If you’re like most people, you know your diet isn’t perfect, or perhaps you’re an athlete who needs a little extra, or for whatever reason, you know you should be taking a multivitamin regularly. Also, like most people, you realize that you really don’t know how you can tell a good multivitamin from a bad one. Are you just taking a sugar pill, or are you actually getting something out of it?
One way people try to assess the value of competing multivitamins is to look at the labels, see which one has the highest RDA percentages, and then compare price. And while that may seem like the logical way to do it, in reality, that method isn’t helping you at all (sorry, I know that’s frustrating to read!). So let’s take about five minutes and go over how you can really pick out a multivitamin that’s worth putting into your body.
Multivitamin Basics #1: Delivery System
All right, there are two main factors to choosing a quality multivitamin, and factor number one is all about the delivery system. The delivery system, as in: is the vitamin a hard tablet, or a capsule, or a liquid form, or a chewable, or what? And this factor is actually a really big deal, and here’s why.
First things first, a vitamin doesn’t do you the slightest bit of good if you can’t digest it. You’ll just pass it straight out of your system. And in fact, a surprising amount of hard tablet vitamins do just that, and end up getting flushed down the toilet, literally… there are thousands of pounds of undigested vitamins that get screened out of sewage treatment plants every year. And if that statement made you say “ewwwwwww”, wait until you read this… some of those undigested vitamins remain so intact, that you can still see the logo stamped onto the pill!
When a hard tablet is made, the basic ingredients (Vitamin A, C, calcium, and whatever else) begin in a powder form and these powders are then mixed together. Then, that powder mixture is combined with a wax… like carnuba wax… and pressed on a giant press into a little indigestible pebble. Then, the whole thing is coated with a substance called “pharmaceutical glaze”, which is basically the same thing as shellac (you know, the stuff that keeps rain off of your wooden deck). The result is something that’s extremely difficult for your body to break down, and in fact, most people get a little nauseous when taking hard tablet vitamins.
Why is all this done? Simple. Shelf life. The shellac keeps out the moisture, and the hard wax prevents spoilage, which makes hard tablets much, much cheaper to store, and therefore boosts profits. So that’s why you can buy these cheap tablets by the bucket for very little money… they’ve probably been sitting there for a few years already. As you can see, though, even though they’re cheap, since you can’t digest them much at all… you’re not exactly getting a good deal, are you? It’s almost like you bought a car and now you can’t drive it.
How quickly and easily you can digest a vitamin is strongly influenced by something called surface area. The greater the surface area, the faster the rate of a chemical reaction (and digestion is a chemical reaction, after all). Hard tablets are solid and have very little surface area. Chewable supplements or powders, have a very large surface area, and that makes them easier to digest.
Here’s a metaphor to explain why.
Imagine a huge gang of kids, and a great big pile of chocolate Easter eggs. You know how much kids love chocolate, right?
First, you spread those hundreds of Easter eggs out on a wide open football field, and let the kids go crazy. They’re going to grab up all of the eggs pretty quickly, right? They’ve got plenty of room to spread out and run around and scoop them all up. That chocolate is going to disappear pretty quickly.
Next time, you put all of the Easter eggs into a big trash can, mixed in with a bunch of empty plastic Easter eggs. Now, the chocolate won’t disappear quite so quickly. The kids will all crowd around the trash can, but they all won’t fit next to it. Some will jostle their way in, grab an egg, make sure it’s chocolate and not empty plastic, and then jostle their way back out in order to eat it undisturbed… and make enough room for the next kid. So the chocolate distribution is definitely going to go more slowly.
Finally, imagine doing the same thing, but this time, as you pour the Easter eggs into the trash can, now you also pour in warm wax which hardens as it cools. Now the kids not only have to jostle for position, but they also have to dig the eggs out one at a time from that solid wax. Not a lot of happy kids in this group!
The first scenario corresponds to liquids or chewables, the second to gelcaps and capsules, and the last scenario to hard tablets. The importance of surface area is pretty clear… it’s important to not only get what you pay for ingredient-wise, but also to be able to break it down and absorb it!
Multivitamin Basics #2: Ingredient Quality
That’s the first factor, delivery system, and that’s pretty easy and straightforward. Avoid the hard tablets, stick to chewables or other forms that are easy to break down. But even if you can digest it… what exactly it is that you are trying to digest?
In other words, are the ingredients that make up the vitamin any good at all? Here’s an insider secret from the supplement industry… not all vitamins (meaning the base ingredients) are made alike.
Earlier, we mentioned that vitamins are made of powdered base ingredients. A bag of Vitamin A powder, a bag of Vitamin C powder, and so on. But just like you can make a cake with cheap, poor quality ingredients, or you can make it with better quality, more expensive ingredients, so too can supplement manufacturers create their products with either cheaper quality ingredients or higher quality ingredients.
So what? As long as it’s in there, it’s fine, right? Not really. Cheap synthetic versions of nutrients typically don’t get recognized by the body as being digestible, and once again, you just end up passing them out of your body uselessly.
When is calcium not really calcium?
Here’s an example… calcium. Most people have heard of calcium and recognize its importance to health, but not all calcium is created the same. There’s calcium carbonate, which is a hard to digest, practically inert rock, and then there’s calcium citrate, which is a much more readily absorbed, bioavailable version of the nutrient.
It’s probably not surprising to hear that calcium carbonate is much cheaper to use in a supplement than calcium citrate. And so, many of the cheap brands end up using calcium carbonate, so that they can say they have calcium in their product, and perhaps the raw amount of calcium they then put on the label looks pretty impressive… but in reality, you can’t digest it, and so that number on the label becomes meaningless… 0% absorption of a large number like 1,000 mg is still zero.
This is certainly a difficult area of keep track of… after all, can you really be expected to research and memorize all of the most bioavailable versions of every micronutrient? (We did that for you, by the way… see the link below). A shortcut is, to stick with a brand name that you trust, that you feel confident carries high quality products.
Ingredient quality is massively important, however. It’s why Healthy Andy multivitamins are a bit more expensive than the cheap mass produced brands at Wal mart or other big outlets. We use the most expensive, highest quality, most bioavailable ingredients, which means that our cost of production is higher, which means we can’t sell our product by the bucket-load for pennies.
But, now that you understand the importance of being able to actually digest your supplement, it should be clear that it’s not what’s on the label that counts, it’s what actually gets into your body that counts… and while it may be tempting to get a cheap bucket of low quality vitamins, in reality, when you buy cheap vitamins, you aren’t actually getting any results in return for your money.
A better way is, for only a small increase in price (as an example, you can get our chewable multivitamins for less than twenty dollars for a month’s supply when you autoship), you can actually get what you’re paying for, rather than flushing your money down the toilet, quite literally, with a cheap brand!
Get the absolute maximum benefit for your money with our autoship program… click here to take a look!