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Taking a gummy prenatal vitamin might be a tempting choice. I mean who really likes swallowing pills anyway? Plus a little sweet treat every day, and doing something healthy to boot. I mean you get all the same benefits, right?
Well, like most things in life, things aren’t always so simple.
There are a few aspects to consider, related to taste, sugar content and what this all means for what really matters, nutritional profile.
We’ve already discussed what nutrients you should be looking for in a prenatal, and also their mechanism of action. Let’s take a closer look at…
Well, this is sort of obvious but vitamins and minerals… some taste kinda bad! If you make a gummy candy with bad-tasting ingredients, yes it will taste bad. On the other hand, swallowing a pill takes like 2 seconds and it’s basically tasteless.
Take zinc for example. Have you ever licked the back of a penny? Take that times 10. It literally tastes so bad that it knocks out your ability to taste other foods for a while. But zinc is an essential nutrient that’s important for your immune system and many other physiological processes involved in your baby’s development.
Iron, same thing, tastes like a rusty pipe. However, your body really needs iron during pregnancy. it’s critical for your developing baby’s blood supply.
Thiamin, here is a vitamin you can taste miles away. You know that “vitaminey” taste from those old chewable vitamins you used to take (or toss under your bed) as a kid? That’s thiamin. Often times you see this one get dropped from gummy vitamins just because it tastes so heinous. But thiamin is important for the development of your baby’s brain.
Again, sort of obvious, but when you take a gummy vitamin, you are getting extra sugar, carbs and calories that simply aren’t there in a tablet or softgel. In the case of most brands, the amount of added sugar is around 5 grams, but for other brands like Smartypants (which we actually like very much BTW) it can be as high as 7 grams, which is 14% of your maximum recommended intake. This is something to consider, but on the other hand, this company uses very high-quality ingredients at good levels in general. And most folks agree, they do taste great. Check them out:
Now does that small amount of sugar really matter when you factor in your overall diet? Well, it depends on what else you are eating and what the rest of your diet looks like. If you are not a big sugar eater then it may not be a big deal. But it’s something to watch out for.
Let’s take a head to head comparison of one of the leading brands, NatureMade. From a nutritional quality standpoint, NatureMade’s products, in general, are some of the best, and they always strive to provide maximum nutritional value. Their gummy vitamin line is really top-notch. In this case, we are only using their tablet and gummy products in a head-to-head comparison to illustrate the typical important differences in prenatal pills vs gummies. The labels shown here are as of Spring 2020.
Here is the tablet version:
And here is the gummy version:
Iron is 100% missing in the gummy. In fact, it’s extremely hard to find any prenatal gummy vitamins on the market that provide a meaningful amount of iron.
Why? As mentioned earlier it tastes terrible. It also is a catalyst for oxidation reactions that causes damage to the other vitamins and omega-3s in a gummy, lowering its shelf life.
No thiamine or riboflavin
Zero thiamine or riboflavin in the gummy version. Once again, thiamine tastes (and smells) terrible. When you open the bottle of gummies do you really want the stench of vitamins to overpower the fruity deliciousness? But on the other hand, are we here to eat candy or do something good for the new babes?
Much less zinc
The prenatal softgel has 11 mg of zinc while the gummy version has only 2.6.mg. again, this is most likely mainly driven by taste, but again, zinc is so important, do you really want to short it?
Less omega-3 DHA
Gummies have to taste good and nobody wants some slimy, oily and fishy-smelling gummy. Most times a manufacturer will need to use some sort of powdered version of omega-3s to get them into a gummy (omega-3s come from oils). However, there is a limit to the amount of these powders that can be added to a gummy.
On the other hand, 58 mg is a decent contribution to your daily DHA intake, but don’t you want the recommended amount of 200 mg anyway? New research suggests that 500 mg may be best for preventing preterm births.
So, in the end, it may be a good idea to consider taking a DHA softgel regardless, to boost your levels.
Yes to choline!
In this case, the gummy version does have some choline, actually, it can be considered a “good source of choline” while we don’t see it in the pills. This is an interesting one and we suspect that it has more to do with the space that choline takes up. To get 55 mg of choline you would need to add more than twice that amount of choline bitartrate (because of how much choline it provides) and a prenatal tablet or softgel eventually just runs out of room.
Other things to consider
In addition to the above, there are a few other aspects that are worth factoring into your choice.
Count size and price
Usually, tablets or softgels recommend 1 per day. Most gummies recommend 2 per day and some even recommend up to 6 per day to get the nutritional prenatal vitamin serving. Just remember to factor in the number you need to take when figuring out your cost per month. In the above example you will get about 50% more day of supplements for about the same price with the softgel option.
This is something that’s not obvious based on reading the label, but we know that manufacturers have to add extra amounts of certain vitamins that break down over shelf life. This is true in both tablets and gummies, but gummies require even more. This means that certain nutrients in gummies may be quite a bit higher at the beginning of shelf life to assure they are still present at the labeled amounts at the end of shelf life. This is something to keep in mind if you are worried about getting too much of a certain nutrient.
Prenatal gummies can be a good option if you don’t like swallowing pills. However, it’s worth knowing the downsides and limitations. And there are other ways to get the things that are missing, like iron for example, by eating red meat or even cooking in cast iron cookware.