Maura Henninger recommended when we went in search of the best drugstore vitamins. Labels like USP and NSF mean that a company has voluntarily gone “through rigorous audit processes to evaluate the quality of products,” Maeng points out.
Easily absorbable ingredients: Another way to assess multivitamin quality is to check that the vitamins inside are in their bioactive forms, which will be completely absorbed and used by your body. Typically, multivitamins will contain vitamins A through E, along with other metals and minerals (think calcium, copper, and iron), explains Nicole Sohayegh, a registered dietitian with New York City Nutrition. Margeson says you want to see vitamin A listed as beta-carotene; iron as a citrate or other ferrous fumarate, sulfate, or gluconate; and folate as L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5 MTHF. “If these three ingredients are in the bioactive forms, then you can be sure most of the other ingredients are also bioactive,” she says. In addition, Poston advises shoppers to “look for multivitamins without additives such as herbs, dyes, and fillers.” All of the multivitamins on this list were recommended for their high-quality, absorbable ingredients.
Designed for specific needs: Different people need different amounts of nutrients, according to Maeng — for example, iron and B12 are important for people who menstruate because they make essential red blood cells (not having enough of them can cause anemia). Since lots of blood can be lost during that time of the month, a multivitamin can help replenish iron and B12, which are essential for reproductive health and energy in general, Maeng says. And according to Morgan, multivitamins may be even more essential for older adults, because “as we age, the body can’t absorb quite as many nutrients as when we were young.” Miller suggests age-specific vitamins that include “higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, and B vitamins.”
Type of vitamin: If you were a fan of Flintstones vitamins in your youth, here’s some good news: The market for gummy multivitamins has “truly exploded during the last few years,” according to Margeson. Gummy vitamins are an appealing option if you don’t like tablets and capsules. “They are easier to chew for certain populations, and everyone is more compliant with taking them because swallowing pills is difficult,” says gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal. But if you’re adding gummy multivitamins to your day-to-day menu, you’ll want to keep in mind their one downfall: They tend not to have the same levels of minerals as most tablets or capsules, Margeson says. Registered dietitian Robin Barrie Kaiden also mentions being wary of gummies made with lots of sugar, corn syrup, or highly processed unhealthy oils like partially hydrogenated soybean oil (watch out for what’s listed on those back labels).
The more traditional forms of multivitamins are tablets and capsules, both of which are taken orally and deliver nutrients through digestion. There are a few differences between the two, however, that can make one or the other more preferable depending on your lifestyle and your needs. Tablets are made up of powdered ingredients that are formed into a hard pill. They have a longer shelf life than capsules and can be broken in half. They can also fit more vitamins and minerals in a single pill than can usually fit into one capsule. Capsules, meanwhile, tend to absorb more quickly and more effectively than tablets. And if you hate the taste of your tablet vitamins, switching to a capsule will help you avoid any bitter taste. Lastly, if you are vegan, you’ll want to check that your capsule vitamins don’t contain gelatin.
Dose per day: Taking three pills every morning might not bother you if your multivitamin is all you take on a daily basis. But if you’re regularly taking other medications, it can all start to add up to a queasy stomach. So for those people who really care about the number of tablets, capsules, or gummies needed to get the full dose of any given multivitamin, we’ve noted the daily dose for each product below.
Best overall multivitamin for women
NSF certified | Good for women | Capsule | 4 per day
Maeng recommends Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code since it contains an adequate amount of both B12 and iron. It’s a brand that Kaiden is a fan of too. Maeng warns to be careful of vitamins with iron as they can cause constipation, but these also include probiotics for optimal gut health to counteract those side effects. They are gluten free, kosher, free of binders and fillers, and NSF-certified.
Best subscription-based multivitamin for women
USP certified | Good for women | Vegan capsule | 2 per day
When it comes to multivitamins made specifically for women, Molly Knauer, registered dietitian and Love Wellness adviser, is a fan of the products from Ritual, a direct-to-consumer vitamin-maker that offers monthly subscriptions. “I like that Ritual has different options for women depending on their life stage,” she says. The Essential contains iron, which women lose during menstruation, but not calcium, which Knauer likes because “calcium interferes with iron absorption.” For post-menopausal women, she suggests the brand’s Essential for Women 50+ formula, which “has extra omega-3s and folate for brain health and more calcium, K2, and D3 for bone health.”
Best overall multivitamin for men
USP certified | Good for men | Tablet | 1 per day
Men’s multivitamins are typically formulated to support muscle health, immune health, and a healthy metabolism. Maeng approves of this Nature Made multivitamin for men since it’s USP-certified and contains 22 key nutrients without things that men need less of, like iron. It’s also gluten free and free of artificial colors or flavors. As a bonus, you only need to take one tablet a day.
Best multivitamin for senior men
No USP or NSF certification | Good for men 50+ | Tablet | 1 per day
Both the men’s and women’s One a Day 50+ multivitamins, which Miller and Sonpal recommend, contain calcium and vitamin D, a powerful combo for keeping aging bones strong. “Vitamin D and calcium work to keep your bones healthy,” Miller says. “Calcium helps build bone, but vitamin D helps you better absorb calcium.”
Best multivitamin for senior women
No USP or NSF certification | Good for women 50 + | Tablet | 1 per day
The main difference between the men’s and the women’s One a Day 50+ multivitamins is that the women’s contains more calcium to help combat osteoporosis, as well as more vitamin A, which most doctors recommend more of for senior women. Both formulations are free of gluten, dairy, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners.
Best multivitamin for sensitive stomachs
No USP or NSF certification | Good for most adults | Capsule | 3 per day
Despite its lack of a USP or NSF certification, Margeson calls Pure Encapsulations’ Nutrient 950 multivitamin “one of the best multivitamins on the market,” thanks to its highly absorbable forms of vitamins and minerals. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Nicole German Morgan agrees, praising the multivitamin for not having any artificial coloring or harmful additives — plus it’s gluten free, non-GMO, and hypoallergenic.
Best lower-dose multivitamin
No USP or NSF certification | Good for most adults | Capsule | 2 per day
One downside of the Nutrient 950 multivitamin above is that you’ll have to take three capsules per day to get the full amount of vitamins and minerals listed on the ingredient label. As a “close second” to the first Pure Encapsulations formula mentioned above, Margeson recommends Thorne’s multivitamin because it includes “the right dose of the critically important nutrients for our stressful lives,” like B6, B5, zinc, and chromium, “without overloading on the vitamins that are so easily accessed by our food,” such as magnesium and vitamin C. So it supplies some of what might be deficient in our diets. “The bonus with Thorne is that it comes in two easy capsules per day, as opposed to the three of Pure Encapsulations,” she says.
Best overall gummy multivitamin
USP-certified | Good for most adults | Gummy | 2 per day
Of course, gummy vitamins are an appealing option if you don’t like tablets and capsules. “They are easier to chew for certain populations, and everyone is more compliant with taking them because swallowing pills is difficult,” says gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal. Registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller, a member of the Smart Healthy Living advisory board, likes these Nature Made gummies, which have the added boost of omega-3 fatty acids.
Best vegan gummy multivitamin
No USP or NSF certification | Good for most adults | Gummy | 2 per day
Canadian brand Honibe is one of the brands Margeson prefers. “Their gummy multivitamins have no aftertaste, and they have a great amount of B6, B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, and folic acid,” she says. They are also vegan and free of gelatin.
• Naturopathic doctor Kate Denniston
• Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition
• Jennifer Maeng, registered dietitian and founder of Chelsea Nutrition
• Naturopath Ashley Margeson
• Leann Poston, physician and medical-content expert for Invigor Medical
• Naturopath Maura Henninger
• Nicole Sohayegh, registered dietitian with New York City Nutrition
• Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of health science at Ball State University
• Molly Knauer, registered dietitian and Love Wellness adviser
• Registered dietitian and nutritionist Nicole German Morgan
• Registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller, a member of the Smart Healthy Living advisory board
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