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6 “Unsung Heroes” to Look For In Your Multivitamin

By Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN+

People take multivitamins for many reasons, but a primary motivation is to fill gaps where diet is either lacking, or the body can’t absorb the necessary nutrients.


You’re probably used to hearing about popular nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron, or magnesium—for a good reason. These vitamins and minerals are essential and play big-time roles in the body’s overall health. But other nutrients get far less press and are just as crucial in supporting your health and functioning optimally.


Each of these nutrients deserves multiple articles (or even books) about how and why your body needs them. For now, this article will provide an overview of these unsung nutrient heroes (in no particular order) and why you may want to double-check to ensure they’re on your multivitamin label.


1. Vitamin A


If you’ve ever been told to eat more carrots to support your vision, it’s because of vitamin A. Vitamin A refers to a group of fat-soluble (meaning you store excess in fatty tissue) chemical compounds that include forms such as:1


  • Retinol
  • Retinaldehyde
  • Retinoic acid
  • Carotenoids like beta-carotene


One reason Vitamin A supports eye health is that it’s used to make rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is a pigment that’s needed for light perception.1 Carotenoids also have antioxidant activity that may help support reduced oxidative stress in the eyes.1


Oxidative stress results from an imbalance of free radicals that damage tissue. Antioxidants help the body remove free radicals, so vitamin A may support cell growth and survival in the eyes by reducing the impact of free radical damage. 1


It’s also an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy skin, where it helps regulate cell growth and differentiation in the outer layer. Vitamin A can is also needed for a healthy immune system response.1


Food sources of vitamin A can contain either preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) or proformed vitamin A (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin):1


  • Animal sources like liver, dairy, eggs, and fish contain the preformed vitamin A, which means it’s in a form ready to be absorbed.
  • Plant sources like celery, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, or tomatoes contain provitamin A, which must be converted to vitamin A in your intestines.2


While vitamin A is found in foods, some people need extra during pregnancy, childhood, or those with health conditions that affect absorption in the gut.1 A multivitamin containing vitamin A can be helpful for these situations.


Fresh vegetables in a basket just picked from a garden


2. Vitamin E


Like vitamin A, vitamin E refers to a group of fat-soluble vitamins with antioxidant activity. Vitamin E also plays a role in cell signaling and metabolism.3


Vitamin E is the primary antioxidant found in mitochondrial membranes. Mitochondria are the energy producers of your cells, but they also create reactive oxygen species (free radicals) as a byproduct. As an antioxidant, vitamin E can help protect the mitochondria (as well as lipids, proteins, and DNA) from oxidative damage.4


Although vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds, some research suggests that people may not get enough from their diet. However, vegetable oils are another source of vitamin E, so these studies may not consider that people cook with these oils daily.5


People who follow low-fat diets may also need additional supplementation, as vitamin E is primarily found in fat-containing foods.


3. Biotin


Biotin is a water-soluble (meaning you excrete any excess in urine) B vitamin needed for normal fat, sugar, and protein metabolism. In other words, after you digest your food,

adequate levels of biotin are required to convert those nutrients into energy to use or store in the body.6


As a cofactor (a substance that helps another protein do its job), biotin helps make the enzymes needed for metabolism and contributes to normal psychological and nervous system functions. You also need adequate biotin for maintaining healthy hair and skin.6


Food sources of biotin include organ meats, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables (such as sweet potatoes), so many people get enough in their diet. However, needs go up in certain life stages, like pregnancy, and people with conditions impacting digestion may also need more.7


Women holding a basket of eggs and smiling


4. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)


Another water-soluble B vitamin, riboflavin, contributes to cellular energy production and metabolism by acting as a cofactor for enzymes (similar to biotin). It’s also needed for the normal functioning of the nervous system and supports iron absorption.8


Iron is a mineral needed to create hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body, and riboflavin can help maintain healthy iron levels.9


Sources of riboflavin include eggs, organ meats (kidneys and liver), lean meats, nuts, seeds, and milk.10 Vegans or vegetarians that limit animal products may need supplemental

riboflavin to get enough. Needs also increase with pregnancy and breastfeeding, so a supplement is often recommended.8


5. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)


Vitamin B3 refers to two forms:


  • Niacin (nicotinic acid)
  • Niacinamide (nicotinamide)


Niacin is converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP).11 These coenzymes are needed for more than 400 body processes, including cellular energy production (converting the food you eat into energy for the body), and supports energy-yielding metabolism which reduces tiredness and fatigure.12 Like other B vitamins, niacin is also needed for a healthy brain and nervous system.13


Niacin is found in enriched grains, meat, seafood, nuts, dairy, and legumes.14 Cellular NAD levels drop with age, so supplementation may be helpful as you get older.15 Niacin is absorbed in the small intestine, so a healthy gut is also needed for optimal levels.


6. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)


Vitamin B5 is essential for metabolism, as it helps convert food into energy. It is also necessary to produce steroid hormones.16 Studies also show that healthy mental performance is dependent on adequate amounts of this vitamin as it helps to produce neurotransmitters needed for the brain.17


Vitamin B5 is found in many foods, including chicken, beef egg yolk, broccoli, root vegetables, and whole grains.18 Although food remains the primary source of pantothenic acid in the diet, those who do not get enough from their food may need to supplement with B5.


Variety of supplements


The Bottom Line on Nutrients in Your Multivitamin


A quality multivitamin contains all the above nutrients, plus the more commonly known vitamins like Vitamin C and B12. Check the nutrition facts label on your product for a complete list of ingredients.


These six vitamins are essential for energy production, cellular metabolism, healthy cells, and more. With adequate levels of these micronutrients, you can support your health.



Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. She has a master's degree in nutrition and over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian.


+The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Pure Encapsulations®.


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2 Reboul E. Absorption of vitamin A and carotenoids by the enterocyte: focus on transport proteins. Nutrients. 2013;5(9):3563-3581. Published 2013 Sep 12. doi:10.3390/nu5093563


3 Sen CK, Khanna S, Roy S. Tocotrienols: Vitamin E beyond tocopherols. Life Sci. 2006;78(18):2088-2098. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2005.12.001


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5 Gao X, Wilde PE, Lichtenstein AH, Bermudez OI, Tucker KL. The maximal amount of dietary alpha-tocopherol intake in U.S. adults (NHANES 2001-2002). J Nutr. 2006;136(4):1021-1026. doi:10.1093/jn/136.4.1021


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8 Thakur K, Tomar SK, Singh AK, Mandal S, Arora S. Riboflavin and health: A review of recent human research. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(17):3650-3660. doi:10.1080/10408398.2016.1145104


9 Powers HJ, Hill MH, Mushtaq S, Dainty JR, Majsak-Newman G, Williams EA. Correcting a marginal riboflavin deficiency improves hematologic status in young women in the United Kingdom (RIBOFEM). Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(6):1274-1284. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.008409


10 Fooddata Central Search Results. FoodData Central. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2023, from


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12 Sauve AA. NAD+ and vitamin B3: from metabolism to therapies. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2008;324(3):883-893. doi:10.1124/jpet.107.120758


13 Qin B, Xun P, Jacobs DR Jr, et al. Intake of niacin, folate, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 through young adulthood and cognitive function in midlife: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(4):1032-1040. doi:10.3945/ajcn.117.157834


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18 Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and its Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1998.