The Best Multivitamin

Everything you need, nothing you don't

The 30-Second Review

Multivitamins aren't the no-brainer we thought. After talking to a leading physician from Johns Hopkins University, two prominent dietitians, and an investigative journalist, we learned that if your diet is fairly balanced, you don't need to take one at all. But for those looking for a little boost of nutrients, the best multivitamins will have independent certifications for label accuracy and purity, plus a well-rounded formula that hits the majority of FDA-recommended ingredients.

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Contenders
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Top Picks
Our Top Pick

MegaFood Women’s One Daily and MegaFood Multi for Men

They're expensive — 68 cents per serving for women and 90 cents per serving for men — but these vegan multivitamins stand out with certifications from NSF International and nutrients that are completely derived from natural foods. Missing from both formulas: calcium, fiber, and potassium. (If you're looking for calcium, try our runners-up.)

Runners-Up

Nature Made Multi for Her and Nature Made Multi for Him
If you don't feel strongly about a food-based formula, these synthetic multivitamins also boast multiple third-party certifications and are only 10 cents per serving.

Best Value

Kirkland Signature Daily Multi
A third-party certified generic that's only 2 cents per serving.

Group Image for Multivitamins

If you grew up popping Flintstones vitamins like most of us did, you might think that of course it’s a good idea to take a multivitamin every day. That’s just what healthy people do, right?

Kind of. “You really cannot supplement your way out of an unhealthy diet,” says Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If you’re eating a diet that includes grains, lots of leafy vegetables, a wide variety of brightly colored fruit, and lean meats, you probably don’t need to take a multivitamin at all.

Our Top Pick

MegaFood Women’s One Daily Third-party certified with food-derived nutrients. Available for men as MegaFood Multi for Men.

But Foroutan says she sometimes advises her clients to take one, especially if their diets lack important nutrients. If your meals are more Guy Fieri than Jamie Oliver, try MegaFood Women’s One Daily or MegaFood Multi for Men. MegaFood gets high marks from third-party certifiers, offers remarkable transparency in an industry not known for it (you can literally watch a live stream of its facilities), and limits its inactive filler ingredients to three — by far the lowest we’ve seen. Most notably, both formulas are derived entirely from real food sources, which is a big plus for some. They are expensive, though, and lack a few nutrients, including calcium and fiber.

Our runners up, Nature Made Multi for Her and Nature Made Multi for Him, also received top marks from third parties and are much cheaper — only 10 cents per serving. The biggest difference: their nutrients are derived entirely from synthetic sources. Science hasn’t proven synthetics to be better or worse than their natural counterparts, so if you don’t feel strongly one way or the other, we think Nature Made is a great way to go. (Both Nature Made formulas also include calcium, which MegaFood lacks.)

Our most budget-friendly choice, Costco’s synthetic Kirkland Signature Daily Multi, is one of the only generics that includes third-party certifications and a decent roster of FDA-recommended vitamins — everything except fiber. It’s also only two cents a serving.

All that said, the amounts of nutrients included in all our top picks vary — as will the amounts you need to be your healthiest. It’s important to consult with your doctor to determine if you have any vitamin deficiencies (usually via blood test) and what amounts you might require to get back up to speed. If it’s a severe deficiency, your doctor will likely recommend or prescribe a supplement for whichever specific nutrients you lack. Only mild deficiencies can be ameliorated by a multivitamin.

Our Picks for the Best Multivitamin

Our Top Pick for Women

MegaFood Women’s One Daily The nutrients in these multivitamins are sourced from real foods — which also ups their price tag. And if you're looking for a supplement with calcium, you're out of luck.

One big reason these multivitamins went to the top of our list: In an industry filled with misdirection and misinformation, MegaFood is a beacon of transparency. Its supplements are certified as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) with NSF International, which assures “the product produced has the identity, strength, composition, quality, and purity that it is represented to possess,” and MegaFood adheres to ISO 9001 standards, meaning its labs comply with the highest standards of quality assurance and testing.

Those certifications alone are more than enough to stand out from the crowd, but it doesn’t stop there. MegaFood provides links to the farmers who supply the food it derives nutrients from. It’s certified vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO. It’s herb- and pesticide-free. And its facilities even have an extensive network of cameras so you can personally watch its lab employees in action. The company is so keen to show what it’s all about, it coined it’s own slogan: Big T Transparency.

Close-ups of MegaFood Multivitamins

Food-Based Benefits? Advocates say they’re better because they contain fewer chemicals and are derived from real foods. But critics argue synthetic nutrients have a more reliable shelf life. What does the science say? “No one knows for sure,” said Foroutan. “The research is not there.”

Beyond Big T, MegaFood has another huge distinction: its multivitamins’ nutrients are derived exclusively from fruits, vegetables, and grains, meaning the vitamin A within is extracted from carrots; the vitamin C comes from organic oranges; and the vitamin K was once inside a cabbage. Many other nutrients, including the iron in the women’s multivitamin and the vitamin B12 in both blends, were derived from a yeast known as “saccharomyces cerevisiae,” a natural ingredient commonly used in brewing and baking. While the jury is still out on the tangible benefits of food-based supplements, they are must-haves for plenty of consumers, and MegaFood delivers.

Another thing we love about these multivitamins is the super-short list of inactive fillers. There are just three ingredients used to bind the tablet together, and all are found in nature: plant cellulose, vegetable lubricant, and the chemical compound silica (basically, sand). An inactive ingredient list this short is a rarity in the supplement world, and that helped push these multivitamins to the top of our pile. (To compare, Nature Made has 10 inactive ingredients, and Kirkland Signature has 13.)

Across both formulas, MegaFood boasts a nice balance of ingredients. Of the 27 nutrients the body needs, Multi for Men is only missing calcium, fiber, and magnesium — and while it does contain potassium, it has only a negligible amount. Women’s One Daily contains everything except for calcium and fiber, although it also contains barely any potassium.

What are the other big differences between the men’s and women’s blends?

There are slight variations in some nutrient levels, and the women’s blend contains a suite of 16 herbal additives, including nettle leaf and dandelion root. More notably, the women’s multivitamin contains 180 milligrams of iron, since women are more likely than men to suffer from an iron deficiency. Finally, the women’s multivitamin requires just one tablet per day, but men need to take two tablets for one serving of the Men’s Multi.

Comparison of MegaFood ingredients for Multivitamin

A comparison of the nutritional info for MegaFood Multi for Men (left) and MegaFood Women’s One Daily (right). Click to enlarge.

MegaFood also makes versions of these multivitamins targeted for both men and women who are over 40 and 50, which have slightly varied formulas. For example, the MegaFood Multi for Women 55+ doesn’t contain iron, since postmenopausal women don’t need as much. And the MegaFood Multi for Men 55+ contains pumpkin seed extract, which MegaFood claims supports a healthy prostate (the science is promising, but scant). But these options still stand out: MegaFood multivitamin for women over 40 was one of 70 tested by ConsumerLab, and it earned its stamp of approval. Labdoor also gave an impressive A- grade to the Women Over 40 multivitamin.

There is one clear downside to MegaFood multivitamins: They’ll cost you. The blend targeted at women costs around 68 cents per serving (one tablet) and the men’s blend costs a steep 90 cents per serving (two tablets). If you’re looking for a more affordable option, keep reading.

The Runners-Up

Nature Made Multi for Her A balanced formula with a slew of third-party certifications — and because its a synthetic, it's much cheaper than MegaFood. Missing nutrients include potassium and fiber.

Nature Made’s multivitamins are another good choice for anyone looking for a well-rounded daily tablet that has a third-party stamp of approval. Both the men’s and women’s blends are verified by USP to ensure label accuracy, and the Nature Made Multi for Her was one of 70 tested and approved by ConsumerLab. Both the men’s and women’s formulas earned a B+ ranking from Labdoor: Each earned high marks for purity, but also showed some ingredient inconsistencies. (Among other variations, the women’s tablet contained 51 percent more vitamin C than the label claimed, and the men’s tablet contained 175 percent more vitamin B6 than reported. These aren’t dangerous levels or ingredients, but they do indicate a little less precision with formulations.)

Nature Made Multi for Him A similar formula to the women's blend, only with no iron and extra vitamin B12.

Despite its name, Nature Made derives its multivitamins from synthetic nutrients, meaning they’re created in a lab instead of extracted from a carrot or a head of broccoli. (This may make some people squeamish, but there’s no evidence that synthetics are better or worse than naturally sourced vitamins.) Regardless, both picks contain all 27 nutrients deemed essential by the FDA, minus potassium and fiber.

The difference between the men’s multi and the women’s is minor. The tablet formulated for men doesn’t contain iron and has a little less calcium (162 milligrams compared to 250 milligrams). It also contains three times as much vitamin B12, which feeds neurological function and the formation of red blood cells.

Close-ups of Nature Made Multivitamins

Nature Made Nutrition Labels for Multivitamin

A comparison of the nutritional info for Nature Made Multi for Her (left) and Nature Made Multi for Him (right). Click to enlarge.

If you balked at the price of the MegaFood multivitamins, you’ll like Nature Made: The women’s multi costs 11 cents per one-tablet serving, and the men’s multi costs 10 cents for the same. On the downside, it has more extraneous fillers and binders than the MegaFood options, and contains the artificial sweetener maltodextrin.

Other Multivitamins to Consider

Best Value

Kirkland Signature Daily Multi A great roster of nutrients, third-party certifications, and only 2 cents per serving. Missing: fiber.

You can’t get a much better bargain than the synthetic Kirkland Signature Daily Multi from Costco. It contains all 27 wishlist nutrients except for fiber (though it only has 80 milligrams of potassium — about 2 percent of the recommended daily value). But at just 2 cents per one-tablet serving, you’ll have lots of cash left to buy a 12-gallon tub of pickles for an extra dosage of fiber and potassium in the same shopping trip.

The Kirkland Signature Daily Multi is USP-certified and received a B grade from Labdoor, earning high marks for value and purity, but a few red flags for label claim variance. The worst offense was folic acid levels at 31 percent above what the label claimed. Again, this isn’t at a dangerous level — but it shows some errors in formulation. And one last bathroom-related caveat for your personal comfort: This vitamin contains 18 milligrams of iron, which could be enough to cause constipation in some people. If iron isn’t a nutrient you need, consider skipping it.

Nutritional info for Kirkland Signature Daily Multi for Multivitamin

Nutritional info for Kirkland Signature Daily Multi. Click to enlarge.

A Good Chewable Option

Centrum Chewables A third-party certified option for those who can't "do pills." Missing nutrients include fiber and potassium.

If the thought of swallowing a whole tablet makes your stomach churn or activates your gag reflex, a chewable might be worth considering. We like Centrum Chewables, which hit most of our wishlist nutrients except fiber and potassium, and is approved by ConsumerLab. It’s not pricey, either: One chewable tablet serving sets you back 6 cents a day. Like the Kirkland Signature multivitamin, though, this chewable packs a potent 18 milligrams of iron, which could cause constipation. And it’s also worth noting that they also contain the artificial sweetener aspartame, artificial colorants, and some artificial flavors.

Nutritional info for Centrum Chewables for Multivitamins

Nutritional info for Centrum Chewables. Click to enlarge.

Did You Know?

Most of those “percent daily value” numbers you see on the labels are still based on nutrition advice from 1968.

The FDA released new “daily value” recommendations in July of 2016, but supplement manufacturers won’t update formulas and labels for years: Companies with more than $10 million in annual sales have until 2018, and those with less have until 2019.

The new guidelines increase the recommended levels of some nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. (Calcium levels are now 1,000 micrograms for adults; vitamin C is at 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women; and vitamin D is at 600 IU.) But for now, looking at the bottle label (including our top picks) usually means you’re time traveling back to the Johnson administration.

How much does this matter? Again, it depends on your nutritional deficiencies. Like Sharon Palmer said, no one multivitamin is going to have have 100 percent of what you need from every nutrient, so your best bet is to know where you’re lacking and find a supplement that’s stacked in your favor.

With vitamins, more isn’t necessarily better.

Perhaps more important than scouring daily recommended values is keeping an eye on recommended upper limits. ConsumerLabs has a detailed chart that compares recommended daily values with upper limits, but in general, it’s not a good idea to consume excessive doses of any one vitamin or nutrient.

Upper limits for any vitamin vary widely: over twice the recommended amount of Vitamin A is dangerous, but you can have up to 26 times the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C without experiencing any ill effects.

Price said her research shows a multivitamin probably won’t contain a dangerous amount of vitamins or minerals on its own — and none of our top picks exceed recommended upper limits for any ingredient. But she said taking a multivitamin while supplementing with other vitamins or while consuming fortified foods or beverages could lead to a “superdose” — a vitamin dosage so far over the recommended amount it can lead to problems.

For kids, superdoses can be fatal. Warnings to keep multivitamins containing iron out of children’s reach are there for a reason: Accidental iron consumption is a leading cause of poisoning deaths in children younger than 6. Gummy vitamins can be especially dangerous for kids, since they resemble candy or fruit snacks.

And remember: Most people probably don't need a multivitamin at all.

In our research for the best multivitamin, we kept running into the same question: Do most Americans even need to take a multivitamin?

When we called Dr. Edgar Miller, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, he told us he doesn’t recommend that his patients take multivitamins, since several studies have indicated they might do more harm than good: Research has shown high doses of vitamin A seemed to increase the risk of lung cancer, and another study of vitamin E’s effect on prostate cancer was called off after those taking the supplements showed higher cancer rates.

“I hate to advocate for any multivitamin, really. Just getting your vitamins from food is better.”

Dr. Edgar Miller Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine

And in some cases of nutrient deficiency, a multivitamin might be overkill, Palmer adds. “For most people, they may not be lacking in every single essential vitamin and mineral — it may be just one or two,” she told us. “For example, someone at risk for osteoporosis may want to take calcium; someone battling iron anemia may want to take iron; and a vegetarian may want to take B12.”

Pregnant women, Miller says, are the exception. It’s widely agreed that pregnant women should take a supplement that includes folic acid to support the developing fetal nervous system. (Check out our review on the best prenatal vitamins if you’re expecting.)

The Bottom Line

Do you need to take a multivitamin? That’s something you should ultimately discuss with your doctor. But our experts mostly agree that if you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, you’re probably doing just fine. If you do decide to take a daily multivitamin, seek out brands that are up front about ingredients and vetted by an independent lab.

Take Action

Our Top Pick for Women

MegaFood Women’s One Daily Third-party certified with food-derived nutrients. Available for men as MegaFood Multi for Men.

Keep a food journal for a week. Track everything fueling your body. If your diet lacks nutrients or seems especially imbalanced, try to change it. All four of our experts agree that food is hands-down the best way to consume vitamins and minerals.

Talk to your doctor. If you still suspect your diet is lacking, or if you can’t change what you eat due to dietary restrictions, meet with your doctor to discuss taking a multivitamin. He or she may order a blood test to detect nutritional deficiencies, or make recommendations about dietary modifications.

Get your vitamin D outside. Most vitamins can be found in food, but vitamin D remains a notable exception: Your body endogenously synthesizes vitamin D when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit your skin. Our picks contain vitamin D, but as always, vitamins are best absorbed from natural sources.