When looking for the best vitamins for women it can be hard to know what your body really needs. Multivitamins are not one-size fits all, as nutrient needs change according to gender. Women have very different vitamin needs than men, which should be considered when choosing a good multivitamin for women. Age also plays a role – vitamins for women over 40 who no longer want to have children would be different for those under 40 who are still considering bearing children. Here’s a quick break down of what is important and why when looking for the best vitamins for women.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is a concern for women of any age to help keep bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis, but is especially important in vitamins for women over 40. It is preferable to get calcium from calcium-rich foods rather than calcium supplements, but if looking for a calcium supplement, make sure it contains 1000-1200 mg of calcium in each daily dose. Don’t skimp on cost either, as cheap calcium supplements may so much as double heart attack risk.
While it is important to seek out good sources of calcium, it is equally important to moderate those foods that deplete the body of calcium. A diet high in protein, salt, or cola may remove calcium from the bones. Calcium should not be taken with iron or with a multivitamin that contains iron, as iron blocks the body’s ability to absorb calcium. If you consume any of these foods and are not getting enough calcium from other calcium-rich food sources, you may need to consider supplementing with a good multivitamin in order to get adequate calcium. Those who cannot drink milk may need to get their calcium from fortified soy milk or orange juice. The consumption of too many dairy products has been shown to potentially increase risk of ovarian and prostate cancer, so it is important to get calcium from a variety of different sources.
Even if you are getting enough calcium from your diet, it may not be well absorbed if you are lacking vitamin D. One of vitamin D’s primary roles is to assist in the absorption of calcium. Make sure that your supplement or multivitamin for women comes with at least 600 IU of vitamin D for proper calcium absorption. If you are taking a multivitamin the total amount of vitamin D should not exceed 5000 IU.
Folic acid is vital for women of child-bearing age as it may help prevent birth defects.* Birth control pills may prevent your body from absorbing folic acid. Folic acid (along with other B vitamins) is lost when you smoke or drink alcohol. If you are trying to get pregnant, try to consume a diet high in foods containing folic acid, such as green leafy vegetables, grains, and cereals. A great multivitamin for women should contain at least 400 mcg of Folic Acid. Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, so there is no danger of toxicity.
Women of child-bearing age can easily develop iron deficiency anemia due to blood loss during their period. Many women of this age do not eat enough high iron foods which puts them at even greater risk. A good multivitamin for women may contain small amounts of iron, but iron is best when it comes from real food sources, as iron supplements can cause constipation and stomach upset. Additionally, if your multivitamin happens to be tasty, it should definitely not contain iron. Vitamins for women over 40 do not need to contain high amounts of iron, as iron needs decrease with age. Iron rich foods, such as meat, beans, and fortified cereals should be eaten with a vitamin C source to aid in iron absorption. Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Vitamins that function as antioxidants, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E are an important part of any multivitamin for women. These nutrients play an important role in neutralizing free radicals* which can cause early aging and suppressed immunity. This is especially important for women over 40 who are concerned about aging. One thing to know about antioxidants is that we cannot get all of them through a multivitamin alone, even the best multivitamins. A good multivitamin for women can give you some of the basics that your body needs (vitamin A, C, E), but there are thousands more that have not been identified that are only found in a diet high in fruits and vegetables. A good multivitamin for women should contain around 100% of the RDI for some of the basic antioxidants like C and E, but less from A, as vitamin A is easily found through the diet and there is the risk of toxicity with high levels.
Before taking any supplements, remember to consult your healthcare professional to determine what your specific needs may be.