- 1 Multivitamins 101
- 2 How to Choose a Multivitamin
- 3 Reviews of the Best Multivitamins in 2020
- 3.1 1. Smarty Pants Adult Multivitamin with Fiber – Best to Buy
- 3.2 2. Innate Response Iron Free Multivitamin– Best for Men
- 3.3 3. Innate Response Women’s One Daily – Best for Women
- 3.4 4. Smarty Pants Kids Multivitamin with Fiber – Best for Kids
- 3.5 5. MegaFood Men 55+ One Daily – Best for Men Over 50
- 3.6 6. New Chapter Women’s Daily 55+ – Best for Women Over 50
- 3.7 7. Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin + DHA – Best for Pregnant Women
- 4 Comparison Chart of the Best Multivitamins in 2020
- 5 Multivitamin FAQs
Multivitamins are the most popular dietary supplement and most people will take a multivitamin to fill one or more nutritional gaps. We’ve spent hours researching different products to find the best multivitamins for you.
Our selection includes multivitamins that are wholefood sourced, with proprietary blends of omega-3 oils or blends for digestive and hormonal support. Find out which are the best multivitamins for men, women, children, those over 55, and the best prenatal multivitamin.
Before we get to our recommendations and reviews, you may want to brush up on a few details on multivitamins and check our buying guide, so you can make the best choice for yourself.
1. What Makes up a Multivitamin
Vitamins are micronutrients and minerals are also included in this category. There is no regulatory definition of what a multivitamin is, but by popular standards it should include three or more vitamins, and one mineral.
Most multivitamin supplements generally include nine or more of the 13 essential vitamins: those which are fat soluble—vitamins A, D ,E and K—and water soluble—vitamins C and B-complex.
2. Differences in Micronutrient Requirements
Micronutrient needs vary between age and gender and this is especially true for some minerals.
Women, for example, generally require more calcium and iron than men. Men on the other hand, should avoid over supplementing with these. For most other micronutrients there is not much gender variation, however, age and other factors such as body mass weight index are more important.
We take age and gender into account when recommending specific multivitamins for men, women or children; and it’s scientifically recommended to do so.
3. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
According to regular surveys, most Americans are deficient in one essential nutrient or more, and deficiencies vary somewhat between age and ethnic group.
According to an analysis of the extensive NHANES 2007-2010 survey, which details estimated deficiencies in nutrients, the highest adult vitamin deficiencies are Vitamin D, E and K. Vitamins A and C are less so.
For minerals, the most serious deficiencies are magnesium, followed by calcium. Potassium, a mineral that functions as an electrolyte and choline, a vitamin-like essential nutrient that is required for neurotransmitter production, gene expression are also seriously lacking in many people’s diets.
Unfortunately, due to incorrect supplementation, some people also consume near upper limits (UL) for certain nutrients. This is due to universal supplementation with products that don’t take into account actual nutritional deficiencies and recommended intakes.
We avoid products with excessive micronutrient content when making recommendations, and focus on what is necessary.
4. Micronutrient Balances and Cofactors
It’s important to consider cofactor relationships in the balance between micronutrients, and how each micronutrient is absorbed and synthesized by the body.
For example, both Vitamin C and E work together, whereas fat soluble Vitamin D and E compete. For this reason, some nutritionists support that it’s better to have more of Vitamin D compared to E in a multivitamin, or to take extra vitamin D, if required, separately at another time of day.
Many multivitamins do not contain calcium, or a very low percentage thereof. Calcium competes with the absorption of other minerals like iron and it’s better to supplement calcium separately.
We only select products that have the best possible balance between vitamins, minerals and their cofactors.
5. Synthetic vs Wholefood Vitamins
Vitamins can either be extracted from raw wholefoods like fruits and vegetables, or artificially synthesized.
So which is better? The answer is not clear, but there is some support that some nutrients extracted from wholefoods may be slightly better. One such study, for example, showed how natural vitamin E was more readily absorbed than the synthetic form.
Many of the health benefits seen from consumption of certain plants is now attributed to the whole food complex that provides phytochemicals, antioxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals, rather than a single, isolated nutrient.
On the other hand, some synthetic compounds may have more bioavailability to the body that those found in foods. Folic acid and methylfolate, synthetic forms of folate, is better absorbed by about 70% compared to folate in food.
Also, iron from animal sources has a much higher bioavailability than planet-based iron, which vegetarians and vegan based supplements need to take into account.
Regardless of the arguments around vitamin sources, it may be more beneficial if the MVM is blended with enzymes, herbal extracts, or has gone through a process of fermentation. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins, so you should take a multivitamin with a meal containing fats.
We look for products that not only have a balanced nutritional profile, but are either naturally sourced or harmonized with food compounds.
6. Are Multivitamins Effective?
The short answer is, it depends. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report in their multivitamin mineral supplement fact sheet that multivitamin minerals (MVM’s) do help with the intake of micronutrients. In one study cited, MVM’s increased the prevalence of nutritional adequacy by up to 8%.
According to the same fact sheet, best improvements from supplementation were found with folic acid, vitamin E, A and zinc. However, there was a slight prevalence (10-15%) for over supplementing Vitamin A, iron and zinc, and more so for vitamin B3 niacin (48-61%).
Unfortunately, while multivitamins may contribute to increased nutrient intake, there are no conclusive links to either the cure, or prevention of any chronic disease.
Some studies show benefits, mainly for cancer risk when taking multivitamins that contain antioxidant nutrients (vitamin E and C, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc), while other studies don’t.
Groups that can specifically benefit from one or more micronutrients found in MVM’s are women of child-bearing age, pregnant, lactating or menopausal women, people over 50, vegans, those with diagnosed deficiency or at risk for deficiency due to malabsorptive diseases (and Vitamin D for infants).
Go here to see our reviews of The Best Vitamin D in 2020
How to Choose a Multivitamin
Here are some steps you can follow when looking for the best multivitamin for you:
- Check the nutritional content and daily value DV%. Make sure the balance of nutrients is right for you.
- For regular use, avoid excessively high DV values for Vitamin A, B3 (niacin), iron, zinc and calcium.
- Have a look at the ingredient list for any information that will indicate whether all, or some, of the nutrients are sourced from wholefoods.
- Look to see if the formula includes blended enzymes, vegetable or fruit extracts, omega-3 oils or additional fermentation processes.
- Make sure there aren’t any harmful binders or preservatives, or compounds you may be allergic to.
- Finally, look to see what 3rd party certifications, or ingredient label verification the product has.
RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowance) are used to establish daily values (DV) for food and supplement labeling. They represent the daily intake of nutrients that meet the needs of most healthy people.
Tablets or capsules may have additional ingredients that could trigger an allergic reaction or create discomfort. Some products may state whether the machinery or facility used also processes nuts, soy, dairy, etc. This information, however, is not obligated.
Products can carry a variety of certifications or verifications:
Some will certify that the product is free of soy, gluten, dairy, heavy metal contamination, fish, etc. or that it’s 3rd party certified vegan, vegetarian, Kosher, Halaal etc.
Other certifications such as GMP FDA certify that the manufacturing facility complies with health and safety regulations and manufacturing standards.
Certifications that verify ingredients and percentages listed on the label are the safest and most reliable. USP is one such certification and Consumerlabs.com is another. Companies may use various independent labs and test status is not always displayed on the label, so you may have to contact the manufacturer directly.
We try to find products with one or more certifications, contact manufacturers and read customer reviews before making the best choice possible.
Different Ways to Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins can be taken in different ways such a tablet, softgel, capsule, powder, gummy or liquid drops.
Softgels are usually porcine and not suitable for vegans, vegetarians, Kosher or Halaal. Capsules can either be made from animal product or planet cellulose, while gummies may or may not contain animal derivatives (gelatin). Tablets and capsules may also contain additional ingredients like fillers, binders and preservatives. Oils are generally fine for all.
Reviews of the Best Multivitamins in 2020
- Smarty Pants Adult Multivitamin with Fiber – Best to Buy
- Innate Response Iron Free Multivitamin – Best for Men
- Innate Response Women’s One Daily – Best for Women
- Smarty Pants Kids Multivitamin with Fiber – Best for Kids
- MegaFood Men 55+ Multivitamin – Best for Men Over 50
- New Chapter Women’s 55+ Multivitamin – Best for Women Over 50
- Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin – Best Prenatal
Here are our picks for the best multivitamins:
1. Smarty Pants Adult Multivitamin with Fiber – Best to Buy
Smarty Pants is a great product for a number of reasons, especially its nutritional profile. It doesn’t over-supplement vitamins and it hastop USP verification. Its proprietary blend contains Omega-3 fatty acids from bio sustainable fisheries.
Smarty Pants state that they try to only put in nutrients that are most lacking in the general populace, and in the correct amounts.
Accordingly, vitamin A is only 30%, but vitamins C, D and E are twice as high or more. B-vitamins are not over supplemented, especially niacin (B3), which is not included.
Vitamin B12 is 133%, but why? When Vitamin B12 is co-supplemented with B9 (94%) and B6 (88%), homocysteine levels improve which is linked to better cardiovascular and neurological health. B12 and folate are also present in their methylated forms, which have been shown to be effective for some conditions like anxiety, depression, and those with PCOS and insulin resistance.
Mineral content is minimal and doesn’t include calcium or iron which differs for men and women. Zinc (22%) is important for many metabolic functions. Iodine is included to support thyroid health and help prevent iodine deficiency, the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the US. The only nutrients not really represented are potassium and phosphorus.
Healthy omega-3 oils are also lacking in the general populace, so Smarty Pants chose these oils which also blend well with gummies. These gummies, however, are obviously not suited for vegans or vegetarians, and they also contain animal gelatin.
User reviewers love the taste and texture, and say there is no fishy aftertaste. These gummies, with added fiber, have less sugar compared to their other adult multivitamin gummies.
Verification and Assurances
Most of the nutrients carry USP verification. Additionally, this product is free of most common allergens such as shellfish, nuts and fish allergens. It has also won a clean label Purity Award.
Dosage and Affordability
One serving is six gummies, which come in three delicious flavors. This is great, because people can increase or decrease their dosage as needed. One bottle can last an adult up to a month. Although the price is about twice that of common multivitamins, these high-quality gummies are still affordable.
Smarty Pants inform on their website that they are working on a vegetarian and Kosher friendly version of this product. See our reviews below for animal product free alternatives.
2. Innate Response Iron Free Multivitamin– Best for Men
Innate Response is a company dedicated to the ideal of ‘wholism’, or going back to the basics of pure natural foods and interdependent relationships. They are committed to quality and purity with all their products subjected to in-house lab analysis, and verified by respected third party organizations.
This product is specifically formulated for optimal health for men. As such, there is not unnecessary iron or calcium. The vitamin profile is concentrated on the B-vitamins which have a direct impact on energy levels, brain function, metabolism and cardiovascular health. It is also believed that higher levels of B complex vitamins can support healthier testosterone levels.
Vitamin A content is low, which is good, but perhaps this product could have a better balance between vitamin D and E, though vitamin E remains below the concerning intake level of 100mg (150 IU) or higher.
Vitamin B12 content is DV 625%, but still safe as it has no established upper limits. Niacin or vitamin B3 (20mg) is a little over represented, but the daily UL is 35mg. Zinc (15mg) is well below the 40mg UL for adults, but we feel perhaps it should be a little less.
The mineral profile is well supported of zinc for men’s reproductive health, and also selenium which may decrease risk of some cancers though research is conflicting.
One container will last for two months, and their assured quality is worth a little extra on the price tag.
3. Innate Response Women’s One Daily – Best for Women
Because Innate Response is dedicated to high quality, natural, wholefood sourced products, we chose to go with the same brand and offer the same quality to our women readers. This Women’s One Daily has all the same verifications and assurances as the Men’s branded product, except that the nutritional profile of course is different:
Compared to the men’s product, this one for women has twice the amount of vitamin D and slightly more vitamin E. Women generally benefit more from higher vitamin D supplementation for calcium support, and this product does not contain calcium because calcium is better supplemented separately, or ideally obtained through food. Iodine is also included for thyroid support.
Women’s One Daily also has less of the vitamin B complex as well as vitamin K. Men require these nutrients in higher quantities and the body mass index is another factor for this difference. For women, this product contains iron at 8g or 44% DV and less zinc at 72% DV. There is also extra folate (100%) for healthy reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth.
Many customers report increased energy levels and almost nobody reported nausea or stomach upsets. Quite a few people had this product recommended by their doctor, naturopath or nutritionist. One drawback though is the pill size– which a few people thought was too big.
“We always “test” a product before we offer it to our patients and after 1 month of using One Daily we both noticed a significant increase in energy and a more stable metabolism (when used in combination with a clean diet and moderate exercise). Once we offered it to our patients the feedback has been amazing – we can’t keep it on the shelf.” – ( Medical Doctor’s review)
4. Smarty Pants Kids Multivitamin with Fiber – Best for Kids
Multivitamins for children are quite popular and we reviewed a lot of good contenders. What we found was that the cheapest, most popular products, retailing around $10, either had artificial colorants, excess added sugar, gelatin, or could not be guaranteed free of common allergens. Smarty Pants has a number of kids’ multivitamins, but we chose this one not only for the fiber, but because it has no added sugar granules.
The best way for kids to have their extra vitamins is from a great tasting gummy, and gummies let you choose the dosage you prefer for your child.
Like their product for adults (our Best to Buy) this kids’ version is balanced according to the most commonly needed nutrients. It is far better, after all, if children are not overloaded with unnecessary things, and all DV values are very reasonable.
The highest supplementation is vitamin D at 100% DV, and this is the most essential for healthy, growing children. According to the NHANES Data discussed in the introduction, nutrients children aged 2 years and above lack the most are: vitamin D, E, K, Calcium, Magnesium and then vitamin C – which are all well supported here except calcium and vitamin K, which should be provided separately in the diet.
For vitamin K, make sure your kids eat lots of leafy greens and nuts. If your family is vegan, for calcium, try fortified almond or other plant milks, almonds, tofu, broccoli, radishes as well as fortified breads and cereals.
Because we always try our best, especially with kids’ products, to include everybody, for a vegetarian friendly product which is organic and certified, we recommend Yummie Bears Organics Complete Multi. It’s priced the same, but the nutritional profile is not as focused on the most common nutrient deficiencies.
5. MegaFood Men 55+ One Daily – Best for Men Over 50
MegaFood is a company dedicated to wholefood, organic supplements, and these multivitamins are also blended with a fruit phenolic extracts, which is thought to improve the potency of vitamins. Their products carry many assurances including free of glyphosate and other toxic residues.
In communications with them, they freely disclosed the various laboratories that oversee their third party testing and quality assurance. They are also a B-certified corporation for environment and social impact.
Aging and Nutritional Needs
For men over 40, it is often recommended to focus on nutrients that have antioxidant properties to slow down aging and to repair the body. After 50, most people need to increase vitamin D as the skin loses its ability to synthesize it by about 50%. Reduction in stomach acids also affects the ability to absorb vitamin B12 for red blood cells and neurological health. This problem also applies to calcium, iron and magnesium. A more detailed report can be read here.
This product’s nutrient profile meets requirements for increased vitamin D as well as antioxidants like Vitamin C. Vitamin E, also fat soluble, is at a much lower level than Vitamin D. There is good support for B-Vitamins, especially B12 and B6— which is a major deficiency for this age group.
Minerals prominently supplemented include zinc, which is a common deficiency for this age category, and chromium which helps in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol, and aids in insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management. Overall, we feel that this product has one of the most balanced and reasonable nutrient profiles.
MegaFood doesn’t include calcium in their multivitamins. It’s best to get calcium from wholefood sources and various studies have questioned the efficacy of calcium supplements. They recommend natural calcium intake 3 hours after the multivitamin.
6. New Chapter Women’s Daily 55+ – Best for Women Over 50
Women over 50 generally face the same nutritional challenges as men. This means the decreased production of vitamin D and the reduced absorption of specifically vitamin B12, calcium, iron and magnesium. In particular, post menopausal women require a higher intake of vitamin D and calcium.
Vitamin D is supplemented at 1000 IU, which is typical for this category of product. There are adequate levels of vitamins C, E and especially K. The final product is cured with turmeric and an herbal blend for digestive and hormonal support.
New Chapter doesn’t support heavy supplementation of calcium, and this product only contains 3% which is sourced from algae. Women over 50 definitely need more calcium, but before you take supplements, try natural sources: dairy foods, cabbage, broccoli, okra, nuts, beans and legumes, dried figs, fortified breads and fish on the bone like sardines or pilchards.
7. Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin + DHA – Best for Pregnant Women
For pregnant women, healthcare providers often recommend prenatal vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Specific nutrients to look out for are:
- Vitamin A: Helps build the immune system. Increased intake of this vitamin during pregnancy is important as it’s crucial for the growth of the baby.
- Vitamin D & calcium: Calcium works to strengthen bones, while vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium better. These two, in combination, are crucial to the baby’s development. Adequate intake of vitamin D is also associated with better birth weights.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These are found to have a positive effect on a baby’s visual and cognitive development.
- Folate: This nutrient reduces the risk of birth defects involving the brain and spinal cord.
- Iron: The body makes extra blood for mother and baby during pregnancy, which increases the need for iron. Iron is crucial because it enables the circulation and exchange of oxygen in the bloodstream.
The Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin has 19 essential nutrients, including:
Vitamin A: 59% RDA; Vitamin D: 167% RDA; Calcium: 12% RDA; Iron: 100%; Folate: 222% and Omega-3: 260 mg
Although the folate levels here are recognized as generally safe, a recent study has found that due to over-supplementation 33.4% of pregnant women have too much folate, as well as iron (27.9%). Even so, a higher percentage get too little iron, magnesium as well as vitamin D and E. It’s best, therefore, to always first consult your healthcare provider before taking prenatals.
This product, like most products from Nature Made, is verified by USP. This verifies that what the product claims on the label is true.
If you require an alternative that is pure vegan, Smarty Pants has a fully verified, unique prenatal multivitamin that contains Omega-3 oils derived from algae oil! The folate value is about half, it contains 33% DV iron compared to 100%, but no calcium.
Comparison Chart of the Best Multivitamins in 2020
|Product||Key Points||Dietary Profile||Verified||Form|
|Smarty Pants Adult Multivitamin||No: iron, calcium Omega-3 blend||GelatinFish oil||USP||Gummy|
|Innate Response for Men||No: iron, calcium Herbal blend||Vegetarian||Various 3rd parties||Tablet|
|Innate Response for Women||No Calcium Vit. D + Iron||Vegetarian||Various 3rd parties||Tablet|
|Smarty Pants Kids Multivitamin||No added sugar Omega-3 blend||Fish oil||USP||Gummy|
|Megafood Men 55+||No: iron, calcium B-complex rich||Vegetarian||Delta Analitica||Tablet|
|New Chapter Women 55+||Cultured media Probiotic blend||Vegetarian||Various 3rd parties||Tablet|
|Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin||Extra D3 + Folate Omega-3 oils||Gelatin||USP||Softgel|
Here are a few questions that people often have when considering a multivitamin:
Should I take a multivitamin or a meal replacement?
That’s really up to you. Meal replacements (MRs) are taken instead of a full meal, and they can be used for weight control, to manage certain health conditions, build muscle or as an option for busy people. They have added fiber and protein that can make you feel more satiated, additional fats and at least 200 calories.
On the other hand, a multivitamin is a supplement to your regular two or three full meals per day. Multivitamins and minerals (MVMs) generally have higher micronutrient values than a meal replacement. On the other hand, MRs may often have a wider spectrum of minerals.
Go here to see our reviews of the Best Meal Replacements Shakes in 2020.
When should I take a multivitamin?
It’s best to take your multivitamin at a regular time each day. Also, you should take it with or after a meal that contains fats to support the absorption of fat soluble nutrients. Taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach may make some people feel nauseous. Even if the instructions says you can do it, it’s better not to.
Can I take a multivitamin at night before bed?
Probably not the best choice. A study has shown that this can affect some people’s ability to sleep well as Vitamin B12 can also affect melatonin levels. For better, more active absorption, stick to taking your multivitamin at either breakfast (if it includes fats), or at lunch time.
Can I take a multivitamin with other supplements?
It depends. Certain vitamins and minerals compete with each other in cofactor relationships. It is often advised to take a calcium supplement at a different time of day, because it will reduce absorption of minerals in your multivitamins such as magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
If you require higher absorption of Vitamin D, it is a good idea to take an extra vitamin D supplement at a different time and with a dietary source of fat.