Many people joke about multivitamins being like an insurance policy- you take them because they give you a standard measure of nutrients to serve as a backup to your healthy diet. But all funny business aside, not all multivitamins are created equal and there are some which are definitely better for you than the others. So with many different products available in the market which leave you spoiled for choice, how do you know which type or brand to choose? Here are 5 important things to consider before you purchase multivitamins:
- Choose the one with Vitamin E complex: Always be sure to check the label to ensure that it contains Vitamin E as mixed tocopherols. This means that you’re not taking just one type of vitamin E, but a vitamin E complex. Vitamin E includes alpha, beta delta and gamma. Tocopherol is the only form that is recognised to meet human requirements. A mixed tocopherol product will contain all of these types, but most over-the-counter supplements contain only alpha-tocopherol, which is just one type. Hence checking labels is essential!
- What to Look For: Several of the best multivitamin supplements in the market contain nutrients that have already been converted in to their active forms. When you take the active form of a nutrient, you are bypassing a step that your body would need to take care of for the nutrient to do its job. An example of an activated nutrient is riboflavin-5-phosphate, instead of riboflavin.
- What to Avoid: Unbeknownst to many, some people have a genetic mutation that prevents their bodies from easily converting folic acid to its active form. But since you may not know if you have this gene defect or not, it is always best to choose natural folate rather than folic acid. Natural folate is found in leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, lentils, legumes and avocado. When choosing your supplement, you want the activated form of the nutrient; it is usually listed as folate or folacin, or 5-MTHF.
- Avoid Calcium and Iron Together: Some nutrients, like calcium and iron, are best taken separately. The reason is because calcium can interfere with the absorption of iron, which is not ideal if you are taking iron for specific health reasons such as iron-deficiency anaemia or heavy menstrual periods. Choose a product that contains just one of the minerals and then take an additional supplement containing the other at another time.
- Beware of Additives: It is essential to make sure that your multivitamin supplement does not contain added synthetic colours, fillers and ingredients that you don’t recognise or understand. Many manufacturers add these compounds to increase the shelf life of the product, to make it more appealing or to make it less expensive to produce. It is always best to buy clean and natural products, especially the ones made from whole food sources.
While these tips can help you choose the correct supplement for you, always consult your physician before beginning any multivitamins.