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-racalpha 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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