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What to Look for in a Teen Multivitamin

5 min read

We can’t all have kids gummy multivitamins forever—teens deserve a more grown-up multivitamin that better fits their life stage. Let’s dig into the nutrients to look for in a teens multivitamin.
We can’t all have kids gummy multivitamins forever—teens deserve a more grown-up multivitamin that better fits their life stage. Let’s dig into the nutrients to look for in a teens multivitamin.

Whether you’re a parent to a teen or just remember what it was like to be one yourself, you probably know that prioritizing a balanced diet during this particular life stage is, uh…not always so simple. In fact, according to national data, teens’ diets are among the worst in the US. That means that most teenagers fall below recommendations for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutrient-dense foods. (1)

At Ritual, we believe in a food-first approach: the idea that the best way to meet your nutrient needs is to focus on what’s on your plate. But the truth is that nutrient gaps can still happen even for those of us who eat pretty healthfully—which means that those who don’t follow a balanced diet may be particularly vulnerable. So while a multivitamin can never replace a healthy diet, it might come in handy when it comes to bridging some of those nutrient gaps—especially if it was formulated with a particular life stage in mind, along with the common dietary gaps of that age group.

That’s all to say that teens may need a slightly different multivitamin than kids under 13 or adults over 18, based on their specific life stage needs as well as those common nutrient gaps. Makes sense, right? And beyond that, there are other factors worth considering—like the way the multivitamin is formulated and the ingredients that aren’t included, like sugars or shady additives.

With all this in mind, here’s what to look out for in a quality teen multivitamin.

Iron. This one’s for teen girls specifically: Iron supports blood health, which is why women need more of it once they start getting a period. About 1 in 6 teenage girls aren’t getting enough iron from their diets. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to meet their iron needs through food alone, so they may not need iron in their multivitamin. (More isn’t always more when it comes to your nutrient intake.)* (2)

Omega-3 DHA. Less than 5% of teenage boys and teenage girls are getting enough key omega-3 fatty acids from their diets†—which is bad news, since omega-3s play a really important role in helping support brain, vision, and heart health. Another problem? The omega-3 DHA found in supplements is often derived from fish, which isn’t ideal for our vegan and vegetarian friends. Our advice is to look for omega-3 DHA sourced from microalgae. (Fun fact: Fish actually get their omega-3 content from the microalgae they eat, anyway.)*

*†Key omega-3s = DHA+EPA. There is no established Daily Value but experts suggest 250 mg per day of DHA+EPA.**

Folate. This B-vitamin plays a role in red blood cell formation and DNA methylation—kind of a big job, right? The problem is that many supplements use folic acid, a synthetic form of folate that isn’t as bioavailable. In fact, up to one-third of the population has a genetic variation that makes it difficult to efficiently use folic acid. That’s why we recommend looking for MTHF Folate, which is bioavailable for everyone—including those with that pesky gene variation.*

Vitamin B12. B12 plays an important role in contributing to normal cell division. The problem? Vitamin B12 is found mainly in meat, fish, and eggs, so vegans and vegetarians can have a really tough time getting enough through diet alone.*

Vitamin D. It’s hard to overstate the importance of vitamin D, which helps support bone health, normal immune function, and normal muscle function. The thing is, the vast majority of people are unable to get enough vitamin D through diet alone: In fact, about 97% of teenage girls and 92% of teenage boys are falling short. And sunlight isn’t always a reliable source either, since factors ranging from climate to season to SPF (which is important!) can have an impact. That’s where supplementation can come in handy.* (1)

Vitamin A. This nutrient helps support normal immune function and even helps out with vision. But more than half of teenage boys and teenage girls aren’t getting enough vitamin A from their diets, which is why it might be a good idea to look for A in a teen multivitamin.*

Vitamin E. 88% of teenage boys and 95% of teenage girls aren’t getting enough vitamin E from their diets. That’s a shame, since this antioxidant is another nutrient that helps support normal immune function. A word to the wise: Look for vitamin E sourced from mixed tocopherols, since that’s the same spectrum of this nutrient found in a healthy diet.*

Vitamin K2. Calcium might get all the credit when it comes to bone health, but the truth is that it has a lot of help from other nutrients behind the scenes. Vitamin K2 is one of those unsung helper nutrients, which supports the calcium we get from our diets.*

Magnesium. Like K2, magnesium supports bone health and works alongside Vitamin D to support normal muscle function—and while it’s found in foods like dark chocolate, nuts, and avocado, the truth is we need a lot of magnesium to meet our daily levels. 89% of teenage girls and 78% of teenage boys aren’t getting enough from their diets.*

Zinc. We all need zinc, which helps support normal immune function, vision and bone support, and vitamin A metabolism.*

Nix the sugar and other shady additives.

It’s not just about what’s in a multivitamin, but what isn’t: Namely, added sugars, mystery fillers, or colorants, which we don’t think have any place in your capsule.

A “less is more” approach to formulation.

There are certain nutrients that most of us can get enough of through diet alone—and supplementing with more won’t necessarily do us any favors. Vitamin C is a great example: It’s found in such a wide range of fruits and vegetables, that the vast majority of us are getting enough on our plate. (Fun fact: One medium orange contains your entire day’s worth of vitamin C.)*

Calcium is another one. A lot of us can get a lot through our diets, but commonly may not be getting enough of the other “helper” nutrients that support bone health, like vitamin K2. Our pro tip: Instead of overloading on calcium in your multivitamin, look for those supporting players instead*.

A Traceable multivitamin label.

Do you know where your multivitamin’s nutrients come from? Like, really know? We’re big believers in Traceability, which is all about lifting the curtain to our manufacturing process—from where we source our nutrients to the way they’re encapsulated. In other words, you deserve to know what you’re putting into your body and why.

References:

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
  2. USDA, Agricultural Research Service. Usual Nutrient Intake from Food and Beverages, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016. 2019.

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