How do you get young kids to take their daily multivitamin? You give them a gummy. Gummy supplements are chewable vitamins that come in an array of flavors and shapes. You’re probably familiar with Flintstones Vitamins. They gave chewable vitamins a name – and a very strong presence in American households. Kids everywhere starting gobbling up grape- flavored multivitamins like they were candy. Adults soon followed suit, many exhausted from forcing pills down day, after day. It’s not surprising, then, that gummy vitamins have become so popular. But what might amaze you is how these supplements are made and who they’re really made to benefit.
What Are Gummy Supplements Made of?
To achieve that soft, chewy texture and sweet, candy-like taste, gummy vitamin manufacturers must employ functional ingredients. The basic gummy formulation includes sweeteners, gelling agents, acidulants, colors and flavors. When looking at a supplement label, you may not know which ingredient does what. And that’s okay. This guide breaks it down for you.
Sucrose is the most common form of sugar used in gummy vitamins. And, believe it or not, sucrose does more than sweeten the pot. It also helps retain moisture, so gummies can hold their shape.
This is another type of sugar commonly found in gummy formulations. Corn syrup is derived from corn starch and is primarily added to prevent crystallization of sucrose or dextrose.
Fructose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Occasionally, fructose or HFCS are used to make gummy vitamins. These sugars also serve as humectants (moisturizers) to help produce a tender, squishy product. Only small amounts of fructose can be added before the gummy becomes too sticky.
Sorbitol, Xylitol, Maltitol, Mannitol
These are sugar substitutes you may find in lieu of sucrose. They not only reduce (or eliminate) the sugar content, but are also used to cut back on calorie count. These sugar-free formulas typically require more gelatin in order to maintain their shape (see below).
The chewiness of a gummy comes from the gelling agent. Gelatin was the first gelling agent used to make gummy vitamins back in the 1990s and is still a popular choice today. Gelatin is a protein derived from pork skin, beef skin or beef bones.
Found in plant cell walls, pectin is the animal-free alternative to gelatin. Many manufacturers prefer pectin, because it’s smaller and has a higher melting point than gelatin. As a result, they can pack in more nutrients and aren’t as concerned about melting. Pectin also helps reduce setting time, which can cut production costs.
Citric acid works as an acidulant, a chemical compound that imparts a tart or sour flavor. This is added to enhances the gummy’s flavor.
Carnauba wax, beeswax
Food-grade wax is used as a polishing agent to brighten the color and appearance of gummy supplements. The glossy coat also helps prevent stickiness and moisture loss.
The flavors used in gummy vitamins are either artificial or derived from natural sources (fruits, vegetables). In either case, the concentrated flavors can be modified by other ingredients. Sugar, citric acid and pectin are all capable of changing the flavor profile of a gummy.
Colors can also be manmade or naturally derived. Natural colors typically come from concentrated juices, like beetroot, grape, elderberry or beta carotene. The stability of artificial and natural colors varies, especially in the presence of acid.
Are Gummy Vitamins Healthy?
Based on the ingredients above, you might question whether gummies are healthy. To be honest, the most common concern with gummy supplements is their sugar content. And, yes, gummies are made with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Like liquid supplements, gummies must mask the natural – and sometimes off-putting – taste of a particular nutrient. Iron gummies, for instance, would have an unpleasant metallic taste if there were no additional ingredients. As a result, manufacturers add everyone’s favorite flavor: sweetness.
That being said, countless companies have championed sugar-free formulas and created options made without added sugar. While “no added sugar” doesn’t necessarily mean zero sugar, these formulas may be the healthier choice. Rather than cane sugar or corn syrup, their sweetness comes only from a fruit or vegetable source.
Who Should Take Gummy Vitamins?
Like any form of dietary supplement, gummies are meant to support your health. Anyone who has a nutritional deficiency, absorption issues or nutrient gaps in their diet benefits from taking multivitamin gummies. Still not sure if you should take a gummy vitamin?
Consider gummy supplements if:
You forget to take pills – Everyone knows gummy vitamins taste delicious. But that’s exactly why you (or the kids) are more inclined to take them. When something feels like such a treat, you don’t easily forget to indulge.
You have a hard time swallowing pills – Tablets – and even some capsules – are difficult to get down, especially for the elderly. Gummy supplements are a great alternative, because they can be chewed slowly or broken into pieces.
You have children – Worried about your kid’s eating habits? Gummy vitamins might be the way to go. Children are drawn to the different colors, shapes and flavors. And then you don’t have to fight them taking a pill.
You follow a specialty diet – Thanks to plant-based pectin, it’s fairly easy to make vegan gummy vitamins. There’s also not much need for gluten in the mix. As a result, many gummy formulas cater to specialty diets.
5 Gummy Vitamin Tips for Good Health
As you can see, gummy supplements are a convenient way to get key nutrients. Plus, they’re suitable for all ages and all taste buds. Of course, some gummy formulas are better than others. And it can be hard to find the right one for you and your family. To help you get the most out of these chewy little treats, here are five tips to follow on your next shopping trip:
1. Talk to a doctor.
Before you start any supplement routine, you should consult your healthcare provider. Don’t skip this step. Your physician can determine exactly which nutrients your body may need. They may even offer a doctor-recommended supplement brand to help jump-start your search.
2. Look for low or no sugar.
You don’t have to be a diabetic to be worried about sugar. After all, it has been proven that heavy sugar intake is bad for the immune system. Finding ways to cut back benefits each and every body. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. Small tweaks to your day can add up, so why not start with your supplement routine? Low-sugar and sugar-free gummies are not hard to find. Vitacost has a wide selection, including sugar-free melatonin gummies.
3. Go natural.
Artificial colors and flavors tend to be cheap, compatible and widely available. That’s why some gummy suppliers still rely on artificial ingredients. You don’t have to, though. The dangers of artificial food dyes are well-known and well-researched. Avoid any potential health risks by choosing a gummy supplement made with natural colors and flavors. The science and technology has improved significantly since the ‘90s, making it possible to use natural sources without losing integrity or flavor. If you’re really concerned about the source of ingredients, there’s always homemade gummy vitamins. Making your own gives you complete control.
4. Follow directions.
With their candy-like appeal, gummies go down quickly. While that’s ideal for picky eaters, you might forget these are dietary supplements. Consuming too much of certain nutrients, namely fat-soluble vitamins, can be harmful. That’s why it’s imperative you follow the directions clearly stated on the supplement bottle. Take note of the serving size and stick to that amount, unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
An easy way to control portions is to use a vitamin case. Each day, add only the amount of pills and gummies you need for the next 24 hours. It may also help to take supplements outside the home. This will prevent you (or any family member) from sneaking back into the pantry for a second, third or sixth serving.
5. Brush after.
You might already be following the important dental care tips, and that’s great! But for anyone who regularly takes gummy supplements, pay even closer attention to your teeth. You don’t want little pieces of gummy vitamin lingering on your teeth or gums. Even sugar-free formulas can contribute to plaque buildup – just like any other food. If possible, time your teeth cleaning so it immediately follows your supplement routine.