What Should a Woman Look for in a Multivitamin?
While views on multivitamins remain mixed—with some doctors and organizations saying they’re a waste of money, and others saying they are beneficial—one thing’s for sure: Most Americans believe they’re anything but a waste.
According to a 2017 survey, 76% of Americans report taking dietary supplements. That’s up from 64% in 2008. Of all supplements, multivitamins are the most popular, with 73% saying they take one regularly.1
Despite what some of the negative reports claim, multivitamins actually have a solid body of research supporting their benefits. One of the biggest health benefits of multivitamins is their ability to help us live not only healthier, but longer lives. In a 2018 study, the author wrote, “Because nutrient deficiencies are highly prevalent in the United States (and elsewhere), appropriate supplementation and/or an improved diet could reduce much of the consequent risk of chronic disease and premature aging.”2
And that is exactly why proponents of multis encourage their use.
Yes, we all know that we should be getting the majority of our nutrients from organic, nutrient-dense, whole foods. But the problem is, most Americans don’t eat perfect diets.
Even those who do eat as well as can be expected simply can’t obtain the level of nutrients they need from food alone. Sadly, modern agriculture has left soil depleted of nutrients, so food is less nutritious today than it was 100, even 50, years ago. This, in turn, leads to nutritional deficiencies, which many people are simply unaware of.
This is why supplementation with a high-quality multivitamin is so important. It’s about filling the nutritional voids that all of us inevitably have in our diet.
Women Have Special Nutritional Needs
While men and women alike can benefit from taking a multi, women have special needs that men don’t typically have to worry about.
Pregnancy/postpartum, menstruation, and menopause are all events in women’s lives that change their nutritional needs and requirements for various vitamins and minerals. Special diets (vegetarian, vegan, etc.) can also cause certain deficiencies that need to be addressed.
Of course, it is always a smart idea to discuss your individual needs with your doctor. He/she can easily order blood tests to see what you’re deficient in, and what you can benefit from taking in supplement form.
Generally speaking, though, all women, regardless of age or phase of life, can benefit from a multivitamin because all women need the same basic nutrients.
What Every Woman Should Look for In a Multivitamin
Magnesium is a mineral important for muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, protein synthesis, and more. Magnesium is especially important, however, for bones. Higher magnesium levels lead to greater bone density, which reduces risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture. While this risk increases with age, it is important to ensure bone strength early in life, well before menopause starts. Deficiencies in magnesium are common, making supplementation all the more vital.
These include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) pantothenic acid (B5) pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cyanocobalamin (B12). These vitamins are crucial in supporting and boosting energy, as well as cognitive function. Your body cannot produce B vitamins on its own—they must be taken in supplement form or absorbed from food. Furthermore, the B vitamins are water soluble, meaning the body doesn’t store them for very long, so you constantly have to keep replenishing. Women who avoid animal products are at highest risk of deficiency—particularly B12.
Selenium supports brain and thyroid function. Specifically, it helps the body metabolize thyroid hormones, which properly regulates metabolism, mood, weight, digestion, and so much more. Since women are at higher risk than men for diseases like hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis, shoring up selenium stores is especially important for preventing these conditions.
Vitamin D helps to strengthen immune function, but that’s not all. Research is showing that for women, vitamin D is playing an increasingly important role in “prevention/treatment of some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, psoriasis, and psychiatric diseases. The role of vitamin D in pregnancy is also taking new dimensions.”3 Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency is widespread among women, so taking it in supplement form is a good idea.
Zinc is a big player in supporting immune system function, but it also pays a role in wound healing, blood sugar stability, proper digestion, eye and skin health, and pregnancy/infant development. Another little-known fact about zinc is that it is crucial to smell and taste perception. If you feel that you can’t smell or taste things are vividly as you used to, you may have a zinc deficiency.
In conclusion, always remember that you cannot take supplements alone and expect to live a vibrant, healthy life. Supplements, including multivitamins, are meant to supplement an already healthy lifestyle, which should include a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy stress management.
When choosing a multi, it is important to buy from reputable manufacturers that not only create products with adequate amounts of naturally sourced (not synthetic) nutrients, but also test their products to ensure quality and purity. Newport Natural Health’s LifeMax is one example of a superior multivitamin that provides high-quality, naturally sourced nutrients.
- 2017 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.
- Ames B. Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and proteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2018 Oct 23;115(43):10836-44.
- Khadilkan, S. The emerging role of vitamin D3 in women’s health. J Obstet Gynaecol India. 2013 Jun; 63(3): 147–150.