Many of us grew up being served multivitamins in delicious, chewable forms, sometimes shaped as Flinstone characters, sometimes as caramel squares, sometimes as gummies. But whatever form they came in, you’d take them, because your parents picked them out. The hard work was done for you, and you got to enjoy the benefits (which, at that age, were mainly the good taste of the multivitamins or a small reward promised for taking them).
Now, you’re an adult, and it seems everyone around you takes some sort of multivitamin. But how do you know which one is the right choice for you? Is it a multivitamin for women? Is it a vegan multivitamin? And does your age matter? Here are the important factors to consider when selecting the multivitamin that’ll result in the most benefits for you.
Men’s vs. Women’s: Does It Matter?
An easy way to narrow some of your options is to start by choosing between multivitamins for men, multivitamins for women, or just multivitamins. If you choose a generic multivitamin, it’s unlikely you’ll see negative side effects as a result of that choice. But multivitamins that align with your sex exist for a reason; adult men and women have different health and nutrient needs. For example, women typically need more iron in their diets than men, while men may want to emphasize getting more lycopene in their diets to help support and maintain prostate function. Overall, men and women have some different organs and bodily functions, and with those differences come different nutrient needs. A multivitamin that’s specific to your sex will help target those nutrient needs better than a generic multivitamin.
Age Is (Not) Just A Number
When it comes to multivitamins, unfortunately age does matter. Much like with multivitamins for women and multivitamins for men, there’s a generic option that exists, but there’s a reason age-specific ones do, too. At different stages in our lives, our health needs can vary greatly. A rapidly-growing high schooler is going to require a very different diet and nutrient make-up than someone who’s been retired for a decade, and both of those individuals have very different health needs than a four year old. For example, that four year old shouldn’t be taking a multivitamin with more than 100 percent of the daily value of the nutrients it contains – unless their doctor specifically recommends such a dosage. Meanwhile, adults may want an adult multivitamin to support bone health as they age, and seniors may want one to increase their Vitamin B12 intake, as the body absorbs that particular vitamin less efficiently as people age.
Your Diet – And What It’s Missing
Once you’ve narrowed down your multivitamin choice by sex and age, there’s still a plethora of options out there, as each brand of multivitamin seems to contain a different blend of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. So the next step is to consider which of those nutrients might be missing from your everyday diet, or which you might not quite get enough of. An example of this is omega-3 fatty acids. Humans can’t produce these on our own, so we rely on our diets for intake, and hopefully we eat enough fish and brussels sprouts to get enough. But if you select a multivitamin that contains omega-3s as well as the other vitamin and minerals, you can go about your life with confidence that you’re getting this super nutrient that supports cardiovascular health, eye health, mental health, and more. This is particularly important for those who follow a vegan diet, as many people rely on fish or fish oil for their omega-3 intake. Iron is another mineral to consider; as we mentioned above, it’s particularly important for women, and therefore if you’re shopping for a multivitamin for women, you may want to check out the iron content or ensure that it contains iron at all. It also can be a tough mineral to get enough of if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as the body absorbs significantly more iron from meats than it does from vegetables.
Another consideration for vegetarians and vegans is which multivitamins contain animal products. Looking back at omega-3s, if you’re looking for a multivitamin that contains omega-3s but you follow a vegan diet, you’ll want to make sure those omega-3s are from algae and not from fish oil or krill oil. Vitamin D is another one you’ll want to look out for, as it’s often derived from animal sources, but can also come from vegan sources like lichen. Overall, diet is a major factor in your multivitamin selection as you take into consideration not only dietary restrictions that a multivitamin must comply with, but also the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your diet is missing and that you’re hoping to compensate for by taking supplements.
Specific Health Needs or Conditions
The next factor to take into consideration will likely come from your doctor or health provider. Do you have specific needs right now that require you to get more of a specific vitamin, mineral, or a handful of each? For example, pregnant women or women attempting to become pregnant are often some of the most frequent consumers of multivitamins for women – but in this case, you’d probably even opt for prenatal vitamins, a specific blend of multivitamins that support the body as it prepares and goes through the phases of pregnancy. Particular multivitamins also may be recommended for those who have recently undergone a surgery, or for those who regularly undergo rigorous physical activity, or for those who were simply born with a condition that requires them to keep up with supplemental vitamin and mineral intake. Typically, if your lifestyle or health needs require you to take a multivitamin, your doctor will let you know and help you select which multivitamin contains the right blend of nutrients for you.
The Bottom Line
Multivitamins can be an excellent way to support and maintain physical and mental health, and while the sheer amount of options may make things confusing as you begin to make your selection, there’s a reason for all the choices. Multivitamins provide a one-stop shop for you to get your nutrient needs, but as you can see from reading the above, not everyone is after the same blend of nutrients. So before you grab the first bottle you see that says “multivitamin” on it, take the above factors into consideration. And if possible, chat with your primary care physician about what they might suggest.