Story by Lindsay Tigar for EatThis,NotThat ©
Everyone is always looking for the next best thing to improve their health. Whether it’s the latest fitness craze or the best-selling protein powder on the market, there are many ways to give a boost to our wellness. While you may have taken a chewable as a kid, if you haven’t upgraded your multivitamin as an adult, consider this your gentle reminder. If you’re not sure about the benefits or side effects of taking a daily multivitamin, we have you covered.
We spoke with nutrition experts to discuss the side effects of a multivitamin routine. Here’s what they had to say.
1. You fill in nutrient gaps in your diet.
First thing first: you should always try to eat a balanced, veggie-filled diet that provides the minerals and nutrients your system requires. In a dream world, we would all be able to get everything we need from our meals, but in reality, many of us have gaps that need to be filled. As author and nutritional expert Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DCNS, DC explains, 70% of the average American diet comes from processed or ultra-processed foods, which are calorie-dense but light on vitamins and minerals. A daily supplement can’t erase the damage of the foods you eat, but it can point you in a better direction.
Dr. Axe says a study published a few years back in the Journal of Nutrition indicates that dietary habits of a large population of our nation consistently fail to meet even the minimal intakes recommended in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for many vital nutrients.
“The study concluded that, without dietary supplementation and other ways of supporting proper nutrient intake, many Americans don’t achieve even the minimum recommended micronutrient intake levels they need,” he says.
2. You tailor to where you are in your life.
Lauren McAlister, a nutritional therapy practitioner and a wellness specialist for Mindbody, says while many in her industry believe in a ‘food-first’ philosophy, she is more realistic about everyone’s day-to-day routines. As much as we would like to receive all that we need from our plates, sometimes a high-quality supplement can come in handy, dependent on what we need right here and right now. That’s why she recommends thinking about your unique situation.
“Are you a vegan or vegetarian? Pregnant or nursing? Over the age of 50?” she says. “Your diet, lifestyle, and age may require specific supplementation.”
When in doubt, she says to ask your doctor what is best for you and your body.
3. You will feel energized.
If you’re feeling exhausted day-in and day-out, a multivitamin may be the motivation you’ve been craving to get going. Education Scientist at Life Extension, Dr. Vanessa Pavey, ND, explains taking a multivitamin provides essential water-soluble B vitamins that we need to release the energy that’s trapped inside carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
“This released energy can now fuel our cells and provide the power we need to carry out our daily activities,” she says. “B vitamins also encourage healthy organ function and cognitive health.”
4. You fight against cancer.
Wellness expert Emilie Perz says one of the most significant benefits of a multivitamin is how they reduce our risk for cancer. How so? The right one will provide a daily dose of folic acid, which helps carry blood cells around the body filled with oxygen. These work to fight fatigue and anemia, feed fetuses for pregnant women, and ward off diseases.
“Most people don’t consume enough leafy greens to intake the folate they need, so getting it through your multivitamin helps to keep all cylinders in the body running optimally,” she says.
5. You give your heart a boost.
Our heart: It keeps beating with each and every passing year, and yet, many people don’t have excellent cardiovascular health. Dr. Axe says this organ should be top of mind and high priority since it affects so much of our overall well-being. “Of course, eating a heart-healthy diet and following a heart-healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, are primary. But finding a multivitamin that also helps to support heart health can be beneficial,” he explains.
When you’re deciding on what brand to select, Dr. Axe recommends looking for those that have vitamin D3, vitamin K2, folate, and vitamin B12 since they all support cardiovascular health.
6. You will have a better memory.
If you usually have a pretty amazing memory and you’re able to come up with creative ideas, but lately, you’re struggling; a multivitamin could prove beneficial. The B vitamins that are often in a multivitamin are warriors for our brains, explains Dr. Pavey. Here, she breaks it down, vitamin by vitamin:
Vitamin B5—pantothenic acid—is a cofactor that facilitates the creation of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory.
B6 and B9 work together to help produce serotonin and dopamine, our feel-good neurotransmitters.
B12 takes it a step further and supports the health of the myelin sheath, a protective coating along with our brain cells.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12, along with B2 (riboflavin), help support cardiovascular health by balancing homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid made in the body that can build up over time and eventually harm our cardiovascular system.
7. Your urine might turn yellow.
With all of these benefits, it’s hard to say ‘no’ to taking a multivitamin! But if you do and your urine turns yellow, don’t freak out! As celebrity chef and certified nutritionist Serena Poon explains, this is normal.
“Your body will automatically discard any water-soluble vitamin that your body does not need, turning your urine bright yellow,” she says. “Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. I usually recommend that people get their vitamin levels checked before starting a multivitamin and only supplementing a deficiency or vulnerability.”