Eating a balanced diet is the best way to ensure proper vitamin and mineral consumption; however it is often difficult to maintain a proper, nutrient-rich diet. Nutritionists recommend the consumption of approximately 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Most people do not get the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals, even if they are consuming the suggested daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Modern farming practices, mass food production, high levels of food processing, and the use of dangerous pesticides and growth hormones have reduced the nutrient density of foods found in today’s supermarkets. Cooking foods can also destroy valuable vitamins and minerals. So how does one go about ensuring they get enough daily nutrients? By making healthier, educated food choices and supplementing that with a daily multivitamin.
How to Choose a Multivitamin
Narrowing down which multivitamin to take can be difficult with so many nutritional supplement choices on the market. Below is a general guideline on selecting a suitable and effective vitamin supplement. Knowing some multivitamin basics can make the selection process less confusing.
Select a Multivitamin That Meets Daily Needs
Scan the label and make sure that the supplement contains at least 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of the below mentioned vitamins:
B6 (at least 100 mg)
Vitamins C, D and E (less than 100 mg of Vitamin E)
Beware of Overloading on Certain Vitamins and Supplements
More is not always better, and mega-amounts of some supplements can be dangerous. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means they are stored in the body for longer periods of time. Too much of these vitamins can result in toxicity, or vitamin overload. Caution should also be taken with regards to over-consumption of iron, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc.
How to Choose a Multivitamin Brand
As the vitamin industry in North America is not regulated, many vitamin products do not necessarily contain all the nutrients as claimed on the label. It is therefore important for consumers to make educated choices when it comes to multivitamin supplements. Some items to look for on the label to ensure the multivitamin is of the highest quality include:
Look for the USP Stamp: This means the vitamin has been evaluated and meets certain criteria by the U.S. Pharmacopeia Organization, a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization that tests supplements if the manufacturer requests it and pays for the service. Vitamins with a USP stamp have certain standardized levels of purity, safety, quality and content.
Enteric Coating: Look for vitamins that are “enteric coated” to improve absorption levels.
Product Freshness: Check for an expiry date to ensure the supplements are fresh. If there is no expiry date, do not purchase.
Toxic Testing: Vitamin products should be tested for toxic substances such as lead or mercury, which will be indicated on the label.
Choose Organic: Select vitamins that have been manufactured with organic ingredients if possible.
Select a Separate Calcium Supplement
As calcium is bulky, the daily recommended amount cannot fit into a single multivitamin capsule, thus a separate calcium supplement should be taken daily. Generally, 1100 to 1200 mg is the recommended amount of calcium intake per day.
Consider Age and Gender When Choosing a Multivitamin
Women and men have different nutritional needs at different stages in their lives. Many vitamin manufacturers take this into account, and adjust the formula accordingly, offering a variety of choices based on specific gender and age-related needs.
Multivitamins are Not a Food Substitute
It is important to note that while multivitamins are a great addition to a well-rounded diet, they should not be treated as a replacement for healthy foods, but rather to fill in the nutritional gaps in one’s daily diet.