WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A MULTI-VITAMIN

FROM THE FIELDS- ISSUE #72

Everywhere we go, there seems to be a new product that is labeled to be better the others. Some prices are marked up and some are fair. Sometimes we just buy what’s within our budget but it’s important to read the ingredients list- especially in a multi-vitamin. Here’s a quick guide on what to look for and what to avoid.

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IT’S TIME TO THINK twice before you go buy your next multi-vitamin that you buy just because it’s on sale. There are several reasons why some multi-vitamins are less expensive than others but the key reason is ingredients. It is best to get the nutrients through our diet but that can be challenging sometimes. Life can get really busy sometimes so we might miss a salad or smoothie here or there. And our foods don’t grow like the use to. Our soil is not as rich as it once was. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) says“to reduce most of the erosion on annual row-crop land, leave a residue cover greater than 30% after harvest and over the winter months, or inter-seed a cover crop (e.g., red clover in wheat, oats after silage corn).” But how we maintain our soil is not the only variable- Mother Nature has a big role too. Check out OMAFRA’s Fact Sheet for more details. Vitamins are not a substitute for a healthy diet. They are an added piece to the puzzle of sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Here’s a quick guide on what to look for and what to avoid:

VITAMIN A: form and dose is very important. It acts like an antioxidant, helping protect our cells from cancer and other diseases. The carotenoids are a class of compounds related to vitamin A and in some cases, act as precursors for vitamin A. It’s important that the supplement contains the beta-carotene or retinol form and a low dose as vitamin A can be toxic. RDA for males is 3000 IU and for females, 2330 IUs. We can attain most of the vitamin A we need through foods like green and yellow fruits and vegetables.

B VITAMINS: These metabolism-boosting vitamins also help to maintain the health of our nerves, muscle tone in our gut, and proper brain function. They should always be taken together (B-complex) because they work together- they act like coenzymes, helping enzymes to react chemically with other substances, especially with energy production. In a B-complex, look for B12 in the methycobalamin form- the active form and 25-50 mg of each B vitamin. A good example would be AOR's Advanced B Complex.

VITAMIN D: The sunshine vitamin that everyone needs. Even though our bodies can make this one, it’s still important to supplement. Finding a high dose of D in a multi may be challenging so you may need to add on a separate D supplement. Look for vitamin D in the D3 form (Cholecalciferol)- D3 is the form that our bodies can make so it’s easy for our body to recognize it and absorb it. The RDA now recommends just 600-800 IU but a minimum of 1000 IU is really best.  

THE FILLERS: Make sure to take a close look at the non-medical ingredients. Depending on the form (capsule, liquid, gel-cap, etc.) will depend on how many fillers are needed to preserve the supplement. Plus, some companies use more fillers than nutrients to save on the cost of production. In general, avoid the ones that say ‘time-released’, added hydrogenated oils, or ones in liquid form as they tend to be loaded with sugars- anything that ends in ‘tose or contains the word ‘dextrin’.

Some examples of a good multi would be Natural Factors Multivitamin or their Whole Earth & Sea line, which is good for vegans. Other options would be Mega Food, CanPrev or NFH's Multi SAP. There are many options out there, you just have to read the ingredient list first. But before making any big changes, make sure to talk to your health practitioner- especially if you take any prescription drugs. Check out Harvard Medical School’s full listing of vitamins for more details and other vitamins.