Kiddy vitamins have been disguised as treats for decades, a clever way to get the little ones to swallow them… but if you take a good look around right now, you’ll see that even grown-ups are swallowing vitamins — and supplements — in the forms of sweet fizzy drinks and gummy candy. Labels on vitamin drink powders and gummies make claims like better, easier… health and energy booster … you can feel a wave of rejuvenation!

Intrigued as I am by creative ideas that help people get healthier, I’m also a believer in healthy skepticism. (You probably already knew that.) I called Hyla Cass, MD, integrative physician based in Pacific Palisades, California, and author of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health, to ask what people need to know about these fun and friendly vitamin products. In other words, are they better, worse or about the same as taking vitamins in a pill or capsule?

Not All Equal

Dr. Cass’s answer:It depends. While it is always best to get your vitamins and minerals from foods, she acknowledged that many people can’t or just don’t eat the nutrient-rich foods they should — in which case supplements are essential. Some people have real difficulty swallowing pills… while others have digestive issues that make drinkable and chewable forms of vitamins and other supplements a real advantage.

All that said, quality really counts, according to Dr. Cass. To make their products as much like soda and candy as possible and to keep their costs down, many manufacturers add artificial sweeteners, flavors and/or colors — Dr. Cass advises avoiding any such product because these ingredients are obviously bad for your health. Also make sure there’s little or no sugar in your product. Up to one gram of sugar per dose seems OK to Dr. Cass — more than that, and you really are eating “fortified” candy. Natural, nonsugar alternative sweeteners, including xylitol and stevia, are preferable.

How Do You Want That?

Let’s take a closer look at the “soda” and “candy” of the vitamin aisle…

Vitamin drinks.These are made with flavored powders that you stir into a glass of water, delivering a supposedly healthy mix of vitamins and other nutrients that many people claim boosts their energy immediately upon drinking. Dr. Cass said some of these products can be beneficial — she particularly likes those made by Ola Loa, because they are of excellent quality. Dr. Cass said she has many patients who like to take their vitamins in drinkable form, and she has no objections. Other manufacturers include the well-known Emergen-C and Natural Factors, which combines vitamins and minerals with protein for a complete breakfast drink in its Whey Factors.

A cautionary note:Researchers have found that fizzy vitamin drinks can be corrosive to the enamel on your teeth. If you choose to take your vitamins this way it might be better to use a straw, and rinse afterward!

Gummy candy vitamins.Made by a long list of manufacturers, including Vitafusion, Nutrition Now, Nature’s Bounty and even the classic vitamin company One-a-Day, these vitamin formulations are chewy, sweet and fruity — way more fun than swallowing pills and capsules. And admittedly, if your vitamin seems like a treat, you may be much more apt to remember to take it.

Buying information:You can choose from a vast selection, including multivitamins, B complex, C and D and even lemon-flavored omega-3s — but again, you must check labels carefully for artificial additives and too much sugar.

In summary, before you buy any vitamin — gummy, powder or any form — do your research. Don’t swallow any claim that a sugar- and/or chemical-laden product is good for your health!