If you grew up popping Flintstones vitamins like most of us did, you might think that of course it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin every day. That’s just what healthy people do, right?
Kind of. “You really cannot supplement your way out of an unhealthy diet,” says Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If you’re eating a diet that includes grains, lots of leafy vegetables, a wide variety of brightly colored fruit, and lean meats, you probably don’t need to take a multivitamin at all.
But Foroutan says she sometimes advises her clients to take one, especially if their diets lack important nutrients. If your meals are more Guy Fieri than Jamie Oliver, try MegaFood Women’s One Daily or MegaFood Multi for Men. MegaFood gets high marks from third-party certifiers, offers remarkable transparency in an industry not known for it (you can literally watch a live stream of its New Hampshire facilities), and limits its inactive filler ingredients to three — by far the lowest we’ve seen. Most notably, both formulas are derived entirely from real food sources, which is a big plus for some. The one downside? They’re expensive.
Our budget pick, Costco’s synthetic Kirkland Signature Daily Multi, also received high marks from third parties and is much cheaper — only 2 cents per serving. The biggest difference: its nutrients are derived entirely from synthetic sources. Science hasn’t proven synthetics to be better or worse than their natural counterparts, so if you don’t feel strongly one way or the other, we think Kirkland Signature is a great way to go. (It also includes calcium and potassium, which MegaFood lacks.)
For kids, our favorite was Rainbow Light Kid’s One MultiStars. Each crunchy, star-shaped tablet contains the same essential nutrients we looked for in our adult picks, at child-friendly doses. This supplement is food-based, and free of the fillers and artificial dyes we saw in many other kids’ formulas. The brand came highly recommended by our experts and is intended for children of all ages.
Older adults have slightly different dietary requirements, often needing higher levels of vitamins like B12 and D. For this category, we suggest Kirkland Signature Adults 50+ Mature Multi — a synthetic formula that hit our nutritional benchmarks for older adults and is quite affordable at just $0.03 per dose.
All that said, the amounts of nutrients included in all our top picks vary — as will the amounts you need to be your healthiest. It’s important to consult with your doctor to determine if you have any vitamin deficiencies (usually via blood test) and what amounts you might require to get back up to speed. If it’s a severe deficiency, your doctor will likely recommend or prescribe a supplement for whichever specific nutrients you lack. Only mild deficiencies can be ameliorated by a multivitamin.
The Best Multivitamins
MegaFood Women’s One Daily
Best for Women
MegaFood Multi for Men
Best for Men
Kirkland Signature Daily Multi
Rainbow Light Kids One MultiStars Food-Based Multivitamin
Best for Kids
Kirkland Signature™ Adults 50+ Mature Multi
Best for Seniors
How We Found the Best Multivitamin
We started out with enough options to fill an entire aisle at your friendly neighborhood supplement store: 289 varieties of tablets, capsules, gummies, chewables, and liquids. Our goal was to find which ones were the safest and most effective to take.
Immediately, we ditched anything with a “proprietary blend.”
If you’re consuming a tablet or capsule every day, you better know exactly what’s in it, and how much. Unlike pharmaceuticals, supplements aren’t submitted for FDA testing and approval before they go to market. The FDA does require that manufacturers disclose all supplement ingredients and detail the amounts per serving — unless it’s classified as a “proprietary blend.” In that case, the manufacturer doesn’t have to disclose anything besides a list of ingredients and the total amount in the bottle.
This kind of disclosure loophole originated to protect businesses with unique products from being copied by competitors, but it’s also a convenient way for manufacturers to skimp on amounts or use inferior ingredients. Worse, buyers could end up consuming a product with too much of one ingredient — even an herbal add-in — which can pose health hazards. (For example, seemingly harmless herbs such as licorice and ginseng have been tied to high blood pressure.)
Contenders cut: 154
Contenders cut: 154
Beast Sports Nutrition Beast Packs, Bodybuilding.com Foundation Series Multivitamin, Bodybuilding.com Foundation Series Women’s Multivitamin, Bodybuilding.com Platinum Series MULTICORE, BPI Sports 24/7 Muscle Vitamin w/ Energy, Controlled Labs Orange Triad, Controlled Labs Orange Triad + Greens, Country Life Core Daily 1 for Men, Country Life Core Daily 1 for Men 50+, Country Life Core Daily 1 for Women, Country Life Realfood Organic Men’s Daily, CTD Sports Multi Elite, Cutler Nutrition Performance Pro-Pack, Deva Nutrition Vegan Multivitamin & Mineral, Emerald Labs Women’s Multivitamin One A Day, Enzymedica Enzyme Nutrition Men’s Multi, EVLUTION NUTRITION VitaMode, Futurebiotics Hi Energy Multi for Men, Garden of Life Kind Organics Women’s Multi, Garden of Life Kind Organics Women’s Multi 40+, Garden of Life Men’s Multi, Garden of Life Men’s Multi 40+, Garden of Life MyKind Organics Men’s Once Daily, Garden of Life Raw One for Men, Garden of Life Vitamin Code 50 & Wiser Men, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Men, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Perfect Weight, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw One for Men, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw One for Women, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Women, Garden of Life Women’s Multi, Garden of Life Women’s Multi 40+, GAT Mens Multi+Test, GNC Beyond RAW RE-LOADED, GNC Mega Men, GNC Mega Men 50 Plus, GNC Mega Men Energy – Chocolate, GNC Mega Men Energy & Metabolism, GNC Mega Men Healthy Testosterone, GNC Mega Men Mini, GNC Mega Men One Daily, GNC Mega Men Prostate and Virility, GNC Mega Men Soft Chew Multivitamin, GNC Mega Men Sport, GNC Mega Men Sport – Chocolate, GNC Mega Men Whole Body, GNC Performix Men’s 8HR Time-Release Multi, GNC Performix Women’s 8HR Time-Release Multi, GNC SuperFoods Maximum Green Complete, GNC SuperFoods Maximum Greens Complete – Original Flavor, GNC SuperFoods Ultra Mega Green Men’s, GNC SuperFoods Ultra Mega Green Men’s Energy & Metabolism, GNC SuperFoods Ultra Mega Green Men’s Sport, GNC SuperFoods Ultra Mega Green Women’s, GNC SuperFoods Ultra Mega Green Women’s Active, GNC Ultra Mega Women’s Bone Density without Iron & Iodine, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Active – Chocolate, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Beauty, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Energy & Metabolism, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Heart, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Joint, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Soft Chew Multivitamin, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Wellness, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega without Iron & Iodine, Grenade Ration Pack, Heaven Sent Naturals Balanced Essentials, Herbalife Formula 2 Multivitamin Complex, HIT Supplements Nutravive, Infinite Labs Men’s Multi, Infinite Labs Women’s Multi, Irwin Naturals Men’s Living Green Liquid-Gel Multi, Irwin Naturals Women’s Living Green Liquid-Gel Multi, Labrada Jamie Eason Signature Series Multi-Vitamin, Labrada Lean Body Men’s Multi-Vitamin, Liquid Health Daily Multiple, MaxiSorb Max for Men, MegaFood Daily Purify, MegaFood Men Over 40 One Daily, MegaFood Men’s One Daily, MegaFood One Daily Iron-Free, MegaFood Women Over 40 One Daily, MET-Rx Active Man, MET-RX Active Woman, MHP Activite Sport, Millennium Sport MVP-365, Millennium Sport ZMK, MusclePharm Armor-V, MUTANT Multi, Myogenix Myovite, Mytrition Men’s 50+ Personal Packs, Mytrition Men’s Sports Personal Packs, Mytrition Women’s 50+ Personal Packs, Mytrition Women’s Personal Packs, Mytrition Women’s Sports Personal Packs, Natrol My Favorite Multiple Energizer, Natural Factors Whole Earth & Sea Men’s 50+ Multivitamin, Natural Factors Whole Earth & Sea Women’s 50+ Multivitamin, Natural Vitality Organic Life Vitamins, Nature’s Plus Mega Force, Nature’s Plus Source of Life Gold Tablets, Nature’s Plus Source of Life Men, Nature’s Plus Source of Life Women, Nature’s Plus Ultra Source of Life with Lutein, Nature’s Secret Women’s 73 Nutrient Soft Gel Multivitamin, Nature’s Way Alive Men’s 50+ Gummy Vitamins, Nature’s Way Alive!, Nature’s Way Alive! Liquid Multivitamin, Nature’s Way Alive! Max Potency Multivitamin, Nature’s Way Alive! Men’s Energy, Nature’s Way Alive! Men’s Gummy Vitamins, Nature’s Way Alive! Once Daily Men’s, Nature’s Way Alive! Once Daily Women’s, Nature’s Way Alive! Women’s 50+ Gummies, Nature’s Way Alive! Women’s 50+ Multivitamin, Nature’s Way Alive! Women’s Energy, Nature’s Way Alive! Women’s Multivitamin, New Chapter Every Man, New Chapter Every Man II 40+, New Chapter Every Man’s One Daily, New Chapter Every Man’s One Daily 40+, New Chapter Every Woman, New Chapter Every Woman II 40+, New Chapter Every Woman’s One Daily, New Chapter Every Woman’s One Daily 40+, New Chapter Only One Multi, NLA for Her Her Multi, NOW Men’s Extreme Sports Multi, OLLY Women’s Super Foods Multi, Only Natural For Men Only II, Optimum Nutrition Opti-Men, PharmaFreak VITA FREAK PACKS, Pro Supps VitaLinx, Pure Essence Labs One ‘N’ Only Men’s, Rainbow Light 50+ Mini Tab, Rainbow Light Active Adult 50+, Rainbow Light Active One Senior Multi, Rainbow Light Brain & Focus Multivitamin, Rainbow Light Just Once Iron-Free, Rainbow Light Men’s One Energy Multivitamin, Rainbow Light Men’s One Multi, Rainbow Light Performance Energy for Men, Rainbow Light Rejuvenage 40+, RSP Nutrition BioVite Multivitamin, Solaray Men’s Golden Multi-Vita-Min, Solaray Once Daily Woman Multivitamin, Solaray Women’s Golden Multi-Vita-Min, Super Nutrition Simply One Men Triple Power, Super Nutrition Simply One Women Iron-Free Multivitamin, The Honest Company Multi Complete for Men Once Daily, Twinlab Vita Fuel, Universal Nutrition Animal Pak, 388 grams, Universal Nutrition Daily Formula, Universal Nutrition Uni-Vite
Then, we cut products that didn’t have credible third-party verification.
Without FDA oversight, the supplement industry is a bit like the Wild West of the wellness world. Journalist Catherine Price researched the supplement industry while writing her book Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food, and she told us if there’s one thing consumers should know, it’s this:
Dietary supplements are not tested for safety or for effectiveness before being sold. The motto of the industry should be caveat emptor: buyer beware.
So we sought out a few sheriffs to establish some accountability. There are a handful of labs that test supplements to evaluate whether they actually contain what the label promises, and we cut all multivitamins that weren’t approved by or compliant with at least one of the following:
Labdoor(We looked for at least a 60 out 100 score, which represents a minimum blanace of label accuracy, product purity, and nutritional value. Find out more about Labdoor’s grading system.)
NSF and USP (both nonprofit organizations) test supplements at the request of manufacturers, then lend stamps of approval to verified products’ packaging. Labdoor and ConsumerLab, both for-profit companies, seek out products to test without consent from manufacturers. (Manufacturers can request tests from ConsumerLab as well.)
We also looked for products that were in compliance with the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) system of in-house testing. This international non-governmental organization lays out a rigorous system of testing for quality management for any product; MegaFood, the manufacturer of our top picks, is in compliance with that system. It’s not an independent certification, but it usually demonstrates that a company cares about quality assurance and wants the public to know.
AllMax Nutrition VitaFemme, AllMax Nutrition VITAFORM, AllMax Nutrition VITASTACK, AST Multi Pro 32X, Betancourt Nutrition Essentials Once Daily Multiple Vitamin, Beverly International FitTabs, Beverly International Super Pak, CBH Super Multivitamin for Men and Women, Centrum Adult Flavor Burst Chews, Centrum Adults, Centrum Adults MultiGummies, Centrum Liquid Multivitamin, Centrum Men, Centrum Men MultiGummies, Centrum Silver for Women 50+, Centrum Silver Men’s 50+, Centrum Specialist Energy Complete Multivitamin, Centrum Specialist Heart Complete Multivitamin, Centrum VitaMints, Centrum Women, Centrum Women MultiGummies, Century Systems Miracle 2000, Country Life Max for Men, Enzymatic Therapy Doctor’s Choice for 45+ Women, Enzymatic Therapy Doctor’s Choice for 50+ Men, Enzymatic Therapy Doctor’s Choice for Men, Gaspari Nutrition Anavite, Gaspari Nutrition Anavite Powder, GNC Mega Men 50 Plus Mini, GNC Mega Men 50 Plus One Daily, GNC Mega Men Basics 50 Plus, GNC Mega Men Gummy Multivitamin, GNC Mega Men Heart, GNC Ultra Mega Gold Multivitamin, GNC Ultra Mega Gold without Iron, GNC Ultra Mega Multivitamin, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega 50 Plus, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega 50 Plus Mini, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega 50 Plus One Daily, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Active without Iron, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Basics, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Bone Density, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Gummy Multivitamin, GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Mini, Healthy N’ Fit Super Nutri, JYM Vita JYM, Kirkland Signature Adult Multivitamin (Gummy), Magnum Nutriceuticals Primer, MuscleTech Platinum Multivitamin, MuscleTech VitaMax Sport SX-7 Black Onyx, MuscleTech VitaMax Test SX-7 Black Onyx, Myprotein Alpha Men, Nature’s Answer Liquid Multiple Vitamin, Nature’s Plus Just Vitamins, Nature’s Plus Source of Life Multi No Iron, NLA for Her Her Multi Chew, Nordic Naturals Nordic Berries, NOW Eve, NOW Liquid Multi, NOW True Balance, NutriForce Sports WODPak, Nutrition Now Men’s Gummy Vitamins, Nutrition Now Women’s Gummy Vitamins, OhYeah! Nutrition Super Vitamin Pak, Ola Loa Energy Super Multi-Vitamin, OLLY Men’s Multi, OLLY Women’s Multi, One A Day Energy Multivitamin, One A Day Men’s 50+ Healthy Advantage, One A Day Men’s ProEdge Multivitamin, One A Day Men’s VitaCraves Gummies, One A Day Proactive 65+ Multivitamin, One A Day Vitacraves Chewy Bites, One A Day Vitacraves Energy Support, One A Day VitaCraves Gummies with Omega-3 and DHA, One A Day Vitacraves Healthy Metabolism Support Multivitamin, One A Day Vitacraves Immunity Gummies, One A Day Women’s Multivitamin, One A Day Women’s Petite Multivitamin, One A Day Women’s Vitacraves, PreserVision AREDS 2 Multivitamin, Smarty Pants Adult Complete, Smarty Pants Adult Complete + Fiber, Smarty Pants Men’s Complete Multi + Omega-3s + CoQ10, Smarty Pants Women’s Complete Multivitamin + Omega 3s + Vitamin K2, Solgar Female Multiple, Solgar Male Multiple, Source Naturals Men’s Life Force Multiple, Source Naturals Wellness Formula, SportPharma Multi-V, Super Nutrition Simply One Men 50+ Iron Free, Super Nutrition Simply One Women, Super Nutrition Simply One Women 50+, True GRIT Multi, Twinlab Daily One Caps without Iron, Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake, Vigor Labs Vigor Male Multivitamin, Vitafusion Men’s, Vitafusion MultiVites, Vitafusion Women’s, Vital Earth Minerals Super Multi High Potency Liquid Multi Vitamin, VPX MEDIVIN
Then we drilled down on inactive ingredients.
“Inactive ingredients” is a blanket term for everything included in the pill that isn’t adding nutritional value. Typically, a short list of inactive ingredients is a good sign of quality — our top picks from MegaFood have just three.
We looked for formulas that limited their use of artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, dextrose, maltodextrin, xylitol, glucose syrup, aspartame, and high fructose corn syrup.
In that same spirit, we wanted to avoid partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colorants as much as possible. We also kept an eye out for fillers and binders that are probably safe in small doses — but why consume them if there are better options? Those included titanium dioxide, carmine, butylated hydroxytoluene, benzoic acid, PEG 3350, talc, and magnesium silicate.
And examined labels for a good blend of nutrients.
When it comes to nutrition, “the most important thing is eating a balanced diet with nutrient-rich foods, and then supplementing to fill missing gaps,” saidSharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Plant-Powered for Life. “If your diet is pretty good, it might not really be necessary — maybe supplement a few times a week if you’re really concerned about shortfalls.”
To figure out what those shortfalls could be, we turned to theFDA’s dietary guidelines. Out of the 27 nutrients the body needs, the FDA states that American adults are most likely to be at risk of not consuming enough calcium, potassium, or magnesium — as well as vitamins A, C, and E.
It was a solid wish list, but very few multivitamins contain significant amounts of everything. “Multis don’t typically contain 100 percent of what you need, as the pill would just be too large,” Palmer told us — and in fact, we even had trouble finding a good option that included all those key “at-risk” nutrients, particularly potassium and calcium.
It’s understandable: there’s no way one supplement could magically cover all the bases for all people. So to make our top picks, we analyzed our remaining list of 33 multivitamins, looking for the ones that featured the fewest inactive ingredients, the best third-party certifications, and the most well-rounded roster of nutrients.
Generally, men’s and women’s blends contain largely the same basic nutrients. The biggest difference is that most supplements aimed at pre-menopausal women contain more iron, calcium, or both. There’s no inherent danger in taking a multivitamin that’s marketed for a different sex, but there are some potential side effects: an increased amount of iron, for example, can lead to constipation. We showcase both men’s and women’s formulas, but knowing the nutrients you lack in your diet is the best way to choose the right formula for you — and speaking with your doctor is the best way to determine those gaps.
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