Here’s what you really need.
The right multivitamin can provide essential vitamins and minerals for overall health. Each micronutrient in a multivitamin plays an essential role in our bodies. But when it comes to women’s health in particular, what specific nutrients are really necessary? Here’s how you can choose the best women’s multivitamin.
Who Needs A Multivitamin
First, let’s review the perfect candidate for a multivitamin. Ideally, we want to get as many nutrients as we can from the food we eat. However, that’s not always possible. Here are a few key indicators I use to assess whether a client may benefit from a daily multivitamin:
- Eating a restrictive diet because of a lifestyle choice, such as following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
- Having an active eating disorder that restricts food intake for weight loss or body-image concerns.
- Removing certain foods or food groups due to food allergies and/or intolerances.
- Medical conditions, such as celiac disease or colitis, in which the body may not be able to absorb nutrients properly.
- Medical surgeries like gastric bypass surgery.
- Taking certain medications that impair absorption or deplete your body of nutrients.
Unsure if this list applies to you? A registered dietitian can help determine if you fall under one of these indicators. However, it’s always best to review nutrient concerns with your primary-care physician.
What To Look For in a multivitamin
Start with checking out the back of the label. A multivitamin should be formulated to provide as close to 100% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of essential vitamins and minerals as possible. Some nutrients may be offered in amounts over 100%, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many of these nutrients like vitamins C, B12, thiamin, and riboflavin are water-soluble and lose some of their concentration during digestion.
Then, consider a multivitamin that’s appropriate for your age and health history. For example, women who have gone through menopause do not require extra iron, whereas women who still menstruate can benefit from additional iron.
Finally, pay attention to additional certifications, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. The FDA developed this certification for dietary supplements to ensure that the identity, purity, strength, and composition meet established quality standards. The FDA will also inspect the facility that manufactures the supplement for quality and regulation purposes.
Important Vitamins and Minerals for Women
When it comes to women in particular, these nutrients are among the most important. Seek adequate amounts of the following in a multivitamin:
Calcium builds and protects strong bones. Our bones actually store calcium, so if you aren’t consuming enough of it in your diet, your body will take calcium from your bones. That’s no good! Foods like yogurt, salmon, and dark green leafy vegetables are all rich in calcium. Also, women who have gone through menopause are at a higher risk for loss of bone density due to hormonal changes. For that reason, I recommend that postmenopausal women in particular supplement with calcium.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and plays an important role in your immunity as well. It’s found in only a few foods naturally, such as fatty fishes and fortified foods like orange juice and cereal. The choices are limited, making it difficult to get enough from food sources alone. As is well-known, you may need vitamin D if you don’t get enough sunlight. Other instances that can contribute to a vitamin-D deficiency include GI diseases (like IBS) or weight-loss surgery.
Just like calcium and vitamin D, magnesium is essential for women over the age of 40. Magnesium can support strong bones and may help prevent bone loss that can lead to conditions like osteoporosis. It’s also helpful for digestion and preventing muscle cramping.
Iron is essential for all women who have periods. Why? Because we lose iron every month during menstruation. In terms of diet, many women don’t consume enough iron through food alone. Iron-rich foods include spinach, beans, lean meats, poultry, tofu, and fortified cereals. A lack of iron in your diet can even result in iron-deficiency anemia.
Folic acid is also known as folate. Women considering getting pregnant should consume adequate amounts of folic acid in particular, either through their diet or with the help of supplements. Adequate folic acid can lower the risk of having a baby with spina bifida. More importantly, for folic acid to be effective, it needs to be taken in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The tricky part is that it’s often the time you don’t yet know that you’re pregnant. Foods rich in folic acid include spinach, oranges, nuts, beans, chicken, and whole grains.
Women (and men) over the age of 50 may require supplementation since our absorption of vitamin B12 diminishes with age. Vegans and vegetarians should also be sure to supplement with vitamin B12, as it’s naturally found in animal products like meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
Bottom line: Think food first. Multivitamins aren’t cure-alls, but they can help fill gaps in nutrition, especially when you can’t get vital amounts through your diet. Consuming a balanced diet comprised of nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats is still the preferred and recommended way of getting in your daily vitamins and minerals.
Overall, your multivitamin should provide a well-rounded foundation, such as in HUM’s Base Control. Not only is Base Control a highly absorbable and vegetarian multivitamin, but it’s also available in two forms (with and without iron). That way, women can personalize their multivitamin to their individual needs. Base Control women’s multivitamin also delivers 22 essential nutrients, 14 of them providing 100% of your RDA, plus a little extra for those water-soluble nutrients.