In a perfect world, as naturopathic doctor Kate Denniston says, we’d all eat “five to seven cups of vegetables per day and a wide variety of colored produce,” allowing everyone to get their essential nutrients from food. If you’re anything like us, though, that’s often more of an ideal than a reality. That’s why Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition, considers a multivitamin a smart “safety net.” She generally recommends them to “individuals who do not consume a balanced diet, are traveling a lot, [or] students who may not eat as well as they should.” Which is to say, lots of us.
Vitamins aren’t regulated by the FDA, so 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, advises shoppers to “look for multivitamins without additives such as herbs, dyes, and fillers [and] look for the seal from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).” Another certification you can check for is the National Science Foundation’s Good Manufacturing Practices (NSF-GMP), which naturopath Maura Henniger recommended when we went in search of the best drugstore vitamins. Below, we’ve rounded up some of our experts’ favorites. There is one caveat, 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. Also, before you start taking any multivitamin, consult your doctor.
Best multivitamins for most people
Along with looking for third-party testing, 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. According to naturopath Ashley Margeson, you want to see vitamin A listed as beta-carotene; iron as a citrate or other ferrous fumarate, sulphate, 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. She calls Pure Encapsulations’ Nutrient 950 multivitamin “the best one on the market right now.”
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. Registered dietitian nutritionist Nicole German Morgan agrees that Pure Encapsulations “contains the more absorbable forms of vitamins and minerals.” She prefers this formula because “you only have to take one capsule per day.”
For something more affordable that can easily be found at your local drugstore, Poston says USP-approved Nature Made vitamins are also a good choice.
Best gummy multivitamin
Gummy vitamins are also an option, especially if you don’t like taking pills. “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 multivitamin for women
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 newcomer in the vitamin game 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 multivitamins for older adults
Multivitamins may be even more essential for older adults, since, Morgan says, “as we age, the body can not 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.” 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.”
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