- Whole foods are always the preferable option when it comes to including vitamins and minerals in our diet but taking micronutrient supplements can be a beneficial for bridging any nutritional gaps
- When conisdering multivitamins vs individual vitamins depends on the individual persons health needs
- Green powders allow you to go a step further with your supplement routine by providing the benefits of a multivitamin as well as the additional benefits of omega-3s, fibre, and probiotics
According to research conducted in the US, many of us fail to reach the recommended intake of many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) through our food alone. 40% of the US population falls well below daily nutritional requirements for multiple micronutrients. (Source)
Inadequate intakes of micronutrients can lead to symptoms such as:
- General fatigue (Source)
- Reduced ability to fight infections (Source)
- Impaired cognitive function (Source)
And have also been seen to increase the risk of certain chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and age-related eye disease. (Source)
Research consistently shows that there is no replacement for a healthy, balanced diet. Getting our nutrients from whole foods is always the best option.
That being said, taking micronutrient supplements can be beneficial in bridging any nutritional gaps in our diets.
When it comes to deciding between a multivitamin product or individual vitamins, there are cases for both and in the end, it really depends on your specific needs.
Some instances in which a multivitamin may be the way to go:
Filling Nutritional Gaps
For those just looking to bolster their diet with additional vitamins and minerals, a multivitamin can be a good choice.
A good quality, a comprehensive multivitamin will contain the bulk of your daily essential vitamins and minerals in a single dose. This can ensure that you’re still getting any key nutrients that might be missing from your daily diet.
Multivitamins can be particularly helpful for people who have dietary restrictions or intolerances that prevent them from eating certain foods – vegetarian, vegan, keto, allergies – as their likelihood for missing out on sources of some nutrients is higher.
For those with busy schedules, the simplicity of multivitamins is a big benefit.
Keeping track of multiple individual vitamins can be difficult and on top of that, care needs to be taken to ensure that the vitamins aren’t interfering with each other so they may need to be taken at different times of the day.
With multivitamins, you can just take a single all-in-one, balanced formula of vitamins and there’s no confusion as to whether you’ve taken all your vitamins each day.
Multivitamins are also often much more cost-effective than buying multiple individual micronutrient supplements.
Formulated For Specific Needs
When it comes to nutrients, our needs are not always the same. Young children have different needs than teens who have different needs to adults.
Men have different nutritional needs than women, and women who are pregnant and nursing have different nutritional needs than women in other stages of life.
While not completely individualised in the same way as buying individual vitamins, it is possible to choose a multivitamin that is tailored to your needs.
There are multivitamins specifically for men of varying ages, others for children, and ones to suit women in different stages of their lifecycle, with the dosage and ingredients selected to best fit that cohort.
Multivitamin formulas can help to fulfill baseline nutritional needs making them helpful for people looking for general support with their overall health.
However, if you are deficient in a specific vitamin or mineral or have an increased need due to lifestyle or health factors, then the amount of that nutrient in a multivitamin product might not be sufficient for your particular needs.
This is where individual vitamin and mineral supplements can be beneficial.
By focusing on single nutrients, individual vitamins and minerals allow you to increase the amount of a specific nutrient beyond what a general multivitamin can provide, without needing to increase the other nutrients you aren’t deficient in.
It is best to consult your doctor or other healthcare practitioners before supplementing with individual nutrients as there is a greater risk of consuming too much.
Apart from simply exceeding your need and spending money on something you don’t actually need, many vitamins and minerals have a tolerable upper intake level (UL) which is the maximum daily intake that has been demonstrated to be safe to take. Higher intake levels over prolonged periods of time may lead to side effects.
Multivitamins vs Individual Vitamins
There is a role for both multivitamins and individual vitamins, depending on a person’s particular needs.
Multivitamins are helpful for those looking to support their general health by ensuring they are getting a good range of vitamins daily.
Individual micronutrient supplements are important for those with certain deficiencies or an increased need for particular nutrients.
In some cases, it is even advised to take both.
For example, vitamin D deficiency is extremely prevalent in a large majority of people. This is because we absorb very little vitamin D from our food, instead, we absorb it mainly from the sun, or UV rays (one of the few cases where whole foods aren’t a better option than synthetic vitamins).
In many countries, it is generally recommended for people to take a vitamin D3 supplement between the months of September to March.
For those deficient in vitamin D, the amount in a multivitamin product may not be enough so a stand-alone vitamin D3 supplement may be recommended alongside a multivitamin.
However, as mentioned, there is a risk of consuming too much of a nutrient.
You should only take individual vitamins or minerals alongside a multivitamin if you have been diagnosed with a deficiency or advised to by a healthcare professional.
Individuals with an iron deficiency may be advised to take an iron supplement as well as a multivitamin containing iron, but for someone without a clinical deficiency, taking too much iron may lead to GI issues such as constipation or abdominal discomfort as well as affecting zinc absorption.
There are instances where nutrients compete for absorption in the body. This means if you take a large dose of a mineral, it can compete with other minerals to reduce their absorption.
This is not so much a consideration with multivitamins because it really only occurs when it comes to taking large amounts of macrominerals (e.g., calcium, magnesium, and potassium) and no well-formulated multivitamin would have such high amounts of these minerals present.
It is something to consider if you’re taking large doses of multiple macrominerals or large doses of macrominerals at the same time as your multivitamin.
Avoid taking larger doses of macrominerals at the same time as your multivitamin to ensure optimal absorption of the nutrients in both products. Perhaps you could take your multivitamin in the morning and your individual mineral supplement in the evening instead.
Some vitamins in large doses may also interact with other medications. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and so, people who are on medications related to blood clotting, such as the anticoagulant medication Warfarin, need to maintain consistent vitamin K levels and keep their blood biomarkers monitored. (Source)
Green Powders – A More Complete Multivitamin
Even the most well-rounded, high-quality multivitamin capsule won’t include healthful components such as omega-3 fatty acids or probiotics.
So if you want to include these supplements in your diet, you must take them separately. This can complicate the process by increasing your number of tablets.
A green powder is a way to simplify the process even further.
Green powders are food supplements of dried and powdered green vegetables that can be mixed into water or other liquids.
They often include a blend of greens such as kale, spinach, seaweeds, and edible grasses, and many add omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, digestive enzymes, herbal extracts, and fiber.
Because greens powders can contain a wide range of ingredients in high quantities, they can do away with the need for other supplements.
If you’re taking a greens powder with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids in adequate amounts, there is often no need to take any other supplement.
In this way, green powders can be more cost-effective than buying supplements.
If you are interested in looking into supplementing with a green powder, it is important to choose a high-quality product.
The quality of greens powders can vary significantly from brand to brand. A lot of supplement companies mask the ingredients in their powder and the quantities of ingredients by labelling their products as proprietary blends. This makes it very hard for the consumer to decipher what exactly is in the product.
Human Tonik powders never rely on proprietary blends.
All ingredients are listed individually with the amount per serving for each, giving people full transparency of ingredients and dosages.
They are also third-party tested, which is important to look out for when buying supplements.
Although getting nutrients from whole foods is always the best option, taking micronutrient supplements can be beneficial in bridging any nutritional gaps in our diets.
A quality multivitamin can be a helpful addition to bolster your diet with additional vitamins and minerals for overall health, while individual micronutrient supplements are useful for those with nutritional deficiencies or an increased need for certain nutrients.
Consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking any high-dose supplements as there are potential risks to this.
If you want to go one step further with your supplement routine, a green powder can provide the benefits of a multivitamin as well as the additional benefits of omega-3s, fibre, and probiotics in one go, supporting various areas of health, from gut health and brain health to beauty and immune function.
Lucy Brennan is a registered associate nutritionist (ANutr) and freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition and wellness content. She holds a BSc. (First Class Hons) in Public Health Nutrition and has over 4 years’ experience working in health communication, which is where her passion lies.
She has worked in roles with The Irish Food Board and FleishmanHillard PR, on their healthcare team, working with national and international health companies. Using this experience, Lucy now writes content in a freelance capacity. Lucy is dedicated to providing evidence-based content that is both engaging and accessible and inspires readers to make informed choices regarding their health.