Lots of changes happen as you age — some good and some not so good. For one thing, your risk of certain health conditions increases, and it becomes more important than ever to stay on top of your nutrition.
Even the best multivitamin can't stand in place of a healthy diet. In fact, if you're eating a healthy diet, you may not even need a multivitamin. Most older adults can get all the nutrients they need for good health from a balanced, calorie-sufficient diet, according to the National Institute on Aging.
"If you are eating a balanced diet then you won't need to supplement too much, however, there are some areas where people fall short," says Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN, and founder of Real Nutrition.
That can occur due to health conditions or changes related to getting older. Taking a multi can give you a little "nutritional insurance" and provide extra amounts of the most important vitamins and minerals.
A quick language note: You’ll typically see vitamins marketed to men or women, but because gender is a spectrum, we’re using the term “assigned female at birth” (AFAB) throughout.
- Best Overall: Thorne Research Women's Multi 50+ Comprehensive Daily Multi-Vitamin ($45, Walmart.com)
- Best Budget-Friendly: Equate Complete Multivitamin Tablets, Adults 50+ ($7.88, Walmart.com)
- Best Daily: Bayer One A Day Women’s 50+ Multivitamins ($10.47, Amazon.com)
- Best Gummy: SmartyPants Masters 50+ Multivitamin ($30, Amazon.com)
- Best Food-Based: MegaFood for Women 55+ ($28.77, Amazon.com)
- Best Source of Vitamin D: Ancient Nutrition Multi Women’s 40+ ($35.96, Amazon.com)
- Best With Probiotics: Garden of Life Multivitamin for Women 50 & Over ($53.26, Amazon.com)
1. The Best Overall: Thorne Research Women's Multi 50+ Comprehensive Daily Multi-Vitamin
"Thorne Women's Multi 50+ is a great multi-vitamin by a product that does a ton of research and has been around for a long time," Shapiro says.
This multivitamin is a good source of magnesium — older adults tend to have lower magnesium intake, according to the National Institutes of Health. This multi has 180 milligrams or 43 percent of your daily value of magnesium.
Thorne is often used by clinicians, Shapiro says. "These supplements contain the nutrients needed at this age," she notes.
Thorne Research Women's Multi 50+ Comprehensive Daily Multi-Vitamin ($45, Walmart.com)
2. The Best Budget-Friendly: Equate Complete Multivitamin Tablets, Adults 50+
Equate Complete Multivitamin is a top pick for adults over age 50 in a report from ConsumerLab, an organization sharing independent test results for health and nutritional products. Each pill is less than 4 cents.
The report calls out that this multi contains the recommended daily allowance for most required nutrients, and does not have any iron. That's a good thing: If you're AFAB, your iron needs fall after menopause. "Unless you are deficient or anemic you can avoid this in your multi," Shapiro says.
This multi has 1,000 IU of vitamin D (more than the RDA), ConsumerLab notes.
Equate Complete Multivitamin Tablets, Adults 50+ ($11.88, Walmart.com)
3. The Best Daily: Bayer One A Day Women's 50+
ConsumerLab calls out this vitamin as a top pick for people AFAB over age 50. It contains magnesium and calcium (but below the RDA), ConsumerLab notes, and it also has 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
Many supplements require you to take several pills throughout the day — if that seems like a path that'll lead to you taking less than the recommended dosage, this once-daily multi might be a good choice.
One A Day Women’s 50+ Multivitamins ($10.47, Amazon.com)
4. The Best Gummy: SmartyPants Masters 50+ Multivitamin
Gummy vitamins are typically best avoided, notes ConsumerLab in their report. That's because innate difficulties making these vitamins lead to overcompensation on the part of manufacturers — a gummy vitamin will often contain more vitamins and minerals than the amount listed on the label, per ConsumerLab. What's more, gummy vitamins also come with added sugars.
Smarty Pants is an exception to that, however, per ConsumerLab. Multivitamins are over quite over-sized, and if that stands in the way of you taking them, this gummy multi is a good alternative.
Smarty Pants Masters 50+ Multivitamin ($30, Amazon.com)
5. The Best Food-Based: MegaFood for Women 55+
Shapiro recommends this multi from MegaFood that features orange and cranberry. "It is a food-based supplement that contains most nutrients you want and eliminates controversial ones such as iron," she says.
Plus, it can be taken at any time of day and is a single pill. You'll get 200 percent of your DV of vitamin D3 with this multi.
MegaFood for Women 55+ ($28.77, Amazon.com)
6. The Best Source of Vitamin D: Ancient Nutrition Multi Women’s 40+
This vitamin has active forms of B vitamins and 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D, says Sydney Greene, RDN, founder of Greene Health. It can be taken with or without food.
Ancient Multi Women’s 40+ ($35.96, Amazon.com)
7. The Best With Probiotics: Garden of Life Multivitamin for Women 50 & Over
This multivitamin includes Lactobacillus Bulgaricus (that's the bacteria found in yogurt) as well as vitamin D, B12 and B complex.
Garden of Life Multivitamin for Women 50 & Over ($53.26, Amazon.com)
The Most Important Nutrients for Your Multivitamin
Each of the 13 essential vitamins plays an important role in optimal physiological function, and most multivitamins contain some amount of each vitamin along with important minerals.
But several nutrients are of increased importance for people AFAB as they age, so make sure that the multivitamin you choose is a good source of the following:
- Vitamin D3: As we get this from the sun, we often are deficient, Shapiro says. "It helps to prevent disease, boost immunity and strengthen bones," she notes.
- B12: "We absorb it less efficiently from our food as we age," Shapiro says — many people over age 50 don't get enough vitamin B12, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Vitamin B12 plays important roles in blood cell formation, bone health, cellular metabolism and nerve function, per the Mayo Clinic. Deficiency in B12 can cause forgetfulness, tingling in hands and feet, unsteadiness and weakness. "Taking it in a supplement can help meet needs and it is important as it helps with muscles/nerves and energy," Shapiro says.
- Calcium: This helps keep bones from becoming brittle, Shapiro notes. It's particularly important to take in conjunction with vitamin D. As you age, bone mass decreases, and the rate at which bone is regenerated, or remodeled, slows down as well, which can lead to osteoporosis. The majority of people who have osteoporosis are AFAB, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, out the 10 million Americans who have osteoporosis, 8 million are women.
- B6: Many have a deficiency in this vitamin which helps build red blood cells, Shapiro says.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: "These are important for brain health and continued cognition," Shapiro notes.
- Magnesium: As with vitamin D and calcium, the mineral magnesium plays a role in bone health, according to American Bone Health. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for people over age 51 is 420 milligrams, per the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Most supplements are low in magnesium, providing less than 15 percent of the RDA. Therefore, if your diet is low in the mineral, a multivitamin isn't going to be a reliable source to fulfill your daily needs.
- Probiotics: If you have digestion woes or trouble going, probiotics can help, Shapiro says. They may also be beneficial to your immune system as a whole, she notes.
What to Look for in a Multivitamin
Keep these considerations in mind as you browse through the many multivitamins that are available:
- Make sure it meets your nutritional needs. If you decide to take a multivitamin, look for one that contains the key nutrients for people AFAB over 60 in amounts at or close to the RDA. For minerals such as calcium and magnesium, you may need to consider taking a separate supplement, if your doctor recommends it.
- Look for third-party testing. There's not much oversight when it comes to supplements. To make sure you're taking a good quality supplement, look on the label to see if it's been tested by a third party, such as the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), Shapiro says.
- Avoid ingredients as needed. "For those with allergies, make sure the label is free of your particular allergen," Greene says.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Is There Really Any Benefit to Multivitamins?"
- International Osteoporosis Foundation: "What Is Osteoporosis?"
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: "What Women Need to Know"
- National Academies of Medicine: "Summary Tables, Dietary Reference Intakes"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin B-12 Supplements Recommended for Older Adults"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Special Nutrient Needs of Older Adults"
- NIH: "Vitamin B12"
- Nutrients: "Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions"
- NIH: Magnesium
- ConsumerLabs: "Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements Review"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Health benefits of taking probiotics"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Magnesium"