Choosing A Good Multivitamin - Ask A Nutritionist

May 9, 2024

Not all multivitamins are created equal. Join Leah Kleinschrodt, MS, RD, LD, as she simplifies the process of selecting the right multivitamin, and learn what to look for in a quality supplement and how to make informed choices for your health. Don't miss these essential tips!

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Hello and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. My name is Leah Kleinschrodt. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and we're thrilled to be celebrating 20 years on air, discussing the connection between what you eat and how you feel while sharing practical, real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition.

Thank you all so much for your support and listenership over the years. And if you are enjoying the show, please let us know by leaving a rating or review on your favorite podcast platform. Providing feedback helps others find these important real food messages.

So on today's show, I will be answering a question that we received from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. And this listener says they're looking for a good multivitamin. There are so many out there. It's hard to know what ones are good quality and safe. So I a hundred percent agree with you. This is a great question. There are thousands of multivitamins out on the market today, and many of which you can purchase over the internet with a few clicks of the button.

So this is great because it makes some really great products available to us, but it can also be very overwhelming if you're just not sure what you're looking at. Maybe I'm the only one, but has anybody else, when you're just kind of overwhelmed with what you're looking at, either on a shelf or online, that you just kind of go with the one that has the prettiest label or has the prettiest bottle? Maybe I'm the only one. I'm not sure.

But one of my colleagues, here at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, Britni, wrote an article for our blog back in 2022 that addressed some of the ins and outs of what to look for in a quality multivitamin. She does a really great job explaining why we as dietitians often recommend a quality multivitamin for our clients, but also just how we can end up so nutrient depleted in the first place.

So I'm going to take some of the highlights of the points that Britni made in that article and also elaborate on a few more that I find helpful. And going forward, I want everyone to just keep in mind that there may not be a multivitamin that hits every single one of the criteria that I'm about to talk about. But if you can find one that hits several of these criteria or most of them, then you can be fairly confident that you're looking at a higher quality product.

Look for quality forms of magnesium

So what do we look for in a quality multivitamin? First and foremost in my mental checklist, I'm looking at what forms of nutrients are used in that particular multivitamin. So, one example of this: many long time listeners will know that there are a lot of different kinds of supplemental magnesium out there. There's magnesium oxide, there's magnesium citrate, there's magnesium malate, there's magnesium glycinate, magnesium threonate, and so on. There's more than that.

A higher quality multivitamin will typically use a chelated magnesium, like magnesium glycinate in their formula. If you see magnesium oxide on the label, know that that is a cheaper form of magnesium and it is not as well absorbed as some other forms of magnesium. It is also a bit of a smaller molecule, so when you have multivitamins that are trying to cram everything into one capsule from a space size or from a size perspective, they may opt for the cheaper magnesium option. And we'll hit on that serving size point in just a minute also.

Look for quality calcium forms

So what other nutrients can be indicators of a quality multivitamin? So we talked about magnesium and ideally looking for one that uses a chelated magnesium like magnesium glycinate. I tend also too look at calcium. And aiming for a multivitamin that uses calcium citrate, or MCHC, or a calcium hydroxyapatite. And steering away from multivitamins that use calcium carbonate, which is kind of like magnesium oxide. It's just a poor quality type of calcium and it's not as well absorbed.

What to look for in quality B vitamins

I'm also looking at some of the B vitamins, and specifically I look at folate and B12. I steer away from multivitamins that use folic acid and opt for a product that uses either folate or you might see methylfolate on the label. It just means it's a more activated form of folate. And for B12, I'm looking for a methylcobalamin, and staying away from something called cyanocobalamin. Just like the folate, methylcobalamin is a just more activated and bioavailable form for the body to use.

Minerals: what to look for

So then we circle back into some of those minerals also, like magnesium or zinc or copper and the like. I think it's great when you can find a multivitamin that lists, there's a couple little terms to look for. You might see the term TRAACS, T R A A C S, or you might see Albion Labs on the label. So TRAACS stands for Truly Reacted Amino Acid Complex System.

This is a patented process through Albion Labs, and so we know that these minerals have been bound to this carrier protein, and it's in that binding, and it's those proteins that help absorption of some of those minerals through the intestinal lining.

So magnesium glycinate is one of those examples. The mineral magnesium is bound to a little amino acid called glycine, and that glycine is what helps carry some of that magnesium through the intestinal lining and so that can get into our body a little easier. So before I continue on, I'm going to pause here and take a quick break. When we return, I will be sharing more criteria to look for in a quality multivitamin. So stay tuned.


Welcome back. Before we went to break, I gave a little primer on the forms of nutrients used in a higher quality multivitamin and what to look for. But there are some other hints that you might be looking at on a bottle or in a particular formula that might give you those indications that it's a higher quality multivitamin.

Fitting all nutrients into 1 capsule in a better quality multi is not realistic

So what else are we looking for? As I mentioned before break, if you're using a higher quality and better absorbed forms of vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin, you're just not going to be able to fit everything into one capsule or just one tablet. Most often the higher quality multivitamins are going to require at least two, if not more capsules or tablets to meet the amounts that are actually listed on the label.

So if you have a multivitamin that promises to give you everything you need in just one little capsule, chances are they've probably taken some shortcuts along the way and decrease the quality and some of the nutrients that you're getting in that multivitamin.

Avoid undesirable added ingredients

Another thing to look for if you look usually underneath or just to the side of the actual nutrition or nutrient panel on the label, you'll see “other ingredients” or you might see something like “inactive ingredients” or just another ingredients list under that label. So we're just looking for any extra undesirable ingredients;

Things like food coloring, dyes, refined oils. Sometimes you'll see soybean oil or canola oil or something like that in there. Maltodextrin, which is a type of corn sugar. High fructose corn syrup is a big no. Or a preservative called BHT. We say that a little magnesium stearate or stearic acid or you might see something like natural vegetable capsules on a label. Those are a little bit better ways to go.

You probably can't escape every single chemical or every single additive that may end up in a supplement, but you can usually identify some of the lower quality multivitamins if they've thrown any of the ingredients I just mentioned above in there.

Look for GMP & third party testing

And lastly, we're also looking for labels that indicate that a multivitamin was produced in a GMP facility. And that stands for good manufacturing practices. You might also see the term third party tested. This just goes the next step or the next level to say that that multivitamin actually contains what the label says. So again, those are helpful terms to look for somewhere on that label, whether it's on the front or the back.

So that's your list of what to look for in a quality multivitamin. As to where you find multivitamins like this, I will often recommend our clients purchase their multivitamins from a licensed practitioner's office. So like Nutritional Weight & Wellness, you can find all of our multivitamins listed on our Nutrikey website if you're not local here to the Twin Cities.

Shop Multivitamins on Our Website

You might also look at a functional medicine provider, or a naturopath, or many chiropractors’ offices work with higher quality supplement lines also. So those can be great go-tos.

The next level I would also recommend a client look for is going to your local food co-op or your local health food store. Chances are they're going to carry at least a little bit higher quality product. And this is not to say that you can't find good supplements and multivitamins from Amazon or other supplement distribution websites.

But as I mentioned at the top of the show, that's where the overwhelm can happen really easily or just starts to get to be the wild, wild west out there. So these would be some areas that I guide my clients towards if you're just looking for a higher quality product. So I hope that was helpful and hopefully we had some takeaways from that.

I want to thank you all so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you found this episode helpful, be sure to leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app. And if you have a question for us that you would like us to answer, we have two options for you. You can join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

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