There’s a good bit of debate among health professionals about whether or not we really need a multivitamin. However, I do typically recommend a multivitamin to clients, even for those who feel that they have a nutritious, well-balanced diet, looking at it as nutritional insurance.
Even when we make consciously nutritious choices on a regular basis, it’s easy to fall into the habit of reaching for the same types of foods, and consequently we end up getting many of the same nutrients over and over again.
An all-purpose multivitamin and mineral supplement will provide a broad range of nutrients to support our normal daily processes, including mental focus, energy and metabolism. There aren’t specific conditions that I would say a multivitamin would ‘treat’ – that is typically more applicable when looking at higher-dose individual supplements [like we did for hair] — nor specific isolated nutrients that I would say to look for in a multi.
Instead, my recommendation is to look for a multivitamin that contains a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals; some may also have additional herbs or antioxidant-rich phytonutrients.
If you’re weighing the option to supplement or not to supplement, think about your diet overall: If you follow a restricted or limited diet of any type (e.g. low carb, grain-free, dairy-free, vegan), you may consider adding a multivitamin, again as a way to know that you’re covering your nutritional bases.
Certain micronutrients are essential for our bodies to function properly. Chromium, for example, influences our insulin response and carbohydrate metabolism. Vitamin B12 is involved in DNA production and healthy red blood cells, as well as our energy, focus and mood. As we get older, though, we don’t absorb B12 as efficiently, and can benefit from supplementation.
Tips on Timing
- If you find that taking a multi in the morning leaves you feeling queasy, it’s probably because you don’t have enough food on your stomach – so try taking it with lunch, instead.
- Avoid taking a multi at night – it may make it harder to fall asleep (likely due to the energy-producing effect of the B vitamins).
Ingredients, dosage and quality vary widely by brand. I use ConsumerLab.com as a reference when I recommend specific brands – they’re an independent lab that test products for accuracy (do they contain the amount of nutrients claimed), purity (is it free of specified contaminants; tests for heavy metals) and disintegration (does the product break apart properly so that it can be effectively absorbed and used by the body).
And — as always, keep in mind that supplements are just that: supplements — not substitutes — to an otherwise healthy lifestyle 🙂
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian and nutrition journalist in New Orleans and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles and TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.