My neighbors at Harvard have estimated that around 30% of people take a multivitamin every day. I wonder how many of these people know what they are actually putting into their bodies – my guess is 1%. The driving force behind taking most of these vitamins is because it seems like the safest option. Ironically, the best choice is to get your vitamins from real food.
But let’s solve the problem: if you are going to take a multivitamin, you should know what it’s made of in order to make the best choice. Making a blind choice is usually what results in unforeseen problems.
I’ll help you out with a reference guide.
What’s in a multivitamin?
1. Derived from natural form:
These are multivitamins from natural form that have been processed very little, if at all. Examples include bee pollen, garlic, kelp, or cod liver oil, and natural minerals. If you must take multivitamins, then these are one of the best options.
2. Natural source:
These are supplements that are extracted from the natural source, such as whey from milk or vitamins A + D from fish oil. Vitamins that come from the natural source are an indicator of a good quality supplement; multivitamins made in a lab simply cannot compare to what nature has created.
3. Bio identical:
These multivitamins are made in a laboratory to match the chemical makeup in your body. It's less expensive than the first two types mentioned, but the lesser option. If it comes down to this choice and you feel at a loss, ask yourself this: if you were buying designer clothes and had the choice of the real deal or knockoffs, what would you do? Bio identical multivitamins are the knockoffs.
4. Synthetic multivitamins:
These are also manufactured in a lab, except they are not molecularly identical – double whammy. 90% of vitamins out on the market are synthetic. There are arguments found on both extremes of the synthetic vs. natural battle, but just remember this: we are trying to mimic nature plus we add unnecessary side effects for no reason, other than the fact that it makes money for someone.
5. Whole food grown:
These are my favorite option, but they are costly. Whole food grown vitamins are the most bioavailable – meaning that they are the most useful to the body. If you are using two, three, or four multivitamins a day, try using this type. If you can forget about the cost, I promise you will notice a difference in your health. You have probably heard this before: “How much is your house worth?”
How to look out for the good guys
Look on the front and back for the labels. If you see artificial flavoring, sucralose, yellow 6, red 5, DI-alpha tocopheryl (or other hyphenated names), and other nonsense, then you are looking at a synthetic product. Also, if the recommended daily allowance is greater than normal (say, 200% of RDA), then it is likely synthetic. Send those to the trash.
If it is a whole food multivitamin product, it should say so on the front. Those are easy to spot because companies want to show off that they are better for you. Be careful of other marketing messages that sound similar to the good guys but are actually acting as a disguise.
Despite all of this multivitamin talk, remember that real, healthy food will always trump anything sold in the drug store. Be conscious of what you put into your body.