What multivitamin should you choose?

This week’s blog will be tackling a vitamin question from a reader:

“What is the best multivitamin?”

For most people, eating according to Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide provides them with the vitamins and minerals their body needs. Food contains important nutrients that vitamins and mineral supplements don’t provide, such as carbohydrates, essential fats, fibre and protein. It is important to eat nutrient-rich foods such as foods from the Vegetables and Fruit, Grains Products, Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives food groups, even if you take a supplement.

Some people require specific supplements to meet their nutrient needs:
Medical conditions. Some medical conditions such as anemia or osteoporosis, surgeries or infections, may need more of some nutrients.
Men and women over the age of 50. Everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 μg (400 IU). Eating foods fortified with vitamin B12 or taking a daily supplement providing at least 2.4 μg of vitamin B12 is also recommended for adults over 50. Postmenopausal women should choose a vitamin and mineral supplement that does not contain any or much iron, for example a supplement made for seniors.
Restricted Diet. If you are following a restricted calorie diet, have a poor appetite or have allergies, this may leave you short on some essential nutrients. A multivitamin supplement may be recommended. People who don’t drink milk or who drink less than 2 cups (500 mL) of milk or fortified soy beverage daily may need a vitamin D and/or calcium supplement.
Vegetarians. A healthy vegetarian diet can meet most nutritional needs. Supplements to meet iron needs may be required. Vegans who exclude all animal products require a source of vitamin B12 either from foods fortified with vitamin B12, nutritional yeast, or a supplement.
Women of childbearing age. All women who could become pregnant should take a multivitamin containing 400 μg (0.4 mg) of folic acid every day to help prevent neural tube defects. Iron needs also increase during pregnancy, so the multivitamin should also provide 16 to 20 mg of iron.

If you feel your eating pattern does not contain all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body requires, a multivitamin may help supplement those needs. As for which one is best, most multivitamins are similar. Men should look for one that supports men’s health. The main difference is that this formulation contains less iron than most other multivitamins, which is recommended for men. Women should look for one that supports women’s health. The main difference is that this formulation contains more iron and adequate folic acid, which is recommended for women.

A single daily multivitamin is usually safe. However, some vitamins and minerals are dangerous when taken in large amounts if you take them as single nutrient supplements. Before taking any supplement, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider or Registered Dietitian to discuss your individual needs.

For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a look at these essential vitamins for our health in greater detail. If you have any questions on a specific vitamin or vitamins in general, let me know.

If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!