Different colored pillsBefore you buy your next mul­ti­vi­t­a­min, think about how you can improve your over­all diet first.  Accord­ing to the CDC, 53% of Amer­i­cans are tak­ing some type of vit­a­min or sup­ple­ment every­day but only 32% of Amer­i­cans meet the rec­om­mend­ed dietary guide­lines of 2 or more serv­ings of fruits and 3 or more serv­ings of veg­eta­bles a day.

Sup­ple­ments can’t take the place of a nutri­tious diet nor has it been shown to pre­vent chron­ic dis­ease in healthy indi­vid­u­als.  Fruits, veg­eta­bles, whole grains and legumes con­tain more than just iso­lat­ed nutri­ents found in vit­a­min pills but they also con­tain a vari­ety of oth­er health­ful nutri­ents, such as phy­to­chem­i­cals, fiber and min­er­als.  These nutri­ents inter­act with each oth­er and can­not be iso­lat­ed into a sin­gle pill. There­fore think food first and sup­ple­ment only when your diet is less than opti­mal and you need to ful­fill nutri­ent gaps.

The Require­ments are based on the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences Food & Nutri­tion Board, DRI, which has the lat­est infor­ma­tion of nutri­ent require­ments.  The Dai­ly Val­ues list­ed on vit­a­min bot­tles have not been updat­ed since 1970’s, there­fore require­ments list­ed here are the updat­ed require­ments and may vary from the DV.

Here is what you should look for:

1. 100% of Dai­ly Val­ue for:

thi­amin (B1)

riboflavin (B2)

niacin (B3)

vit­a­min B6

vit­a­min B12

vit­a­min D (if you are defi­cient you made need more,  see post “Vit­a­min D”)

vit­a­min E

folic acid

2.  Vit­a­min CFor men: 90 mg 

For women: 75 mg

3.  Vit­a­min A of 2500 IU or 5000IU of which at least 50% comes from beta carotene.   Long-term intake of retinol has been asso­ci­at­ed with a high­er risk of hip frac­tures in women and decreased bone min­er­al den­si­ty in old­er women and men.

4. Chromi­um:  35 mcg/day for young men and 25 mcg/day for young women

5.  Cop­per:  0.9mg (900mcg)

6. Sele­ni­um:  55mcg

7. Zinc:    11 mg for men

8 mg for women

8.  Cal­ci­um:  best absorbed in 500mg amounts, see Cal­ci­um post)

Adults 19–50 years old: 1000mg

Women 50 yrs and old­er: 1200mg

Men 71 yrs old­er: 1000mg

9. Mag­ne­sium:  100mg and get the rest through food, women AI:  320mg, men AI:  420mg

10. Iron:  women:  18 mg, men & post­menopausal women none to 8 mg

11. Vit­a­min E:  15 mg, take a nat­ur­al source such as RRR-alpha-toco­pherol or d-alpha-toco­pherol, it is the most bioavail­able .  Syn­thet­ic alpha toco­pherol, or all-rac-alpha toco­pherol,  is less bioavail­able and there­fore less potent. 



The fol­low­ing inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tions offer qual­i­ty test­ing, mean­ing they pro­vide assur­ance that what is list­ed on the label is actu­al­ly in the prod­uct and that it doesn’t con­tain harm­ful lev­els of con­t­a­m­i­nants.  They do not test for safe­ty or effec­tive­ness.

U.S. Phar­ma­copeia

NSF Inter­na­tion­al

Nat­ur­al Prod­ucts Asso­ci­a­tion

Always check with your doc­tor when adding new sup­ple­ments and/or vit­a­mins. Pre­scrip­tion drugs can inter­act with dietary sup­ple­ments and cause a reduc­tion or increase in the effec­tive­ness of the med­ica­tion.  For exam­ple Vit­a­min C and E can reduce the effec­tive­ness of cer­tain types of can­cer ther­a­py.  St Johns Wort can speed the break­down of anti­de­pres­sants and birth con­trol pills and reduce their effec­tive­ness.





1. CDC. State indi­ca­tor report on fruits and veg­eta­bles, 2009. US Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, CDC; 2009. Avail­able at Web Site Icon.

2. Dietary Ref­er­ence Intakes: Rec­om­mend­ed Intakes for Indi­vid­u­als. Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences. Insti­tute of Med­i­cine. Food and Nutri­tion Board. Accessed May 13, 2011.

3. Linus Paul­ing Insti­tute at Ore­gon State Uni­ver­si­ty.

4. His­tor­i­cal com­par­isons with RDA: Dietary Guid­ance: Food and Nutri­tion Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter.

5. FDA Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion. US Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices.


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