The Truth About Multivitamins
Spoiler: Not all vitamins are the same.
Vitamins: Everyone has an opinion about them, from the best vitamins to take or whether you need to take them at all. And it’s not surprising, given that a third of people in the U.S. take daily multivitamins. While most multivitamins contain micronutrients your body needs to support overall health, there isn’t a standard definition for what constitutes a multivitamin. This means the specific nutrients in different formulas can vary, so you may need to look at different formulations based on your needs. To help you cut through the noise, we’ve assembled the most common myths around multivitamins, so you know exactly what to look for next time you find yourself in the vitamin aisle.
Myth: If I eat healthy, I don’t need a multivitamin.
If you think you get all the nutrients you need from your diet, great! But for times where you don’t have a perfectly balanced diet—which even healthy eaters likely don’t hit every single day—or if you forgo certain foods (for example, if you’re vegetarian or vegan), then taking a daily multivitamin can help fill any nutritional gaps. Since you likely haven’t planned out your nutrients for every single meal of every day, it can be a good idea to take one daily.
Myth: Taking multivitamins means I can eat whatever I want.
On the flip side, a multivitamin won’t transform your mac and cheese into a salad. You should still maintain an overall healthy diet and can take multivitamins to make sure you aren’t missing out on any important micronutrients you need.
Myth: All multivitamins are the same.
You’ve probably noticed that there are vitamins tailored for different sexes, ages, or conditions (think: pregnancy), and there’s a reason for that. It’s because multivitamins contain different mixes of nutrients to target different specific needs, and different amounts depending on what group it’s tailored to. For example, women are more likely than men to need a multivitamin with iron in it. Centrum Women is a good option (it contains 18mg of iron).
Myth: I won’t get enough nutrients from a multivitamin and I need separate, targeted vitamins to get the nutrients I need.
While single vitamins are more targeted than broad-spectrum multivitamins, they don’t necessarily contain more of the nutrient you’re looking to get, nor do you necessarily need more than the recommended daily allowance. Separate vitamins can be considered if you have a specific vitamin deficiency or need as diagnosed by a doctor.
Myth: More vitamins are always better.
Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. While micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are essential for your health, there are recommended daily intakes for key nutrients to make sure you get the ideal amount. And while some vitamins (like vitamin C and B vitamins) are water-soluble, meaning they leave the body in urine, others (like vitamins A, D, E, and K) are fat-soluble and can accumulate in the body, so it’s a good idea to stick to recommended values.
Myth: I need to take multivitamins with food.
Not necessarily, but it could be the best time to take vitamins, especially if you’ve experienced an upset stomach when taking them before food. While it’s not necessary, some vitamins, like calcium, vitamin C, or iron can irritate the stomach lining in some people, making them hard to digest on an empty stomach. Another benefit? Taking your multivitamin at mealtime can help you remember to take it. When in doubt, check the label of your multivitamin for recommendations on when to take that specific product.
Myth: My doctor doesn’t need to know if I take multivitamins.
Because vitamin supplements aren’t medication, it’s easy to forget about them when you’re at the doctor’s office. Generally, daily multivitamins don’t interact with most medications, but it’s still important to tell your doctor if you take them in case they do. Your doc can also help you figure out the right vitamins for your particular needs, too.