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Navigating the Multivitamin Maze

One of our prime directives at Core 4 Nutrition is to educate people on the power of whole-food supplement support.  If you are still taking a synthetic multivitamin, I hope this post will inspire you to do things differently.

When evaluating multivitamin formulas, it’s important to know that the quality of one product’s ingredients can vary greatly from another's.  The inexpensive, mass-marketed one-a-days, for example, contain minimal amounts of synthetic nutrients—just enough to meet the government’s RDA or recommended daily allowance of nutrients necessary for preventing disease (but not nearly enough for promoting health).  Their more expensive, designer-label counterparts often contain larger quantities of hundreds of different vitamins and minerals, all of them are synthetic and difficult for the body to use. 

Don’t waste your hard-earned money on products that don’t work.  Learn the basics before you buy.  Start by becoming more familiar with the three most common types of multivitamin formulas available:

1. Combinations of isolated supplements.  These formulas contain ingredients that are artificially produced in a lab.  In fact, many of them contain ingredients derived from crushed rocks and petrochemical by-products.  Read the label and you’ll see an ingredient list with names like calcium carbonite and thiamine mononitrate—synthetic chemicals which can be identified by their two-part name.  As explained previously, the amount of these pseudo nutrients can range from a little to a lot.  But regardless of their dosage, they simply aren't well-utilized by the human body.

2.  Food-based supplements. Food-based supplements also contain the isolated synthetic nutrients described above, but they also contain at least a few ingredients derived from food or plant extracts and/or powders.  Read the label of a food-based supplement and you’ll see two-part chemical names along with some ingredients you can actually recognize—spinach powder, orange extract, or rice bran. The addition of food-based ingredients increases the bioavailability of the product’s total nutrient blend over those made solely of isolated nutrients. 

3.  100% whole-food supplements. Whole food supplements contain 100% raw food concentrates, which provide the broadest possible spectrum of vitamins and minerals along with the vital phytonutrients and co-factors that naturally enhance the body’s ability to utilize them.  Read the label and you’ll see only the familiar names of the fresh fruits and vegetables you love—carrots, oranges, beets, and broccoli.  

Now that you understand the importance of what should go into a multivitamin, you should also understand what should not.

The list of ingredients below was copied directly from one the world’s best-selling multivitamin formulas. The reason for this supplement’s popularity has everything to do with marketing and, unfortunately, nothing to do with its quality or effectiveness. Look closely at the label ingredients and what you’ll see is not only an over-priced mix of poorly-absorbed synthetic chemicals, but a whopping dose of preservatives, additives, colors, fillers, processed oils, and genetically modified ingredients.  So much for taking a product that’s good for your health!

Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Potassium Chloride, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), Dibasic Calcium Phosphate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, dl-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Pregelatinized Corn Starch. Contains < 2% of: Acacia, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Beta-Carotene, BHT, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Calcium Stearate, Cholecalciferol (Vit. D3), Chromium Picolinate, Citric Acid, Corn Starch, Crospovidone, Cupric Sulfate, Cyanocobalamin (Vit. B12), FD&C Red No. 40 Aluminum Lake, FD&C Yellow No. 6 Aluminum Lake, Ferrous Fumarate, Folic Acid, Gelatin, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Hypromellose, Soy Lecithin, Lycopene, Magnesium Borate, Magnesium Stearate, Manganese Sulfate, Medium-Chain Triglycerides, Modified Food Starch, Niacinamide, Nickelous Sulfate, Phytonadione (Vit. K), Polyethylene Glycol, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Potassium Iodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vit. B6), Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Metavanadate, Sodium Molybdate, Sodium Selenate, Sorbic Acid, Stannous Chloride, Sucrose, Talc, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vit. B1), Titanium Dioxide, Tocopherols, Vitamin A Acetate, Zinc Oxide. May also contain < 2% of: Maltodextrin, Sodium Aluminosilicate, Sunflower Oil, Tribasic Calcium phosphate

Armed with this new information, navigating the multivitamin maze is easy.   

Avoid the big-brand, commercial products that are nothing more than fillers and chemicals that provide no proven, long-term health benefits.  Opt instead for a high-quality, whole-food formula crafted exclusively from real fruits, vegetables, and botanicals—blueberries, apples, oranges, and cranberries; carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and kale, ginger, garlic, and turmeric; a formula with thousands of studies confirming its comprehensive and lasting benefits. 

Want to learn more about how to choose—and use—nutritional supplements?  

Visit Core 4 Nutrition and you’ll discover which four, key nutrients have been linked most closely to optimal health and performance.