nutrition

Medically Reviewed

Considering a Women’s Multivitamin? A Simple Guide to Choosing

Women have particular vitamin needs, especially during pregnancy. A multivitamin may be a good option for them.

Do you need to take a multivitamin?

Here’s what’s important to know about taking a multivitamin: It’s not meant to replace nutrient-rich foods. Multivitamins – like all vitamins and supplements – can help fill nutrient gaps in your diet. Nutrient gaps are regrettably common, since most people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables, and don’t get the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamins and minerals. If this describes you, you may want to look into a multivitamin. The Care/of multivitamin, for example, is formulated with the latest researched ingredients and doses for maximum effectiveness. Before taking any new supplement, though, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.

How to choose a multivitamin for women in 3 simple steps

Choosing the right multivitamin for you does not have to be complicated. There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that you’re selecting the best choice for you.

Step 1: Review the multivitamin contents for essential vitamins and minerals for women

Step 2: Choose the right multivitamin form for you

Step 3: Consider other factors

Before we get into each of these 3 steps, there are a few key points to keep in mind. Firstly, each individual’s needs vary, and age and life stage influence nutrient requirements. For instance, reproductive-aged women need more iron than postmenopausal women. Secondly, consider prenatal vitamins as an option for reproductive-aged individuals born female, as they are tailored to the specific nutritional demands of this age group. Even if not planning to conceive, these vitamins may be more applicable for this particular age and stage of life. Lastly, always seek personalized advice from your healthcare provider.

Step 1: Review the multivitamin contents for essential vitamins and minerals for women

Let’s break down everything you need to know about each of the vitamins and minerals that should be included in a women’s multivitamin.

Iron

Iron is a mineral that your body needs for carrying oxygen throughout the body. The RDA of iron for the average woman is 18 mg. During pregnancy, the RDA of iron goes up to 27 mg. Iron is an essential mineral during pregnancy, as iron deficiency during pregnancy can increase health risks for the mother and the developing child alike. Others who may need additional iron include people who menstruate heavily, eat plant-based diets, or exercise often.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before considering an iron supplement to ensure your iron levels are accurately measured. Excess iron can be harmful and toxic, making professional guidance crucial for safe and appropriate supplementation.

Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in cell membrane formation and health and helps support liver and brain functioning. It also helps with memory, mood, and muscle control. It’s recommended that women consume 425 mg daily. During pregnancy, that total recommended intake goes up to 450 mg.

B vitamins

Eight B vitamins comprise what we know as vitamin B-complex: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin). All of these vitamins serve to keep our bodies functioning at an optimal level.

However, the folic acid in most vitamin B-complex formulas takes on particular importance when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. B-complex helps support fetal brain development and promotes healthier pregnancies. B vitamins also generally support the nervous system and energy metabolism. When taking B vitamins it is best to look for the active versions, like B6 as pyridoxal-5-phosphate, B12 as methylcobalamin, and folic acid as folate, since these versions can be more easily absorbed by the body.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that’s vitally important for bone health, muscular health, and cardiovascular health. Current research points to the major importance of young women getting sufficient calcium intake. During pregnancy, in particular, it’s important to get at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day. That’s because your body will do what it takes to care for the developing child, including taking calcium from your own bones if necessary. Care/of’s calcium supplement includes vitamin D3 and K2 for improved absorption and includes magnesium from Irish seawater.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is vitally important for musculoskeletal function, bone health, and parathyroid function. Unfortunately, most people are deficient in vitamin D. You probably know that you can get vitamin D from spending time in the sun – but sun-induced vitamin D synthesis is affected by the season, where you live, your level of skin pigmentation, aging, and your use of sunscreen.

Vitamin D supplements can therefore be helpful, including Care/of’s vitamin D supplement. The RDA for men and women alike is 15 mcg. Vitamin D can be especially important for pregnant women, given vitamin D’s support of calcium absorption. Studies also show that vitamin D can be beneficial for the bone health of postmenopausal women.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that acts as an electrolyte in the body, supporting healthy fluid balance within and outside the cells. The body relies on this mineral for energy production and the synthesis of antioxidants, like glutathione, which is especially important for liver function and immune health.

Additionally, magnesium works hand in hand with other minerals like calcium and potassium to promote strong bone health. Beyond that, magnesium acts as a vital co-factor in over 300 enzyme systems responsible for various essential functions, including protein synthesis, nerve and muscle health, metabolic wellness, and DNA/RNA synthesis.

For women, supplementation with magnesium can prove particularly beneficial. It has been found to support gestational diabetes and may help in maintaining healthy sleep patterns, especially in older individuals. Additionally, when paired with vitamin B6, magnesium can provide relief for PMS symptoms.

The RDA of magnesium for adult females ranges from 310 to 320 mg, while pregnant and lactating women require slightly higher amounts, between 350 to 360 mg and 310 to 320 mg, respectively. Apart from supplements, dietary sources of magnesium can be found in most nuts, seeds, and beans.

Unfortunately, almost half of Americans (48%) get less magnesium from their diets than they require, potentially leading to deficiencies. Signs of low magnesium levels include muscle cramps, spasms, fatigue, and weakness.

Folic Acid

Folate is a B vitamin that is a crucial coenzyme in numerous single-carbon functions related to DNA/RNA and amino acid metabolism. Although most people typically obtain enough folic acid from their diet, it remains a nutrient of significant interest for reproductive-age women. This is due to folate’s role in promoting healthy pregnancy and can reduce the chance of birth defects during the early days of gestation, often before anyone would know they are pregnant or could take a pregnancy test.

Given its importance in prenatal health, folic acid is a common component in almost all multivitamins and prenatal vitamins. However, folic acid is necessary even if a woman is not pregnant or trying to conceive.

For adult females, the RDA is 400 mcg DFE (Dietary Folate Equivalent). During pregnancy, the RDA increases to 600 mcg DFE and during lactation, it is set at 500 mcg DFE. Folic acid (the inactive form of folate) is the form commonly used in dietary supplements. It may also be found in alternative forms, like methylfolate or L-5-MTHF, which are considered the "active" forms.

In addition to dietary supplements, folic acid is frequently added to fortified foods, but it also occurs naturally in various food sources. Some sources include dark leafy greens, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, and eggs. The highest folate content per serving can be found in spinach, liver, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.



Vitamin E

Vitamin E refers to a group of molecules that have antioxidant activity. Most vitamin E in supplements is found in the form of alpha-tocopherol. Its adequate intake is necessary for supporting a healthy immune system, promoting bone health, and ensuring optimal neurological function. Since vitamin E is considered a fat-soluble vitamin, you do not want to take too much, as excess intake will not produce more benefits. Conversely, avoiding deficiencies is what is most important when it comes to this vitamin.

The RDA for adult females and pregnant individuals is 15 mg, while lactating women require a slightly higher intake of 19 mg. According to NHANES data, most Americans may not be consuming the full RDA, highlighting the need to pay attention to vitamin E intake from foods and/or supplements.

Dietary sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and other nuts and seeds. While supplements can be a convenient option, it's important to use caution when starting new supplements, as they can interact with certain medications. However, the amount found in most multivitamin supplements contain a relatively low amount of vitamin E and are not usually problematic.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and water-soluble nutrient that is most well-known for its role in immune system support. It’s also needed for collagen synthesis, wound healing, neurotransmitter synthesis, and protein metabolism. It plays a pivotal role in supporting healthy connective tissues and has the ability to regenerative other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin E!

The RDA for adult females is 75 mg, 85 mg for pregnant individuals, and 120 mg for lactating women. Individuals who use tobacco may need more vitamin C to offset its oxidative effects.

Most adults get enough vitamin C each day because it’s found in such a wide variety of food sources. Some of the most potent sources include bell peppers, citrus fruits, and broccoli.

Moreover, vitamin C is commonly included in most multivitamin and prenatal supplements. Its presence in these supplements is especially useful because vitamin C supports the absorption of non-heme iron.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble retinoid with an abundance of health benefits. Some of these include supporting healthy immune system function, promoting optimal vision, ensuring vibrant skin, regulating genes, supporting metabolic wellness, and aiding in cellular division.

Vitamin A exists in two forms: provitamin A (beta-carotene or a precursor to vitamin A) and preformed vitamin A (retinol/retinoids). The digestion and absorption of vitamin A is influenced by several factors, such as consuming it with a meal that contains fat and the individual's vitamin A status – if the body has sufficient amounts, it will compensate by absorbing and converting less from foods. This helps maintain homeostasis within the body.

Vitamin A can be found in a diverse range of foods. A general rule of thumb is that provitamin A can be found in almost anything that is orange/yellow, such as carrots and sweet potatoes. As for preformed vitamin A, it can be found in butter, liver, dairy products, and cod liver oil.

Caution is necessary with retinol vitamin A during pregnancy, as excessive amounts can be teratogenic. Therefore, it's essential to limit its intake and use it with care in pregnant individuals or those who could become pregnant.

Most multivitamins and prenatal supplements include beta-carotene sources of vitamin A. For adult females, the RDA is 700 mcg RAE (Retinol Activity Equivalents). During pregnancy, the RDA increases to 770 mcg RAE and lactating women require 1,300 mcg RAE. On average, adult females only consume around 616 mcg RAE of vitamin A daily.

Zinc

Zinc is another one of those nutrients that is popularly associated with immune health. But it’s also essential for healthy thyroid hormone synthesis, gastrointestinal wellness, sense of smell, protein structure, gene expression, pancreatic health, and reproductive health. With so many important functions, it’s no surprise that this mineral is a component in more than 300 enzymes.

The RDAs for zinc are set at 8 mg for adult females, 11 mg during pregnancy, and 12 mg during lactation. The most prevalent dietary sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, and poultry, so those who don’t consume animal products may have lower intake levels. Most individuals generally meet their zinc requirements, with the exception of those with vegetarian/vegan diets or specific life stages, such as older age or pregnancy. Given its vital role, zinc is commonly included in many multivitamins and prenatal supplements.

Step 2: Choose the right multivitamin form for you

In step 2 of choosing the right multivitamin for you, it's essential to consider the various forms available and opt for one that you are most likely to take consistently. In this section, we are going to take a look at the three most common forms to help you decide which may be best.

Liquid Multivitamins

Liquid multivitamins may be a convenient option for those who struggle to swallow capsules. It’s important to check the list of ingredients for these, as some of the liquid formulations may include added sugars or sweeteners to help enhance the taste. Additionally, liquid multivitamins that include minerals may sometimes have an earthy or metallic taste, which may not be ideal for those sensitive to distinct flavors or tastes.

Oral Multivitamins

Oral vitamins are available in capsules, chewables, gummies, and tablets. Serving sizes for these products can vary dramatically, sometimes ranging from 1 to 6 capsules or more. Always read the label to determine the correct serving size for you.

Injectable Multivitamins

Injectable multivitamins are a specialized form of supplementation that requires a prescription. They are primarily utilized by individuals who require tube feeding or those who have difficulty digesting nutrients through the stomach. In some cases, they could be used for certain health conditions where oral supplementation may not be effective.

In cases of severe deficiency, standalone nutrients like vitamin B12 may be administered via injections to address specific nutritional needs.

Step 3: Consider other factors

In the last step, it’s important to consider the quality, formulation, and daily values for the nutrients listed.

Assessing quality of ingredients

To make sure you’re picking the right multivitamin, look for a multivitamin that includes active forms of vitamins that are easily absorbed. You’re also going to want a multivitamin that has non-GMO ingredients and isn’t packed with unnecessary fillers. Be on the lookout, too, for standards that follow your dietary restrictions, e.g. gluten-free or vegan-friendly. The Care/of multivitamin is created with up-to-date research to guarantee quality absorption.

Third-party testing

You should also check to be sure the supplement you’re purchasing has been third-party tested. This will typically be mentioned on the bottle. Third-party testing ensures that what’s listed on the label is what’s actually in the supplement.

Formulation

The way your multivitamin is formulated is of utmost importance. A quality supplement will adhere to the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations and will make this known on the label. You should also take a look at the dose on the label to ensure that you’re not over-supplementing, but are simply filling the gaps that may be lacking in your diet.

Appropriate daily value percentages

Remember the reason you’re taking a multivitamin in the first place. The key is to use a multivitamin to help you achieve the appropriate daily values of the nutrients you need. That’s why you may want to avoid a multivitamin that offers well over 100% of the daily value unless otherwise recommended by a medical professional. Your best bet is to look for a supplement with lower percentages. This information should be available to you on the label.

Do women's multivitamins actually work?

The effectiveness of women's multivitamins lies in their ability to supplement dietary intake and promote overall nutrient balance. While these supplements can be beneficial, they should not be seen as a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet.

Each individual has unique nutritional requirements, and while some may benefit from the added support of a daily multivitamin, others may already meet their nutrient needs through their diet. To determine if a women's multivitamin is right for you, consult with your healthcare provider.

Other considerations for women’s multivitamins

Is it better to take a multi or vitamins separately?

For some individuals, a comprehensive multivitamin that provides a suite of basic essential nutrients may be necessary. On the other hand, others might only require targeted support in a few key nutrients. There are also individuals who may not require any additional supplementation at all. Only a healthcare provider can answer this for you.

When should you consult with a healthcare professional?

You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any new supplements. Additionally, if you want to ensure that your diet is adequately supporting your nutritional requirements, a registered dietitian is qualified to provide advice on your food intake and recommend any additional dietary supplements that may be necessary.

When is the best time of day to take a multivitamin?

Since most multivitamins contain both fat-soluble and water-soluble nutrients, consuming them with some dietary fat can enhance absorption. Taking the multivitamin with a full meal, particularly one that includes some healthy fats, may support optimal nutrient absorption.

Some nutrients like B vitamins can have an energetic effect, making it preferable to take the multivitamin with breakfast or lunch. If you find it challenging to take multiple capsules at once, consider splitting the serving size and taking them 2-3 times throughout the day. For consistency, take the multivitamin at the same time(s) each day.

The Bottom Line

Multivitamins can benefit your health in myriad ways and are available in a number of forms. Some women take multivitamins, especially when pregnant or trying to conceive. To benefit from a multivitamin, you should assess the quality of the ingredients, whether it’s been third-party tested, whether the formulation meets the CGMP standards, and whether it includes the appropriate daily values. Some essential vitamins that women need include iron, choline, B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. Care/of’s multivitamin is an excellent option, designed for maximum absorption.

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