1) Make sure the company follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) which means they follow production and testing guidelines that can impact the quality of a product. Look for the GMP seal or a statement that they follow GMP guidelines…
2) Look for companies that voluntarily have their products tested for purity by a 3rd Party (3rd Party Verification) such as USP, Consumer Lab, or NSF. These companies test the product for ingredients and to make sure the product is free of contaminants. Look for these company seals on the bottle or check the supplement company website to see if they have 3rd party verification. Read more about 3rd party verification…
3) Look at what form of vitamins you are getting. Certain forms are better absorbed and utilized by the body. Avoid synthetic forms which are not found in nature and not easily utilized by the body. If the form isn’t specified in the list of vitamins, you are likely getting the cheapest form. Pharmaceutical grade supplement companies usually use the best forms of vitamins. Read more about how to recognize quality supplements.
Vitamin B12 is better as methylcobalamin (Methyl-B12) which is rarely found in over-the-counter multivitamins (they usually use cheaper, synthetic cyanocobalamin*). You can purchase Methyl-B12 alone or get a pharmaceutical grade multivitamin that contain methyl-B12. Read more about forms of Vitamin B12…
Vitamin A – There are over 500 subtypes of vitamin A or carotenoids. Cheaper brands use only beta-carotene. It is better to get mixed carotenoids.
Vitamin E – Make sure to get d-Alpha Tocopherol and/or mixed tocopherols (not *synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol)
Vitamin D – Best form is Cholecalciferol (D3), not Ergocalciferol (D2)
Calcium – From best to worst are these forms: MCHC, Calcium Citrate Malate, Calcium Citrate, and worst is Calcium Carbonate
Minerals – From best to worst forms are chelates (glycinates/methionates), organic acids (citrate, lactate, malate, gluconate), salts (sodium, sulfate, carbonate, chloride), and worst are oxides.
4) Look at the list of ingredients. Most inexpensive vitamins carried at “big-box” stores contain artificial colors, preservatives, high glycemic sugars like maltodextrin or corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. I assume most people take vitamins to be healthier. You don’t want these unnecessary additives in your supplements.
5) When choosing fish oil, make sure it is made from wild caught fish living in cold water, either from anchovies or sardines (if it doesn’t say cold water or specify the fish source, don’t buy it). Most importantly that the strength (mg) of Omega 3 (look at the nutrition label on the back for EPA and DHA) equals the total strength (mg) of the capsules. Often you get 1,000mg fish oil that only contains 250mg of Omega-3’s. I call that additional 750 mg “mystery oil”. The benefit is in the omega-3’s so make sure it is pure Omega-3.