An estimated ⅓ of American adults take a daily multivitamin. Supplements in general are increasing in popularity as many of us seek to improve our health. The demand has led to more and more vitamin and mineral types, variants, and combinations surfacing, causing confusion in the vitamin aisle.
Walk into the supplement section of any pharmacy and you’ll find endless combos of vitamins and minerals, each claiming that they’re the answer to all of your problems. Which vitamins do you actually need to take daily? Or do you even need a daily multivitamin at all?
Who should take a daily multivitamin?
It’s good practice to aim to get your vitamins and minerals from your food, but most people don’t get 100% of the nutrients they need, all the time.
It’s worth noting, however, that severe deficiencies of most vitamins in healthy Americans are quite uncommon. Our food is fortified and our diets are varied. But mild deficiencies when it comes to specific types of vitamins can be relatively common - depending on the vitamin.
Deficiencies, or an increased need for a certain vitamin or mineral, can be caused by:
- Being on a diet that restricts certain foods, whether that’s for weight loss, illness management, or personal choice. Some examples include veganism and low-carb diets.
- Lack of daily sun exposure (this may occur during the winter if you live in a cold climate)
- Certain medical illnesses
- Chronic stress, which can make it harder for the body to absorb vitamins
- Older age
Here are some of the most-needed vitamins that most people should seek to take every day.
Vitamin B12 is absolutely essential for your body’s daily functioning. It’s employed in the body to:
- Form DNA and red blood cells
- Break down nutrients you consume
- Keep nerve cells healthy
Without B12, your body can’t properly absorb nutrients from your food, and nervous system issues can arise.
Maintaining proper B12 levels helps you feel your best and keeps your energy up. If you’re not sure if you’re deficient, or are trying to find natural ways to feel more energized, it likely won’t hurt to try taking a B12 supplement. Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, meaning you’ll pee out any excess intake.
There are certain factors that can make it more necessary to take a B12 supplement. These include:
- Eating a plant-based diet. This is because most food sources of B12 come from animal products like meat, fish, and eggs.
- Being aged 60 or older
- Having certain illnesses or conditions
- Taking some types of medications (mainly proton pump inhibitors)
Mild b12 deficiency doesn’t normally cause symptoms, but if it progresses, signs can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling faint, weak, or short of breath
- Mental health changes like new or worsening depression
- Nerve issues like numbness and tingling
Zinc is necessary for maintaining a healthy immune system. The mineral also aids in wound healing.
Experts say that zinc levels tend to be lower in older people and those under a lot of stress. People who follow certain diets (looking at you again, vegans) may also be at higher risk of a deficiency since meat, shellfish, and dairy products are good sources of the mineral, though some plant products like nuts and spinach contain zinc.
Americans tend not to get enough zinc in their diets. Symptoms of low zinc levels include:
- Increased risk of infections due to lowered immune system
- Hair loss
- Low appetite
Major zinc deficiencies are rare in the U.S., but it’s common to have less-than-optimal levels, so you should look for a multivitamin that contains zinc.
Often represented on food ingredient lists as folic acid, folate has many important roles in the body. It’s best known for being a top priority for pregnant women since it aids in fetal development, but it also may help regulate cholesterol levels and promote the production of healthy red blood cells. It can also combat inflammation in the body.
Serious folate deficiency is rare in people who don’t have certain health conditions or are pregnant, since many of our grain-based foods like breakfast cereals and breads are “fortified”. However, it’s still important to ensure you’re getting enough of this vitamin.
Vitamin D doesn’t get enough attention as a necessary nutrient. It helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus, and bolsters our immune systems.
Many fish and meat products contain this vitamin, and some products like breakfast cereals are fortified with it. American diets tend to lack vitamin D, so it’s common for us to have mild deficiencies - it’s estimated that 1 in 4 American adults have low levels of vitamin D.
In addition to getting it from foods, our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, so if you live in a part of the world with a cold season, you have a higher chance of developing a deficiency.
Signs of low vitamin D include:
- Insomnia or poor sleep quality
- Weakened immune system, resulting in more frequent infections
If you’re constantly sick and generally sad during winter, don’t put all the blame on indoor activities and seasonal depression. It could mean you need a vitamin D supplement.
Magnesium is an electrolyte that’s highly essential for many reasons. It’s important for maintaining bone health, and for regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
Magnesium is another nutrient that American diets tend to lack, as we don’t eat enough of the foods that contain it, such as legumes and leafy greens, on average. We also lose magnesium through sweat when we exercise, so it’s important to replenish magnesium levels after a workout.
Deficiencies severe enough to cause symptoms are pretty rare, but can lead to issues such as muscle cramps and mental health conditions.
How do you find a supplement that’s right for you?
A daily multivitamin is a great way to supplement your diet and improve your wellbeing. Be sure to take your lifestyle and health into account when looking for a daily multivitamin, and consult your doctor if you have any medical concerns!
Not all multivitamins are created equal, and finding the right one can be tricky. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all your daily vitamin and mineral needs, Swigg might be what you need. Swigg is your daily dose of vitamins contained in a refreshing beverage. No need to worry about taking a bunch of pills every morning! Swigg also contains no sugar and is naturally flavored.