Vitamins on a wooden spoon with herbs

What vitamins and minerals do you need each day? What is your recommended daily intake or RDI? If you’re choosing a supplement, what is the best form of that vitamin or mineral? These are questions I get asked all the time. Although the question is usually a blanket question of “What is the best multivitamin to take?” This isn’t really the same thing because there are many things you need each day that aren’t included in a multivitamin. Plus, taking a multivitamin tops your nutrients up blindly. It may or may not address the specific nutrient you are lacking.

Vitamins and minerals in a lab environment

To feel our best we need to be eating a balanced diet. This is how we ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. If for whatever reason this does not occur you may start to feel clinical symptoms that reflect the decline in nutrients. At this stage, the best course of action is a blood test to determine which nutrients need supplementation. This will allow a very targeted intervention.

It may be possible to reverse the deficiency with diet modification, but if not a supplement will be suggested.

When choosing a supplement it is important to know there are sometimes multiple forms of the one vitamin or mineral. Each form will have different properties and have different bioavailability in the body. So it is important to get expert advice before you purchase a supplement.

Single Supplements

If you are deficient in just one nutrient it makes sense to target that vitamin or mineral directly with a single supplement. This prevents wasting money on consuming nutrients your body will expel without any benefit. It can also prevent the chance of building toxic levels of ancillary nutrients.

What makes a quality multivitamin?

When you are low in a few key nutrients it may be beneficial to choose a multivitamin.

Table showing Vitamin RDI for males

A quality multivitamin needs to have sufficient doses of the required nutrients. A good quality multivitamin should contain 100% of the consumer’s RDI for vitamins:

  • A
  • B12
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • K and the minerals
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Folate and
  • Calcium

It is also important to check the dosage and pricing for affordability. If the dosage is two capsules the cost may be more expensive than another brand.

Table showing the vitamin RDI values for females

Some manufacturers also use poorer quality ingredients when formulating the multivitamin. This may include using cheap non-bioavailable forms of a mineral such as magnesium oxide instead of magnesium glysinate, citrate or chloride. In the tables I have listed the appropriate RDI’s and the best form of the nutrient where there is a preferred form.

Table showing essential nutrient RDI for males

I like a “food first” approach to vitamins and minerals. By eating a wide range of healthy foods we consume far more than the very short list of nutrients you see in a multivitamin capsule. We also get the benefit of antioxidants, phytonutrients, probiotics, prebiotics, and microminerals. But in busy times a good quality multivitamin can bring peace of mind.

table showing the essential vitamin and mineral nutrients RDI for females.

Other Common Supplements

Omega 3

Fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines contain the essential fatty acid, omega 3, which we cannot synthesize and must consume in the diet. To get adequate amounts 2 servings of oily fish are recommended each week.

If this isn’t possible a supplement is necessary. The types of omega-3 found in fish oil are EPA and DHA. A quality supplement must have a combined total of 500mg of these two oils. Other oils such as Ethyl Ester or Free Fatty Acids should be ignored. The dose should be 500mg per day.

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Iron should only be supplemented after a blood test confirming the deficiency. This is because it is possible to accumulate toxic levels of iron leading to an overdose. If you are iron deficient there are some important contra-indications to be aware of regarding dose administration and absorption.

Iron absorption

The absorption of iron is affected by many common foods. Research has found that iron should not be consumed within 1-2 hours of having tea, coffee, or milk. High fibre cereals and legumes have also been found to bind to iron making it less bioavailable.

Vitamin C on the other hand has the reverse effect and assists the absorption of iron. So perhaps rather than taking your iron with breakfast it would be better to wait until your morning fruit break.

Are you interested in your macronutrient requirements? How much protein do you think you need each day? Are you getting enough? What are the benefits of fibre in the diet? I will give you a clue, it’s way more than just keeping you regular!

Vitamin and mineral Pin, labelled for pinterest

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