A multivitamin need not cost more than a few cents a day. Store-brand and generic products are usually as reliable as brand-name pills.
- Look for 100 percent of the Daily Value of the following vitamins: D, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B12 and folic acid. The product should also contain at least 20 micrograms of vitamin K.
- Avoid very high doses of folic acid.
- Look for lower levels of vitamin A—no more than 3,000 IU. Getting more than about 6,000 IU of vitamin A from food and supplements increases the risk of fractures. Beta carotene is safe for your bones, though high doses may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
- Look for up to 100 percent of the Daily Value of these minerals: copper, zinc, iodine, selenium and chromium. Most products also contain some magnesium and tiny amounts of trace minerals such as boron, manganese and molybdenum. Since calcium is bulky, a multi won't contain enough to satisfy the recommended daily intake, so you may need a separate calcium supplement.
- Premenopausal women should look for 100 percent of the Daily Value of iron. Men and postmenopausal women are better off with a multi containing no iron.
- Here are some words you don’t need to see on the bottle: "high-potency," "senior formula," "stress formula," "starch-free," "natural" or "slow-release." Ingredients such as enzymes, hormones, herbs and amino acids serve no purpose and add to the price.