- The CDC says proper vitamin levels are essential for development, disease prevention, and wellbeing.
- A multivitamin can help fill in the gaps to deliver all your essential daily nutrients.
- Our top pick, the Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women, contains the DV of vitamin A and folate, two nutrients of concern for women.
- This guide was medically reviewed by Véronique Taché, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis Health.
Taking a multivitamin has always been common practice in my household – I grew up taking (and still do) every morning, but I never really stopped to think about why. After researching how some offer 100% of the US Daily Value (DV) for essential nutrients like iodine, vitamin D, and calcium, I realized multivitamins aren’t just a mundane part of my morning routine; they actually offer a sort of safety net to certain individuals, ensuring they meet recommended nutrient intakes.
Multivitamins are a bit of a hot topic. That’s because, while there are certain categories of people who can benefit from taking one every day, there is also a massive group of people who don’t necessarily need one. A 2020 study in BMJ Open found that people who take a multivitamin don’t have lower rates of illness or disease compared to those who don’t. However, people who take one daily said they feel healthier on a regular basis and, even if it’s a placebo effect, that counts for something toward wellbeing and adhering to healthier habits.
Also, that study didn’t measure actual nutrient levels, so we can’t say the multivitamin had no real benefit. What’s more, the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2020-25 say about three out of four people don’t eat enough dairy, fruits, or vegetables.
Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, Nutrition and Food Safety Professor at North Dakota State University, told Insider multivitamins can be the “nutrition insurance” if you’re not following an adequate diet. She advises aiming for a healthful diet first, as food contains a “complex array of nutrients and phytochemicals (‘plant chemicals’) that help fight disease.”
That said, there are certain groups of Americans who do need to have their vitamin and mineral levels supplemented.
What is the best multivitamin for women?
Once you know you need a multivitamin, you have to breach the next big hurdle: picking the right one. It seems like this should be an easy task, but multivitamins (like all supplements) are not regulated by the FDA, which means there’s no governing body confirming (1) what’s included on the label is in the supplement or (2) if it’s actually safe. What’s more, with how important it is to understand your body’s needs and how highly personal multivitamins are, it’s difficult to recommend just one that works for everyone.
We talked to a nutritional psychiatrist, a pharmacist, and a registered dietitian to help narrow down what’s available and hone in on the top multivitamins for women at different stages of their lives. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail about who needs a multivitamin and how to choose the right one.
Here are the best women’s multivitamins of 2021:
- Best women’s multivitamin overall: Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women
- Best multivitamin for active women: Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women
- Best women’s multivitamin on a budget: Nature Made Multi for Her
- Best vegan women’s multivitamin: Ritual Essentials for Women
- Best multivitamin for women over 40: Garden of Life myKind Organic Women’s 40+ Multi
The Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women is an all-in-one choice packed with the essential daily nutrients, probiotics, and enzymes to aid with digestion.
Pros: Vegetarian, gluten-free, contains probiotics, optimal for women during reproductive years, no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners
Cons: Pills are large, must take four daily
The thing that makes Garden of Life’s women’s multivitamin rise above other brands is that it’s void of synthetic materials and contains the ingredients they claim — which you may think is a given, but a recent analysis by Consumer Labs found that 44% of multivitamins it tested didn’t actually contain the amounts of nutrients the label claimed.
Not only is the formula certified organic by the USDA, but Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code for Women covers all the basics: The capsule is gluten-free and the formula includes folate, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, D3, E, and B-Complex, and the raw formula also reinforces breast health.
A vegetarian vitamin, Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women is made without binders or fillers and contains probiotics and enzymes to help with digestion. Vitamin Code for Women met all purity standards set forth by Labdoor and was given a B score.
The two drawbacks of this multivitamin are that each pill is quite large, about the size of a mini binder clip, and you have to take four daily. So those who have trouble swallowing big pills should probably opt for another supplement.
Best for active women
Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women offers a tailored distribution of nutrients designed for a more active lifestyle.
Pros: Provides immune support, includes 23 essential nutrients and 17 specialty minerals
Cons: Not for people under 18 years of age
Regular physical activity can affect your vitamin and mineral levels — which in turn can affect your athletic performance.
Physically-active women, especially those who do aerobic exercises like running and biking, are more likely to be iron deficient, according to researchers at Cornell University. What’s more, a 2017 study from the National Institutes of Health found that some women (in general, not just athletes) are deficient in folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, three vital pathways used during exercise. If your B vitamins and folate levels, in particular, aren’t up to par, it can impair your athletic performance and increase fatigue, risk of injury, and ability to concentrate, the study adds. Your doctor can test your levels, and if he or she confirms yours are low, you would be well-served to opt for a multivitamin designed for an active lifestyle.
The Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women multivitamin is formulated to help women with an avid fitness routine score enough nutrients to keep their active bodies healthy and strong. It’s curated with 100% DV of B vitamins, folate, and iron. In addition, the multivitamin provides 17 other specialized minerals, one being calcium phosphate which aids in vitamin D absorption to keep muscles healthy.
Though Consumer Labs has not reviewed this specific multivitamin, when they surveyed more than 9,700 respondents on “overall customer satisfaction” in February 2020, Optimum Nutrition was named a top-rated vitamin and supplement brand. The Opti-Women formula did receive a C grade from Labdoor, namely because the amount of vitamins in the tested formula differed from the label. However, the biggest discrepancies (vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc slightly lower than the label; vitamin D and B-complex slightly higher) aren’t at harmful levels, Véronique Taché, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis Health, confirmed during medical review. Plus, the formula met all purity standards.
Best on a budget
Nature Made Multi for Her gives a boost of calcium, folic acid, iron, and vitamin D for less than $30.
Pros: Great value, 23 nutrients, contains the daily recommended amount of iron and calcium, great folic acid count for prenatal or pregnant women, more vitamins per bottle; only need to take one tablet daily
Cons: Some may find pills to be large and may be hard to swallow for some
Vitamins can be expensive. If you’re looking to cut the cost without eliminating the essential nutrients, Nature Made Multi for Her comes at a great value: 300 capsules for less than $30.
The multivitamin contains all the major nutrients vital to women’s health (23 total), including the daily recommended amounts of iron, calcium, and D3. It also contains more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of folic acid, a key nutrient for those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. C. Michael White, PharmD, department head of University of Connecticut’s pharmacy practice and dietary supplement researcher, told Insider adequate levels of folate help to reduce the risk of having neural tube defects as babies are growing.
While this multivitamin is catered toward females, it still contains sufficient vitamin levels essential for both men and women. Uma Naidoo, MD, director of Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital told Insider the 13 essential vitamins, including A, B, C, and D, play an important role in the body and are essential for healthy vision, skin, and bones for both men and women.
This multivitamin met all Labdoor’s purity standards, but inconsistencies in the formula earned it a C grade overall. The biggest formula-to-label discrepancies include slightly less vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as slightly more vitamin B-6, folic acid, and vitamin D3, but still within safe ingesting levels, Dr. Taché confirmed. Though this is its worst offense, nutritional value and safety outweigh this satisfactory rank, making it a top pick still.
Ritual Essential for Women is vegan, gluten, and major-allergen-free, focusing on brain health, bone health, blood-building, and antioxidant support.
Pros: Vegan, subscription model with free shipping for easy refills, free of gluten and major allergens, no artificial colorants or synthetic fillers, good for brain and bone health, infused with mint for freshness
Cons: Not found in stores
Because people who follow a vegan diet don’t eat animal products, they are usually deficient in key nutrients abundantly found in meat, dairy, and seafood. A 2016 study in the Journal of Osteopathic Association found vegans are often deficient in vitamin B12, iron, calcium, vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Ritual Essential for Women is completely vegan and outlines a visible supply chain of ingredients so you know what you’re intaking. Ritual’s brand mission is to “bring foundational health into focus,” and its supplements are designed to boost brain and bone health, promote red blood cell formation, and provide antioxidant support with vitamin E.
Ritual’s vitamins are vegan, gluten-free, and allergen-free. Ritual also operates on a unique direct-to-door subscription model, automatically sending a fresh bottle to you each month so you’ll never run out.
Vegan multivitamins tend to include plant-based ingredients, like calcium. While some calcium supplements are oyster-shell based, Ritual uses vegan-certified ingredients, like vitamin D, to rid worries of consuming a multivitamin using shellfish in the manufacturing process.
If you aren’t vegan but like the convenience of a multivitamin that will be automatically refilled and delivered, you can certainly take Ritual’s vegan multivitamin, but you should opt for their water-soluble option if you don’t have a specific deficiency. Dr. Naidoo told Insider that if you take a fat-soluble vitamin and are already getting sufficient amounts of those nutrients from your diet, your body will store the excess in your liver and fatty tissue which can accumulate to toxic levels. With a water-soluble vitamin, though, the excess is just excreted through urine. Ritual features both options to help fill gaps in your diet and support nutrient levels.
Though Ritual was not yet tested by Consumer Labs, it’s USP-verified, confirming that it contains what it lists on the label, contains safe nutrient levels, is void of harmful substances like heavy metals and pesticides, and can be broken down and released into the body as intended.
Best for women over 40
Garden of Life myKind Organic Women’s 40+ Multi is specially formulated to address the changing nutritional needs of women as they age, with 16 nutrients at levels greater than 100% DV.
Pros: Certified USDA organic, vegan, gluten-free, contains 16 nutrients over the 100% Daily Value (DV)
Cons: Pills are large
Though not a hard-and-fast number, when females hit 40, their body and hormones typically begin to change as they are maturing past childbearing years into perimenopause and menopause. Because of this, Dr. Naidoo says you may need less folate and iron, and more:
- Calcium: This helps to prevent and slow bone loss
- Vitamin D: This is essential for bone and skin health
- Vitamin B12: This is key for brain health
- More water: This is important as kidneys tend to become less efficient in detoxifying the body
The Garden of Life myKind Organic Women’s 40+ Multi is our top pick due to its precise amount of nutrients of concern for middle-aged women. And, it’s the only brand on the market that is dual-certified as both USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, meeting purity standards and void of genetic engineering in the manufacturing process. Though pricier than other options, the vitamin is optimal for middle-aged women and provides an extra boost to a balanced diet.
Garden of Life’s formulation is made exclusively from whole foods, which may lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
Though this multivitamin has not yet been tested by Consumer Labs or Labdoor, myKind is one of Consumer Labs’ approved brands based on product quality, appropriateness of dosage, formulation, and value.
Who should consider a multivitamin
Generally, people who are pregnant, underweight, elderly, who don’t get enough sun exposure, or who have a chronic medical condition [like heart disease, certain cancers, and individuals who had bypass surgery] should consider taking a multivitamin, Uma Naidoo, MD, director of Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital told Insider. Those who follow a stricter diet, too, like vegans and vegetarians, should take special caution; low intake of B vitamins, as well as iron and possibly zinc, will likely lead to a deficiency.
If you know or you’re wondering whether you fall into the category of nutritional deficiency, it’s important to get your levels checked by your doctor. Though others may not need one, Dr. Naidoo advised reviewing your daily nutrition with your doctor to see if you need a multivitamin as well.
A daily multivitamin may holistically bring benefits, but Garden-Robinson notes there can be risks with oversupplementation. She and Dr. Naidoo said excess calcium may increase the risk for urinary stone formation in some people, while oversupplementation of vitamin A may promote birth defects and liver damage. An abundance of vitamin C can cause cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. That said, be sure to check out the DV for guidance on how much of each nutrient you daily need.
What to look for & other FAQs
If you’re wondering what to look for in a multivitamin and how to shop for one, check out our very detailed multivitamin FAQ page.
Check out our other vitamin guides