The complete guide to multivitamins: What do they do?
Although whole foods – foods in their ‘whole’ form – are the best place to obtain the nutrients needed for good health, we can still encounter gaps in our diet. And modern-day farming, pollution, soil nutrient depletion, toxin exposure, and increasing daily pressures can make these nutritional gaps even more pronounced. To cover any nutritional shortfalls, many people choose to take a multivitamin, which offers a comprehensive spread of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, often in a convenient, one-a-day formula.
Here, we take a closer look at what multivitamins do and how they work in the body.
What do multivitamins do?
A broad-spectrum multivitamin formula often contains a range of vitamins and minerals that contribute to normal physical and emotional health. They may also deliver herbs, amino acids, and other plant compounds. Multivitamins generally target specific areas of health, such as immunity, hormone balance, and energy production.
What do multivitamins contain?
There are no official guidelines on what multivitamins should contain. Ultimately, it’s down to the discretion of the manufacturer. That said, they typically deliver a range of vitamins and minerals outlined below.
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins – thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, biotin (vitamin B7), folate and folic acid, and vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Alongside vitamins and minerals, multivitamins may also contain herbs, plant compounds, amino acids, and fatty acids.
What are the advantages of multivitamins?
In an ideal world, everyone would get their nutrition from real, whole foods. But when you’re navigating what feels like a never-ending to-do list, it can be hard to make healthy choices consistently. Taking a multivitamin is a helpful insurance policy to ensure you hit every nutritional note each day. That’s not to say a multi should ever replace a balanced diet; it simply acts as a buffer when life gets in the way of meeting your needs.
Multivitamins are also convenient. Most formulas are one a day, meaning there’s no need to mess around with multiple tablets and capsules. A multi is an easy, fuss-free, and cost-effective addition to your life.
Lastly, the nutritional potential of a tiny multivitamin tablet is extraordinary. With relevant levels of essential vitamins and minerals, multis are carefully formulated to target different areas of health, including immunity, energy, cognition, and psychological function. If you want 360-degree support, a multivitamin is always worthy investment.
Who should take multivitamins?
As we’ve already established, there are many reasons why you may add a multivitamin to your diet. However, some groups may want to consider them more.
People with busy lifestyles – active individuals have an increased demand for B vitamins and magnesium for energy, as well as vitamin D3 and calcium for bone health
Mature adults’ – as the body ages, it struggles to absorb and metabolise certain nutrients as well as it once did, which is especially true of vitamin B12
Those following vegetarian and vegan diets – vegans and vegetarians risk missing out on essential nutrients mainly found in animal products, such as iron and vitamin B12
Pregnant and breastfeeding women – pregnancy increases the need for folate and iron to support the health of a growing baby
Those who struggle with tiredness and fatigue – poor energy may indicate low levels of iron, B vitamins and magnesium
Children from the age of 4 years – children need a plentiful intake of vitamins A, C and D every day to support their development.
How should I take my multivitamin?
There’s no hard and fast rule about when you should take your multivitamin. But since most formulas contain fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K – which dissolve in oil – it’s always best to take it with a meal.
Many people get into a routine of taking their multivitamins with breakfast. And because your multi will often contain nutrients that support energy production, taking it at this time of day also makes sense: it will set you up for the day.
However, it’s worth mentioning that your breakfast should contain some healthy fats, such as avocado, eggs, Greek yoghurt, chia seeds, nuts, nut butter, or oily fish, for instance. This way, you’ll give your body the best opportunity to metabolise the nutrients provided in your multi.
You can read more about the best time to take your multi here.
What should I take alongside my multi?
Although multivitamins deliver a comprehensive spread of essential vitamins and minerals, they typically don’t contain omega-3s, which play an important role in cognition, heart health, and vision. For this reason, we recommend taking a quality fish oil or plant-based microalgae alongside your multi. Aside from this, a live bacteria product, like Acidophilus Extra 10 Billion, would be a useful addition to further support your wellbeing. If you have a specific health concern, you may also wish to supplement with additional vitamins, minerals, herbs, or plant extracts.
What multivitamin should I take?
You can find a range of different multivitamins on the market. Some of the most popular multis contain a good spread of essential vitamins and minerals at relevant levels in a one-a-day formula.
Our multis correspond to gender and age, making it easier to pick a product that meets your specific nutritional needs. For instance, a teenage boy will have different requirements than a menopausal woman – and this will be reflected in the formulas. We also have an effervescent multi for those who struggle with traditional tablets.
You can browse our entire multivitamin range here.
Still got a question about multivitamins? Please have a chat with one of our expert Nutrition Advisors. You can also head back to our dedicated blog for more guidance and information.
- 2021. Older adults - British Nutrition Foundation - Page #1. [ONLINE] Nutrition.org.uk. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/life/older-adults.html?start=1
- Ods.od.nih.gov. 2021. Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B12. [ONLINE] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
- Sullivan, K. M., Ford, E. S., Azrak, M. F., & Mokdad, A. H. (2009). Multivitamin use in pregnant and nonpregnant women: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. 1974), 124(3), 384–390.
- nhs.uk. 2021. Vitamins for children. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/weaning-and-feeding/vitamins-for-children/
Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.
Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.