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Whether you lead an active lifestyle, are committed to improving your overall health, or simply feel there's something lacking in your diet, vitamins provide a simple solution to help fill nutritional gaps and put some pep back into your step. When faced with the multitude of vitamin products available, however, finding your perfect match can be downright bewildering. While some consumers are happy to grab, go, and hope for the best, many don't want to be left guessing when it comes to nutritional supplements.
If you're considering adding a vitamin to your diet but have no idea where to start, we're here to help. At BestReviews, we spent hours picking apart the leading vitamins on the market to present you with our top five contenders. If you're short on time and already have some idea of what you're looking for, jump straight to our reviews above to select your product. But if you need a little help choosing the vitamin supplement that meets your unique needs, refer to our detailed guide below to find out more.
While the majority of our mothers would unanimously agree that everyone needs vitamins, this simply isn't always the case. If you eat a varied and balanced diet, you may already be receiving all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs from healthy foods – and healthy foods are the best source of vitamins to begin with.
But in today's fast-paced society, convenience often trumps balance, and even those who practice mindful eating habits may benefit from taking a multivitamin.
The American Dietetic Association’s spokeswoman, Karen Ansel, advises that people who do not take in an adequate variety of foods from the different food groups would do well to take a daily vitamin.
Chances are you could do with added vitamins if any of the following statements are true for you:
You are unable to obtain adequate vitamins through your diet alone. Whether you're on a strict weight-loss plan or simply don't have the time to eat a healthy, balanced diet, your body may be lacking essential vitamins and nutrients.
You are over the age of 60. For various reasons, many people in this age group don't get all the nutrients they need. Vitamin D, magnesium, and certain B vitamins are among the most common vitamin deficiencies found within more mature individuals.
You smoke or drink. Excessive smoking and drinking can take a toll on your health. Taking a multivitamin may help to counteract the effects caused by some of the chemicals and toxins commonly found in cigarettes and alcohol.
You are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your body naturally requires extra nutrients during pregnancy and lactation. Folic acid, calcium, and iron rank high on the list of the most essential nutrients at this time. Discussing the correct dosage with a healthcare provider is necessary for the optimal health of both you and your baby.
At the end of the day, there are countless reasons one might need to take a multivitamin. With over 40 different nutrients required daily for optimal health and wellness, it's all too easy to miss a handful (or more) of essential vitamins.
Those following restrictive or unbalanced diets can benefit greatly from taking additional vitamins.
A quick look at your local drugstore or grocery store’s vitamin aisle will reveal the myriad of nutritional supplement options available to you. Opting for a formula specifically designed to meet your specific biological needs can be helpful. Although there's a vitamin available for just about every need-set under the sun, the most common types of vitamins aimed at specific groups of people are mentioned below.
Aimed at women between the ages of 18 and 50, these vitamins are designed to not only ensure proper nutrition but also to support the added demands of the female reproductive system. For this reason, women's vitamins usually contain extra iron, calcium, and folic acid.
Women between the ages of 18 and 50 need considerably more iron than men.
Men simply don't need the same levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients as women do, and as such, the levels of these vary in gender-specific vitamins. While men generally could do with less iron, some supplements offer increased concentrations of specific ingredients which may be more beneficial to men, such as lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may help to prevent prostate cancer and heart disease.
These vitamins are geared toward those over the age of 50. Apart from not receiving the optimal concentrations of nutrients through food sources, due to a decline in appetite or inclination to prepare meals, most older individuals have a reduced capacity to absorb certain nutrients effectively. Levels of vitamin B6, B12, and D, in particular, can do with a boost as we get older, while additional calcium can help keep bones strong.
As we age, our bodies may not absorb certain nutrients as effectively, and age-appropriate multivitamins shouldn't be overlooked.
Any parent knows that getting a child to eat an adequate amount of veggies or take anything that even slightly resembles medicine can be an uphill battle. In a bid to make the process less painful for both parents and children, most manufacturers offer a variety of appealing chewable vitamin options for children.
What some parents may not realize is that certain vitamins and minerals can be toxic to children at adult dosages. For this reason, the levels of some children’s vitamins are significantly less than those found in adult varieties. As a safety measure, some manufacturers even exclude potentially harmful vitamins entirely. One example is iron, which could lead to organ failure and death in cases of severe overdose.
While the highly palatable nature of gummy vitamins is undoubtedly a godsend for many health-conscious parents, little ones will likely view them as candy – and consume them as such if given the opportunity. If you choose to give your child a multivitamin, remember to always keep them stored well out of reach and in a child-safe container.
Always refer to product labels to ensure that essential nutrients are included in the most beneficial concentrations.
Although many appear to offer similar benefits, not all vitamins are created equally. Keeping the following points in mind can drastically improve your chances of choosing the right one.
With the exception of certain nutrients like calcium and magnesium, a multivitamin should provide you with 100% of the daily value (DV) of the vitamins and minerals it contains. However, when it comes to nutrients such as calcium and magnesium, this simply isn't possible as these would add too much bulk. If you require additional calcium and magnesium and are unable to get enough from a combination of your multivitamin and diet, it may be necessary to take an additional supplement.
Look for a vitamin blend that offers 100% of the recommended daily value (DV), but keep in mind that certain nutrients like calcium and magnesium will be lower.
Age and gender are important considerations when shopping for a multivitamin, as the daily values for children and adults differ, as do the optimal formulations for the elderly. “At different stages of your life, your nutritional needs change, and a well-chosen multivitamin can ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need as you age,” advises Ansel.
Men and women also naturally require different levels of vitamins and minerals. Whereas women need more iron, folic acid, and calcium – particularly between the childbearing ages of 18 and 50 – most men don't require nearly such concentrated levels and could benefit from a multivitamin specifically formulated for men.
Not every vitamin offers a complete daily dose in a single pill. And while some people don't mind popping multiple pills, it's certainly convenient to have a “one and done” multivitamin. Checking the dosage size will help you establish whether or not you really are getting the best bang for your buck. One product option may offer a larger number of pills, capsules, or tablets than another, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're getting an extra month’s worth of nutrition.
Remember that more isn't always better. Taking too many vitamins can lead to toxic buildup.
A good multivitamin should provide all the basic vitamins and minerals. Some important vitamins and minerals to look out for are listed below.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Folic Acid (vitamin B9)
Blends vary from product to product and, of course, according to the specific type of vitamin in question. Consulting with a healthcare provider is recommended if you suspect you have a vitamin deficiency or you're unsure of the most suitable vitamin blend for your personal needs.
Not all vitamins provide a complete dose in a single pill, and some may need to be taken several times a day. If you prefer the convenience of a “one-a-day” vitamin, double-check the dosage instructions before buying.
Does it really matter whether your vitamins come from whole foods or synthetic sources? Well, yes and no. Although many may find this less-than-straightforward answer rather disappointing, the jury is still out on this one. Some argue that natural vitamins offer improved bioavailability, and we can’t fault them.
When it comes to vitamin E, for example, the body is able to absorb more vitamin E from natural sources than it is synthetic ones. On the other hand, synthetic forms of B12 are more easily absorbed by the body than natural forms of B12.
So, while the argument for either side can rage on, at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and your specific needs.
While many prefer natural vitamins, synthetic varieties are more affordable and, in most cases, equally effective.
Vitamin prices vary drastically and are dependent on a number of factors, such as quality, quantity, and type. Natural vitamins generally cost significantly more than synthetic vitamins, and you can expect to pay a little extra for well known brands, too. As there are so many different types and quantities available, the below guidelines are loosely based on a per-pill/capsule price.
Synthetic vitamins are by far the most cost-effective, and you can expect to pay anywhere from $0.06 to $0.35 per unit, blend and brand depending.
Natural vitamins can cost a pretty penny, but for many consumers, the potential benefits are well worth it. Natural vitamins generally range between $0.20 and $0.70 and upward per pill/capsule.
Why is there such a dramatic price difference between natural and synthetic vitamins? Although many assume that the significant cost hike of natural vitamins is a surefire sign of their superiority, the truth is that synthetic vitamins are simply cheaper to manufacture. While many prefer natural vitamins simply because they're, well, natural, price differences aren't always an indicator of quality.
Q. Can couples share the same multivitamin?
A. Provided you follow a healthy, balanced diet and don't suffer from any deficiencies, some would argue that there's no reason couples can't share the same multivitamin. However, women should bear in mind that they may require additional iron. Women who are pregnant, lactating, or trying to conceive are advised to take prenatal vitamins to support the added demands placed on their bodies during these times.
Q. Are expensive vitamins more effective?
A. Not necessarily. While well-known dietary supplement brands are trusted for using verified ingredients, lesser-known brands can be every bit as effective, provided they include essential ingredients and are verified by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP).
Q. If one dose a day is good, does that mean two or three would be even better?
A. As with anything in life, it's always possible to get too much of a good thing. Taking too many vitamins can lead to toxic levels of vitamin buildup. To avoid the harmful effects of vitamin overdose, it's best to stay within the limits of the recommended daily/dietary allowance (RDA) unless otherwise advised by a healthcare provider.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.