Multi-vitamins are available in all different formulas and manufacturers, and standing in the vitamin aisle looking at all those bottles can be as scary as a new parent standing in the diaper aisle, wondering which one is best? How do you know what to look for? We can break it down into a few easy and simple steps.

1 – Look at the “Other Ingredients” list. This is below the list of vitamins and RDA percentages, usually at the bottom in small print. This list should be very short. It’s essentially a compilation of all the things vitamin manufacturers add as fillers, capsule materials, and binders. Most of these are safe (like cellulose, magnesium stearate, and soy lecithin). However, if you look at the labels in your typical grocery store brand, you will see an inordinately long list, and things like artificial colors. I have even seen shellac on the label. I cringe because these things are added to make tablets pretty and shiny, but do your intestines need to be bright red and covered in shellac? Ewwww.
2 – Not all Calcium or Magnesium is created equally. When you look at these things on the label, avoid calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide. Other forms are ok, such as calcium citrate or magnesium aspartate, or a host of others. You need to avoid both calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide for the same reason – your body does not absorb them very well AT ALL. So, you are (quite literally) flushing your money down the drain with this one. They are very commonly used because they are very cheap for the manufacturers to buy, but cheap vitamins don’t save you any money in the long run if you can’t absorb them and get that benefit.
3 – You should get at least 100% RDA of most of the vitamins on the list. If your multi is only meeting 50% of the RDA or less, it’s not enough. Especially in today’s high-paced world, you need all the support you can get. A best case scenario typically involves more than one capsule or tablet to get the full dose, so consider looking for something that involves taking at least 2.

4 – You may not need iron! In fact, most people do not need iron. We recommend these formulas for pregnant women, and people who are anemic. If you take iron when you don’t need it, you can create a lot of unnecessary constipation. This even applies to menstruating women – in most cases you can get everything you need from your diet. If you are worried about your iron levels, any doctor can check them with an easy and inexpensive blood test.

5 – Should I take a Men’s/Women’s/Menopausal/Children’s Formula? Well, that is not so easy to answer. In most cases it seems that the grocery store brands are not able to pack enough of the “extra stuff” to make a whole lot of difference. You’re usually better off getting a separate prostate or menopausal support formula. Across the board, adults should not take a children’s multi – it’s tempting, I know. Who can resist tasty chewables in fun shapes? As an adult, you’d have to take a huge number of those things to get any benefit, so leave them to the kiddos. And, if you do have children, it’s a great thing to have them on a good multi-vitamin.