With all the options out there, it’s hard to decide which multivitamin is best for your developing baby. Searching on Amazon you will find scores of name brands and unknown brands, all with a lot of similar ingredients. Which ones should you consider? And which companies are the most reputable and are using the best ingredients? We’ve already given you some criteria for how to pick a prenatal multivitamin. But is there even just one product we would recommend out of all those options? Read on to learn what sets the Smartypants PhD Prenatal apart from the competition.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
One of the things we’ve already covered is the fact that typically pills are better than gummies, all things being equal. Smartypants is a brand that’s made a nice name for itself by creating great-tasting gummies with high nutritional quality. However, there are certain ingredients, like iron, that just don’t work in gummies. Also, the amount of certain nutrients that can be squeezed into a gummy is limited. The other thing is that some nutrients break down more quickly in a gummy, so manufacturers have to add more.
Because of all that, capsules are really the way to go. However, the experience of taking a capsule is, well, not the most exciting. Plus, multivitamin capsules are notorious for that stomach-churning smell when you pop open the bottle. Smartypants has taken a new approach here by adding a minty-fresh scent to make taking them a whole lot more pleasant.
And they deliver the goods from a nutritional standpoint:
Methylfolate for the MTHFR carriers among us
If you’ve had a genetic test and been told that you have a minor allele of the MTHFR gene, you may not be able to effectively convert folic acid to the active form of folate in the body. We’ve discussed this previously in another post, but the methylfolate form can bypass the need for this conversion. The bottom line is that methylfolate is a good folate source for everyone, no matter whether you have the MTHFR genotype or not. Unlike many prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid, Smartypants PhD Prenatal contains methylfolate, so that’s +1 in our book.
100 mg of DHA: Smart, baby
Getting DHA with your prenatal is an important thing for your developing baby’s brain and nervous system. Most prenatal capsules or tablets simply don’t have it. Although experts recommend getting at least 300 mg of DHA per day, these capsules will get you partway there, and you can get the rest from a DHA softgel. Also, the DHA in the Smartypants prenatal is coming from algal oil, the same source used in infant formula. If you are looking to avoid fish because of concerns about marine contaminants, an algae oil source is the way to go. Heck, it’s where the fish get their omega-3s from anyway.
This one’s got lutein!
Of all the different prenatal vitamins out there, very few if any have lutein. If you already have a baby at home you might know that lutein is being added to infant formula. This is because this antioxidant has been shown to help support the development of your baby’s eyes and brain. Lutein is a carotenoid that accumulates in the back of the eye to help protect your retina against oxidative stress. It’s also selectively transported into the brain, and is thought to also play an antioxidant role there as well. We recommend you take lutein when you are pregnant, so instead of having to buy and take a separate lutein capsule, just take this one!
Choice forms of other vitamins and minerals
Not all vitamins and minerals are created equal. The chemical forms of these components can sometimes be important. For example, certain mineral salts made from “organic acids” like lactate, gluconate and citrate can be easier to absorb than inorganic salts like oxides. Smartypants typically gives you the organic acid salt forms which tend to have increased bioavailability. This is a good thing! They also choose good forms of the vitamins as well. Like methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin and vitamin E from sunflower oil. They also toss in some vitamin K2, which has been shown to have important functions for bone health.
If all those features weren’t enough, this prenatal also tosses in some probiotics. They contain a few billion CFUs (colony-forming units) of B. coagulans and B. subtilis, two probiotic species that have some good scientific research on them. It’s not a huge dose compared to some of the more mainstream probiotic supplements like Culturelle. However, for an all-in-one prenatal multivitamin it’s quite a bonus!
Choline and iodine for baby’s brain
A few years ago, the FDA gave choline the official status of being an “essential nutrient” that should be disclosed on food or supplement facts labels. This is because choline is important for the healthy development of the brain during pregnancy. It’s also been associated with better mental performance in children up to 7 years after pregnancy. It’s a critical part of the nerve cell membrane and it’s the backbone of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Even still, many prenatal vitamins haven’t yet added choline to their formulas. The Smartypants prenatal not only has it, but it’s a good source (10% of the daily value for pregnancy) of choline, so it’s a great way to get a little bump in your choline intake.
Iodine is another essential nutrient that a lot of folks don’t think about, but it’s also vital for the healthy development of the developing baby’s brain during pregnancy. If you use sea salt or if you don’t use “iodized” salt, you may be falling short of this important nutrient. The Smarty Pants prenatal has 100% of the daily value of iodine. This is also a nutrient like iron, that most prenatal gummies don’t have because it tends to cause issues with taste or with the degradation of the other nutrients. In a capsule, this isn’t an issue.
Clean-label friendly and giving back
You can tell a lot about the quality of the brand by the type of ingredients they use. The PhD line of Smartypants products are gluten-free, gelatin-free, sugar-free and free to the most common allergens. They are also certified vegan so there are no animal-derived ingredients in this one.
Beyond the label, we can also look at what the company stands for. They are corporate sponsors of a group called Vitamin Angels. This not-for-profit helps bring nutrition interventions to underserved people all over the world. This organization distributes vitamin A through various public health programs to help eliminate blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency. They also distribute prenatal vitamins to help assure that pregnant women are getting the essential vitamins they need to avoid birth defects and other issues associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
In the end, you have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a prenatal vitamin. Although the Smartypants PhD Prenatal isn’t perfect, it gets a lot closer than most other prenatal vitamins. As always, we recommend taking supplements with your main meal. The nice thing about this one is that you can split it up across 2 meals, to help absorb more of the nutrients. If you are looking for a good all-in-one product, and you don’t mind taking 2 capsules per day, this is a great choice.