What to Look For in a Multivitamin

A twist on the popular saying, “You can’t out-exercise a poor diet” is, you can’t out-supplement a poor diet, either. However, even with a perfect diet and great sleep, people are still experiencing nutrient deficiencies. Why? Well, modern foods just don’t contain the same levels of micronutrients they did just 100 years ago. This is mainly due to soil depletion, which results in fewer nutrients being absorbed by plants.

Supplementing allows us to boost nutrient levels in our body through taking doses of high-quality nutrient forms. It’s important to do your research and choose good quality supplements, containing nutrient forms the body will recognise, and thus absorb. Here is the checklist I go through when choosing multivitamins or other supplements that I learnt while reading The Micronutrient Miracle.

Now, dietary supplements aren’t regulated like medicine is, so there’s no way to know exactly what’s in them (if need be, ask the manufacture and check the label).

Major Flaws of the Multivitamin

A lot of multivitamins available can be, for the most part, a waste of money. They’re not able to raise micronutrient levels in the body sufficiently enough. It may raise nutrient levels a little, but when looking at the long-term benefit, it will not provide your body with enough nutrients to function optimally.

A multivitamin should be one of the most powerful tools available to help improve our health. After all, it’s jam-packed with a variety of important nutrients. What other foods contain the same levels, or even the same diverse array of nutrients? Not many. Unfortunately, research has shown that when all the individual micronutrients are combined together into a single multivitamin, they’re not able to carry out their duties properly.


Competition for absorption

As it turns out, the process of absorption in the body isn’t as simple as one might think. Often, the body doesn’t absorb the vitamins and minerals inside your daily multivitamin tablet, so these nutrients simply pass right through your system and out the other end. Micronutrient competitions have a huge part to play in this.

Each micronutrient has a unique role to play in the body. Some blend together well, while others do not. Rather than all the micronutrients working together cooperatively, they instead compete with one another for absorption and utilisation.

Research has found that certain micronutrients are absorbed way less when delivered at the same time (like when taking a multivitamin). Zinc and copper make great examples. When taken at the same time, they compete with one another for absorption sites. These sites act as “docking zones” for specific micronutrients and are found right through the gastrointestinal tract.

To help prevent this from happening, it’s important that you source a multivitamin that’s been formulated using Anti-Competition Technology (which basically separates micronutrient competitions and instead pairs them with nutrients that work together).

Avoid multivitamins that come with these micronutrient pairings (as they will compete for absorption):

  • Vitamin B9 (folate) and zinc
  • Lutein and beta-carotene
  • Vitamin B5 and copper
  • Vitamin A and vitamin D
  • Zinc and copper
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B7 (biotin)
  • Iron (it will compete with all micronutrients)

Amounts and forms they come in

Are you receiving sufficient levels of micronutrients in your multivitamin? Also, are they being delivered in a form your body actually recognises and will therefore absorb? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when shopping for a multivitamin. Often you’ll find that manufacturers will add too much of some micronutrients (e.g. the B vitamins because they’re cheaper to manufacture) while skimping out on others (e.g. calcium and magnesium).

Fun fact: Did you know that each micronutrient has numerous forms a manufacturer can pick and choose from to include in their formula? Some being better than others. Including the lower quality forms in a multivitamin means manufacturer’s increase their profits. So unless you know which is which, you may be purchasing a multivitamin with nutrient forms your body won’t recognise, and hence, won’t absorb.

Always check the label to make sure the supplement your purchasing meets the right criteria.

Note: Source a multivitamin that must be taken at least twice a day, to ensure you’re getting a hit of nutrients towards the end of the day as well, as some micronutrients will have been depleted by then (e.g. vitamin C).

Beneficial forms of each micronutrient

These are the recommendations for 100% daily value of each nutrient (which can be split over morning and evening):

Vitamin A
Forms: 5,000 IU, from palmitate AND beta-carotene. Some multivitamins only contain beta-carotene which is an inactive form of vitamin A.

Forms: 6 mg lutein. Most multivitamins will leave out lutein.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Forms: 1.7 mg of riboflavin-5-phosphate. Many multivitamins contain the non-bioactive form of vitamin B2, riboflavin HCI.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Forms: 20 mg of niacin AND niacinamide. Both forms of vitamin B3 provide different functions in the body, so it’s recommended take a multivitamin that includes both.

Vitamin B6
Forms: 2 mg of pyridoxal-5-phosphate. Pyridoxine HCI is the non-active form of B6.

Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Forms: 400 mcg of 5-MTHF (methyltetrahydro-folate). Good for those who can’t convert folic acid into bioactive form of vitamin B9, 5-MTHF.

Vitamin B12
Forms: 6 mcg of methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is the common form of B12 found in most multivitamins, however, it’s not a natural source of B12.

Vitamin D
Forms: 2,000 IU of vitamin D3. Cholecalciferol is the form of vitamin D we produce when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin E
Forms: 30 IU of mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols. Check the label for “full spectrum d-tocopherols and d-tocotrienols.” Synthetic forms start with ‘dl-‘ (you want to avoid these).

Vitamin K
Forms: 80 mcg of vitamin K1 (MK-4) and vitamin K2 (MK-7). Require both by the body.

Forms: 600 mg of calcium citrate or malate (for pills and capsules), or calcium carbonate AND citric acid (for powders – make sure it’s non-GMO).

Not recommended to be included in a supplement. It’s too competitive.

Not recommended to be included in a supplement. It’s too competitive.

Forms: 400 mg of magnesium citrate, glycinate, or L-Thronate (for pills and capsules), or magnesium carbonate AND citric acid (for powders – make sure it’s non-GMO).

Forms: 70 mcg selenomethionine (this is the bioavailable form).

For further details on each nutrient and its form + quantity, see The Micronutrient Miracle written by Jayson Calton, PhD, and Mira Calton, CN.

How to Choose a Good Multivitamin

Keeping in mind what we just talked about, here are some key qualities to look out for when choosing your multivitamin:

Liquid or Capsule??

The way in which micronutrients are delivered when ingested is key when it comes to absorption. Now, when I say “delivered” I’m referring to the form your multivitamin comes in (e.g. tablet, capsule, liquid or powder). Certain forms have better absorption rates. Pills or capsules, for instance, must first disintegrate, or break down, in order to make the nutrients inside available for the body to absorb. If the capsule is faulty and breaks down too early (e.g. when still in the stomach), it may deliver the nutrients ahead of time and reduce the amount that’s absorbed. The same goes if it’s delivered too late. There’s a specific time-frame in which a mineral or vitamin can be absorbed. After that, what’s left will be passed straight on out.

Supplements come in a whole range of delivery systems: capsule, tablet, liquid and powder! So It’s important to know which is best for which supplement.

ran a study to identify how much of a problem poor disintegration poses when it comes to multivitamins. Dr. Raimar Löbenberg, PhD, lead researcher in a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, examined 49 well-known commercially available multivitamins that were in either capsule or tablet form to find out whether they would break down in time (within 20 minutes of ingestion) to release their contents for the body to use. The results were as follows:

Out of the 49 multivitamins tested, 25 did not disintegrate within the allotted 20-minute window.

Jayson Calton, PhD, The Micronutrient Miracle

That 51%!! As we know, disintegration is the first step in absorption, so if you were taking one of these popular store-bought multivitamins, your body would not be effectively receiving these nutrients (that’s expensive pee right there!).

According to the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR),

Liquid formulas are the most absorbable, up to 98%.

Jayson Calton, PhD, The Micronutrient Miracle

What to Look for in a Liquid Multivitamin

While liquid supplements may be better in terms of absorption, there are still some things to be aware of…

For one thing, just because a multivitamin is to be taken in liquid form doesn’t mean it’ll be sold as a liquid. It could be a powder. I supplement with a potent vitamin C powder that I pick up from my naturopath, which I then dilute with water, creating a liquid delivery system when ingested.

Note: Light, air, and heat will deteriorate micronutrient levels in supplements. So, if you purchase a multivitamin that’s been exposed to heat or has been sitting on the store shelf exposed to fluorescent lighting, there’s a good chance the micronutrients may be affected to some extent.

Keep in mind, many powdered, liquid, tablet and capsule multivitamins can contain add-ins. I’ve listed some of these unwanted binders, fillers, excipients, sweeteners, flow agents, flavours, and preservatives below. Always read labels and check to make sure your supplements do not contain the following:

  • All artificial sweeteners
  • Artificial flavours
  • BHA or BHT
  • Cane sugar
  • Cellulose
  • Colourings: Red 40, Blue 1 or 2, Yellow 5 or 6
  • Corn syrup, cornstarch, or solids
  • Croscarmellose sodium
  • Crospovidone
  • Disodium hydrogen phosphate
  • Fructose
  • Gelatin
  • Gellan gum
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Hydroxypropyl cellulose
  • Hypromellose
  • Hydrogenated oil
  • Lead, Mercury and PCBs
  • Magnesium or calcium stearate
  • Magnesium silicate
  • Maltodextrin
  • Methylcellulose
  • Microcrystalline cellulose
  • Polyvinyl alcohol
  • Shellac
  • Silica
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium starch glycolate
  • Stearic acid
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Talc
  • Tapioca syrup
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Wax

Now, the multivitamin which encompasses ALL of these things is Nutreince. Note: if ordering off this site to Australia, keep in mind that it takes around 1-2 weeks to arrive.

If you would like to see how your current multivitamin compares in terms of quality, you can take The Multivitamin Stack-Up Quiz!

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it.

What’s you favourite multivitamin? Share below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa


Jayson Calton, PhD, Mira Calton, CN. The Micronutrient Miracle. Victoria: Nero, 2015. Print.

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