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Navigating the Vitamin Aisle

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Choosing the best multivitamin to benefit you.

navigatingvitaminaisleWe’ve all been there before, standing in the vitamin aisle at the grocery or drug store overwhelmed by the hundreds of supplement options that line the shelves. With so many options, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Dr. Meredith Maxwell, who practices Family Medicine at Touro Infirmary, has a few key points to consider when choosing a multivitamin regimen.

THE BEST SOURCES FOR VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Each day, your body requires roughly 40 different vitamins and minerals for good health. Taking a daily supplement can be beneficial. The key word, however, is supplement. Multivitamins are not a replacement for a bad diet; rather, they are meant to supplement our diet in areas in which we may fall short.

“Supplements are designed to provide a boost in areas where we are not getting enough vitamins and minerals from food, making up for minor deficiencies in your diet,” Dr. Maxwell says.

ESSENTIAL VITAMINS FOR WOMEN
Dr. Meredith Maxwell shares the six essential vitamins that women should be consuming for optimal health.

Vitamin A
Recommended daily dosage: 2,300 international units (IU)
A natural antioxidant, vitamin A boosts your immune system, improves vision, reduces risk of heart disease and may slow skin aging. However, vitamin A can be toxic in large doses; so it is important to stick with the right amount. It is best to get vitamin A from a beta-carotene source, such as a large carrot or a cup of sliced cantaloupe.

B Vitamins
Recommended daily folate dosage: 400 micrograms (mcg); at least 600 mcg if you’re pregnant
The eight B vitamins help maintain metabolism and muscle tone, and keep your mind sharp. B9, known as folic acid, is important for young women as it guards against cancer and birth defects. The DV for non-pregnant women can often be found in fortified breakfast cereals, whole-grain breads, asparagus and beans.

Vitamin C
Recommended daily dosage: 75 milligrams (mg)
Despite marketing claims, vitamin C is not a proven cold-fighter, but the antioxidant is believed to boost your immune system, fend off wrinkles, heal wounds faster and help prevent heart disease, prenatal problems and eye illnesses. A single orange, one red pepper or a cup of broccoli is packed with nearly all of your daily vitamin C.

Vitamin D
Recommended daily dosage: 1,000 to 2,000 IU
Vitamin D lately has been considered a sort of wonder drug for its ability to reduce your risk of both breast and ovarian cancer, and diabetes. It also plays a vital role in muscle function and the absorption of calcium. Milk, orange juice and salmon contain small amounts of vitamin D, but not enough to meet your recommended daily values. Therefore, a supplement is needed for many people.

Calcium
Recommended daily dosage: 1,000 mg
Calcium is known for helping to build strong bones and teeth, and nourishing your nervous system. Women start losing bone density in their 20s, so most should be taking a supplement. While dairy sources like yogurt, milk and cheese do pack calcium, they also do not offer enough to meet recommended daily values.

Iron
Recommended daily dosage: 18 mg
An iron deficiency can lead to anemia (a lack of red blood cells) and a weakened immune system. Women with heavy periods also benefit from iron. While you can get your daily fill of iron from one cup of some breakfast cereals, as well as iron-rich foods like red meat, you might want to speak to your physician about taking an iron supplement.

HOW TO CHOOSE A MULTIVITAMIN

When shopping, here are a few tricks to help you find the least expensive multivitamin supplement that still provides all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Don’t expect to find 100 percent of the DV for calcium or magnesium in a multivitamin, as this would make the pills very large.
Look for the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) symbol on the packaging.

Most additives, like herbs, are unnecessary and often make the supplement more expensive.

Supplements marketed at a certain age group or specific population are often pricier, so look for the same formula in a generic brand.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Remember, as Dr. Maxwell explains, vitamins are called supplements for a reason.

“While not a replacement for poor diet, a daily multivitamin is designed to supplement your diet and may help provide you with the necessary nutrients to feel your best where your diet may be lacking,” she says.

It is important to talk to your doctor about your needs, and, together, the two of you can determine what vitamin regimen is best for you!