What To Look For In a Multivitamin

You may have heard the saying “you can’t out exercise a poor diet,” well, another variation to this is that you can’t out-supplement one either. However, even with a perfect diet and great sleep, people are still experiencing nutrient deficiencies. Why is this? Well, modern foods just don’t contain the same levels of micronutrients they did around 100 years ago. This is largely due to soil depletion, which results in fewer nutrients being absorbed by the plant and then being passed on to the food. Consequently, we are seeing a rise in modern foods being deficient in certain nutrients.

To help in combating nutrient deficiencies that can arise, and ensure you are consuming supplements that will actually provide you with high-quality forms of nutrients that the body recognises and thus will absorb, I wanted to share with you the checklist I go through when choosing multivitamins or other supplements that I learnt while reading The Micronutrient Miracle.

Identifying The Major Flaws Of The Multivitamin

A lot of multivitamins you find on the market can be, for the most part, a waste of money. They aren’t able to raise the levels of micronutrients in your body to a sufficient level that your body requires to function optimally. The multivitamin you take may help to raise your nutrient levels a little, but over the long-term, your body will not function at the optimal level you deserve.

If you think about it, a multivitamin should be one of the most powerful tools to improve your health that is available to you. After all, it’s jam-packed with an array of essential nutrients the body needs to function at its best. What other foods contain such a diverse amount of nutrients in one tiny source? Not many. However, research has shown that when all the individual micronutrients are combined together into a single multivitamin, those individual micronutrients are not able to carry out their duties within the body.

Why is this?

1. Absorption.

Well, the first flaw is that your body doesn’t absorb the micronutrients found in that multivitamin you bought at the shops. As it turns out, the process of absorbing micronutrients isn’t as easy as one might think; and if your body can’t absorb the vitamins and minerals inside your daily multivitamin capsule or tablet, then they simply pass right through your system and out the other end. This makes absorption a huge issue and one of the major flaws identified in most multivitamins.

2. Beneficial Amounts and Forms They Come In.

The second flaw is whether you’re receiving sufficient amounts of micronutrients in your multivitamin, as well as whether they’re in a form your body recognises and therefore will absorb. While manufacturers often add in too much of some micronutrients, for instance the B vitamins as they’re fairly inexpensive to manufacture, more often than not, the problem is they don’t add enough of other nutrients. Calcium and magnesium are often the minerals that manufacturers skimp out on the most. This is because they are quite expensive to produce and don’t easily fit into a few capsules or tablets. Manufacturers don’t want to discourage you from taking their products, so they actually leave out essential micronutrients from their formulas so they can keep the number of pills you have to take each day down to a minimum.

It is also important that you source a multivitamin that should be taken at least twice a day, as this ensures that your body receives an extra hit of these essential nutrients towards the end of the day, as some micronutrients would have been depleted.

What’s more, each micronutrient has numerous forms that a manufacturer can choose from to include in their formula. Some offer better performance at a higher price tag to the manufacturer, while others are less expensive and less effective. Including these lower quality forms in their multivitamin increases the manufacturer’s profits. But unless you know which is which, you may be purchasing a multivitamin with forms of vitamins that your body just doesn’t recognise or thus will not absorb.

3. Micronutrient Competitions.

Each micronutrient has a unique function within the body, and some blend well while others do not. So, instead of the micronutrients working together cooperatively, they all compete with one another for absorption and utilisation.

Research found that the absorption and utilisation of certain micronutrients was greatly reduced when delivered at the same time (like within a multivitamin). An example of this is zinc and copper. When these two nutrients are taken at the same time, they compete with one another for absorption sites within the body. These sites act as docking locations for specific micronutrients and are found throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

To help counteract this, it is important that you source a multivitamin that has been formulated using Anti-Competition Technology, which separates the known micronutrient competitions and pairs them with micronutrients that will work together.

How To Choose A Good Multivitamin

Applying what we talked about above, here are some of the key qualities to look for when choosing your multivitamin.

The Delivery System.

The way the micronutrients are delivered in the body is key when it comes to absorption. Now, when I say “delivery system,” I’m referring to the form in which your multivitamin comes in, e.g. tablet, capsule, liquid, powder, etc. Certain delivery systems can have better absorption rates. Pills or capsules, when ingested, must first disintegrate, or break down, in order to make the vitamins and minerals available for the body to then absorb. What’s more, there is a time-frame in which a mineral or vitamin can be absorbed. After that, what’s left will unfortunately be passed out.

Dr. Raimar Löbenberg, PhD, lead researcher in a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, ran a study to identify how much of a problem poor disintegration poses when it comes to multivitamins. He examined 49 well-known commercially available multivitamins that were in either capsule or tablet form to determine if they would disintegrate and release their contained vitamins and minerals within a 20-minute time-frame. This was determined as the time necessary for the body to be able to absorb those nutrients. The results showed that out of the 49 multivitamins tested, 25 did not disintegrate within the allotted 20-minute window (that’s 51%).

Surprising, right? More than 50% of the well-known store brand multivitamins that use capsules and tablets as their delivery system were not able to disintegrate within the allotted time-frame. And as disintegration is the first step in absorption, if you were taking one of these popular store-bought multivitamin brands, your body would not be able to effectively absorb the essential nutrients within these multivitamins.

However, it states in the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR), that liquid formulas are the most absorbable, at up to 98%.

Things To Keep In Mind With Liquid Delivery Systems

While a liquid delivery system may be better in terms of possible absorption of the micronutrients within it, there are still some things to be aware of when it comes to liquid multivitamins. For one thing, just because the multivitamin is going to be taken in liquid form doesn’t mean it is necessarily sold as a liquid. It could be a powder as well.

Furthermore, multivitamins that have come into contact with light, air, and heat will lose some of their micronutrients. So, if you purchase a liquid multivitamin that may have been exposed to heat on its journey to the store, and has been sitting on the store shelf exposed to fluorescent lighting, there is a good chance the micronutrients may have deteriorated to some extent.

In addition, many of the powdered and liquid multivitamins, as well as those that come in tablet and capsule form, can contain unwanted add-ins. Below is a brief list of many of the ingredients that interfere with absorption, some of them acting as binders, fillers, excipients, sweeteners, flow agents, flavours, and preservatives. Check to make sure these do not appear on the labels of your supplements.

Ingredients To Look Out For That Interfere With Proper Absorption

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

Beneficial Amounts And Forms Of Each Micronutrient

Here are some of the essential micronutrients and the preferrable forms in which they come in, along with a short explanation as to why these are good forms to use for smart supplementation*.

Vitamin A
Good forms: 5,000 IU, or 100% Daily Value, of mixed vitamin A from palmitate and beta-carotene.
Why this form: Some multivitamins only contain beta-carotene which is an inactive form of vitamin A. It is important to look for a supplement which has also been formulated to include at least 2,500 IU of active forms of vitamin A, like retinyl acetate or palmitate.

Good forms: 6 mg lutein.
Why this form: Most multivitamins leave out lutein, but it is recommended to have 6 mg of this nutrient to help prevent age-related macular degeneration.

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

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Good forms: 20 mg of niacin and niacinamide.
Why this form: Niacinamide is the most common form of vitamin B3 found in multivitamins. However, these two forms of vitamin B3 perform different functions in the body. Niacinamide helps regulate blood sugar, while niacin has been shown to help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol). This is why it is best to choose a multivitamin that includes both forms.

Vitamin B6
Good forms: 2 mg of pyridoxal-5-phosphate.
Why this form: Pyridoxine HCI is the non-active form of B6. The bioactive form is pyridoxal-5-phosphate.

Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Good forms: 400 mcg of 5-MTHF (methyltetrahydro-folate).
Why this form: 5-MTHF can be a more effective method of folate supplementation for those who can’t convert folic acid into bioactive 5-MTHF.

Vitamin B12
Good forms: 6 mcg of methylcobalamin.
Why this form: Cyanocobalamin is commonly found in multivitamins, however, this is not a natural source of B12. In actual fact, it’s not found anywhere in nature and needs to be transformed into methylcobalamin by the liver in order to be used by the body.

Vitamin D
Good forms: 2,000 IU of vitamin D3.
Why this form: Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form of vitamin D that is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin E
Good forms: 30 IU of mixed tocopherols and mixed tocotrienols.
Why this form: Vitamin E is divided into two groups: the tocopherols and tocotrienols, each containing four distinct derivatives (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Good supplements contain a variety of each. Check the label for “full spectrum d-tocopherols and d-tocotrienols.” In addition, avoid the synthetic form of this vitamin, which starts with dl-.

Vitamin K
Good forms: 80 mcg of vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 (MK-4 and MK-7).
Why this form: It is important for a supplement to include both K1 and K2, and even better if it includes both forms of K2 (MK-4 and MK-7).

Good forms: 600 mg
Pills and capsules:
calcium citrate or malate.

Liquids and powders:
Same as above or calcium carbonate + citric acid (non-GMO).
Why this form: While pills and capsules should use calcium citrate or malate as they are more absorbable, liquids and powders have an additional option: Combining calcium carbonate with non-GMO citric acid triggers the conversion of the calcium carbonate to calcium citrate in water, therefore supplying the best absorption in a liquid form.

Not recommended to be included in a supplement.

Not recommended to be included in a supplement.

Good forms: 400 mg
Pills and capsules:
magnesium citrate, glycinate, or L-Thronate.

Liquids and powders:
Same as above or magnesium carbonate + citric acid (non-GMO).
Why this form: Look for supplements that provide 400 mg of magnesium. Similar to calcium, magnesium carbonate is converted to magnesium citrate using non-GMO citric acid and water.

Good forms: 70 mcg selenomethionine
Why this form: This is the best bioavailable form.

*All beneficial forms and quantities of the nutrients mentioned above were referenced from the book, “The Micronutrient Miracle,” written by Jayson Calton, PhD, and Mira Calton, CN.

Avoiding Micronutrient Competitions

When choosing a multivitamin, opt for one that:

  • Does not contain both vitamin B9 (folate) and zinc in the same dose.
  • Does not contain both lutein and beta-carotene in the same dose.
  • Does not contain both vitamin B5 and copper in the same dose.
  • Does not contain both vitamin A and vitamin D in the same dose.
  • Does not contain both zinc and copper in the same dose.
  • Does not contain both vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B7 (biotin) in the same dose.
  • Does not contain iron at all.
  • Does contain and claim Anti-Competition Technology on packaging to account for all competitions and synergies.

Now, the multivitamin I use, and which also encompasses the positive traits a good multivitamin should have (as mentioned above) is the multivitamin 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, feel free to take The Multivitamin Stack-Up Quiz!

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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What’s your experience with multivitamin supplements? Please share in the comments!

Have a wonderful day!

Vanessa xx



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

Wells, Katie. (August 21, 2018). Green Superfood Powder: Worth it? (+ How to Find a Good One). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/124151/greens-powder/