With an abundance of vitamins and supplements on the market to choose from, it can be hard to know what the differences are between brands, price points, and forms of vitamins. Below are four ways to sort through the labels and the hype to get the quality nutrition you seek.
1. Capsule Over Tablet
Breakable capsules are preferred over solid tablets because taking capsule will ensure that the vitamin or supplement will be absorbed faster, and be free of added binders and lubricants that bind the nutrients together.
2. DRI Values
When you look at the back of the label to read the nutrient content, it will refer to the values as a percentage of DRI (daily recommended intake). These values were set initially to simply prevent disease, not to optimize health. Therefore, high DRI’s are generally not concerning. Many supplement companies will add extra vitamin C as a way to market their multivitamin to appeal to us. Since vitamin C is water-soluble, our bodies will absorb all that it can and simply excrete the rest through urination.
3. Specific Minerals & Vitamins
Our Western diet and lifestyles are, for the most part, lacking in vitamin D, vitamin K, the B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Vitamin D deficiency is common in the US, where the majority of daylight hours are spent indoors. vitamin D is required to absorb calcium, but without enough magnesium, vitamin D cannot be properly converted by the body. We lack vitamin K, the B vitamins and zinc primarily because they are expensive to extract and the best sources come from good quality organic foods and meats. These are very critical for bone and joint health. Look for a multivitamin that has high percentages of RDI for these essential minerals and vitamins.
A quick tip on vitamin D deficiency: You can your get blood tested to check how much of the vitamin is in your blood, and from there, you’ll determine exactly how much you’ll need to take to get your levels up to the healthy range.
The spectrum of high-quality to low-quality vitamins is certainly correlated with price range. The average good-quality multivitamin will cost around $2.00 per pill. The DRI values, tested quality certifications (such as organic, non-GMO, etc.), the source of the vitamins, and the fillers (or lack thereof) will all influence the price.
The best source of vitamins and minerals will come from whole food sources. This is because plants have vitamins that are bound to organic molecules that help our bodies absorb and use them, which is why multivitamins should be taken for what they are: supplementary to your balanced diet. That said, the need for vitamins is more urgent now because produce grown today is not as nutrient-dense as it was in the past. The most nutrient-dense produce will be easiest to find at your local farmer’s market or community garden.
For a list of the top-ranked multivitamins, click here. Labdoor also analyzes individual supplements as well and ranks label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, and product safety.