Assortment of vitamins in their own containers

Be in the know about multivitamins

By Walgreens Apr 18, 2021 • 3 min

How to pick vitamins best for you

We'll start with the basics: There's a reason they're called supplements.

Following the USDA-recommended guidelines for diet will meet most of your nutritional needs, so multivitamins are designed to fill in the gaps after that. It's important to remember that food is more than vitamins and minerals — a good diet also provides protein, fiber and, of course, deliciousness. The point is, multivitamins can't make up for a poor diet.

Still, there are many reasons people may want a multivitamin if they have certain health needs that their diet alone may not meet. For example, if you're pregnant, your doctor may recommend prenatal vitamins, or if you're over 50, you may need a multivitamin to better absorb nutrients. Your healthcare provider can let you know if you may benefit from specific vitamin supplements.

So that's why you might take a multivitamin — but how do you select which kind? If you know your specific nutrient needs (like, if your doctor told you that you should get more vitamin D), you can generally find a stand-alone supplement for just that nutrient. You may also see "functional multivitamins" geared at specific health needs, such as heart health or eye function.

If you're more interested in taking a multivitamin to support your overall health, follow your demographics. Manufacturers have created women's formulas —men's formulas, women's formulas, over-50 formulas — the list goes on. The manufacturer chooses which vitamins, minerals and other ingredients are included in each tablet, but there are some general rules of thumb they tend to follow. Women's formulas usually contain extra iron and calcium, and formulas for people over 50 tend to have less iron and vitamin K, and more B12 and vitamin D. In all cases, these are designed to benefit your cohorts' health needs in general.

When taken as directed, multivitamins are generally safe. The most common side effects (an upset stomach, constipation, nausea and diarrhea) are more likely to happen on an empty stomach. Think of it as a reminder to start with a good diet, and then supplement with multivitamins.

Clinically approved April 2021.

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