Nutrition

How to Choose a Multivitamin at Different Life Stages

7 min read
It depends on your life stage. Here’s what to keep in mind.
It depends on your life stage. Here’s what to keep in mind.

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Regardless of where you are on your health journey—whether you’re adopting small changes to your diet or consider yourself well-versed in all things nutrition and wellness—chances are at some point along the way, you’ve asked yourself what vitamins you should look for. (Or if you should take them at all.) And to that we say: You’re certainly not alone. The world of supplementation can be as convoluted as it is saturated, and with so many options available on the market, discerning what the body needs—versus what you’re being told it needs—is increasingly challenging.

To help you wade through the weeds and find the right daily multivitamin for you, we’ve put together a handy guide of important factors to keep in mind—broken down by life stage and assigned sex at birth†. Keep in mind that the below advice is operating under the presumption that you’ve already confirmed the brand you’re shopping from prioritizes high-quality ingredients and Traceability. (For more tips on determining whether a certain multivitamin is worth the investment, click here.)

Life stage: 18+

Women: When shopping for a women’s multivitamin (or any dietary supplement, really), it’s important to weigh nutrient needs against what you’re already consuming. As a general rule, supplements are intended to be just that—a supplement to a balanced diet rich in whole foods—rather than a substitute meant to “make up for” a less-than-ideal way of eating. Translation: Nutrient overflow is real, and coupling a food-first approach to nutrition with a streamlined multivitamin can help.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about the nine key nutrients to look for in a women’s multivitamin: folate, omega-3 fatty acids (we use vegan algal oil), vitamin B12, vitamin D3, iron, vitamin K2, boron, vitamin E, and magnesium. (You’ll notice two nutrients missing from that list, and for a reasonvitamin C, found in food sources like citrus fruits along with other fruits and veggies, and calcium, often found in yogurt, chia seeds, and kale.) (1, 2, 3)

We make it easy with just two daily pills of Essential for Women 18+—our clinical-backed multivitamin formulated to help fill nutrient gaps in the diet and support foundational health, including brain health, heart health, bone health, and antioxidant support.*

Men: According to recent data, men have slightly different nutritional needs than women. (Case in point: Guys are falling behind when it comes to certain essential nutrients like magnesium and vitamin A.) Our science team pored over thousands of studies to identify how nutrient needs shift throughout stages of life, including common gaps, genetic considerations, and dietary restrictions, ultimately narrowing the pool to 10 key nutrients men should look for in a multivitamin: vitamin A, zinc, omega-3 DHA, vitamin D (we use vitamin D3), vitamin E, vitamin K2, vitamin B12, folate, magnesium, and boron. (Since non-menstruating people have slightly lower needs when it comes to iron, they can probably meet their recommended intake of the mineral through food alone.)

Designed to support heart health, brain health, normal muscle function, and normal immune function, Essential for Men 18+ contains all of the above, in a delayed-release capsule with a minty-fresh essence. *

Life stage: 50+

Women: For women who are 50 and older, finding a postmenopausal multivitamin that takes into account specific, evolving nutrient needs is important—after all, what works at age 20 may differ from what works decades down the road. (Iron is a good example of this, along with calcium.) We created our postmenopausal formula with these considerations in mind: Essential for Women 50+ is designed to support healthy aging from within via omega-3 DHA and folate to support brain health; omega-3 DHA to support heart health; calcium-helper nutrients D3, K2, magnesium, and boron to help maintain bone health; and chelated magnesium and vitamin D3 to contribute to muscle protein synthesis.*

Men: As stated, older adults tend to have slightly different nutrient needs than their younger counterparts—and men are no exception. Similar to the making of Essential for Women 50+, we formulated Essential for Men 50+ with these evolving needs in mind, including adjusting dosage amounts to reflect the common dietary gaps that men over 50 experience, as well as providing nutrient support for bone health. Like Essential for Men 18+, it contains vitamin A, zinc, omega-3 DHA, vitamin D3, vitamin E, vitamin K2, vitamin B12, folate, magnesium, and boron—but with slightly higher levels of calcium-helper nutrients magnesium and K2 than our 18+ formula. Learn more here.*

Life stage: Prenatal

First, a primer on prenatals: A prenatal multivitamin can be a great way to prepare your body and support nutrient needs, both before and during pregnancy. As a general rule, we recommend taking a prenatal vitamin when you’re thinking, trying, and when it’s time—yes, even if you’re not yet pregnant. (We’ve got plenty of tips to help you narrow down your selection, from considering bioavailability to researching the supply chain.)

In terms of nutrition, we recommend looking for 12 key nutrients: folate (we use a bioavailable form of folate, 5-MTHF, instead of folic acid), choline, omega-3, vitamin B12, iodine, biotin, vitamin D3, boron, iron, vitamin E, vitamin K2, and magnesium. These nutrients, when present together, are designed to support neural tube development, brain health, red blood cell formation, and bone health—and you can find them all in Essential Prenatal.*

Life stage: Postnatal

Making the switch from a prenatal to a postnatal? There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind, starting with the fact that the postpartum period can be even more nutritionally demanding than pregnancy itself—especially for those who plan on breastfeeding. A quality postnatal that takes these specific changes into account can help support the nutritional needs of new moms; as such, we recommend switching to a postnatal right after giving birth, and continuing to take it for at least six months postpartum (and potentially longer, if still breastfeeding).*

Keep an eye out for the following 15 key nutrients (all of which are present in Essential Postnatal): vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B12, magnesium, zinc, biotin, choline, iodine, iron, boron, omega-3 DHA, and vitamin K2. Note that some of these nutrients are consistent with most women’s nutritional needs, regardless of whether or not they’re expecting or lactating, while others are added to support specific nutrient demands associated with the postpartum period. Either way, you can rest assured that Essential Prenatal was created to address those demands, along with providing support for normal immune function, lactation, brain health, and bone health.*

What about kids and teens?

Speaking of pregnancy, we’d be remiss not to mention our kids and teens multivitamin line-up: Essential for Kids 4+, Essential for Him, and Essential for Her. Formulated in the same way as our other multivitamins—that is, with key nutrients to help fill gaps in the diet—and featuring a delicious citrus-berry gummy (for kids) and minty-fresh capsule (for teens), they make taking vitamins a breeze. (As for what to look for in a kids gummy multivitamin, we’ve got you covered.)

†As a health company that adheres to standardized nutrition research—which is often reliant on assigned sex at birth—we face some unique challenges regarding our gender-specific messaging. Our decision to use gendered terms is, unfortunately, a result of these limitations in nutrition research. In cases where complying with the binary distinction is necessary for scientific accuracy purposes, we want to make it very clear that we recognize a person’s gender identity might differ from their assigned sex.

References:

  1. FoodData Central Search Results. Non-Fat Yogurt Nutrition. Retrieved from USDA
  2. FoodData Central Search Results. Chia Seeds Nutrition. Retrieved from USDA
  3. "Office of Dietary Supplements - Calcium." NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  4. USDA, Agricultural Research Service, 2019. Usual Nutrient Intake from Food and Beverages, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016

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