Women have unique nutritional needs compared to men, and these needs change over the course of a lifetime as a woman ages. Although everyone would obtain the required amount of vitamins and minerals from their diets in an ideal world, the reality is that most of us are far from perfect when it comes to filling in all of our nutritional gaps.
Multivitamins for women are specially formulated to meet the unique needs of women throughout their lifetimes, particularly as it pertains to bone health and child bearing. With so many options on the shelf when it comes to dietary supplements, it can be challenging to determine which multivitamin offers the best bang for your buck on a nutritional level. If you are interested in finding the best multivitamin for women, here are 13 things to look for.
What ingredients should a multivitamin for women contain?
Antioxidants are a broad category of nutrients that include important water-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Antioxidants protect the cells and DNA against damage caused by free radicals, which are substances that the body naturally produces as a byproduct of cellular respiration. If an imbalance of antioxidants in the body occurs, a condition called oxidative stress can occur. Oxidative stress contributes to increased inflammation in the body, premature signs of aging, and a number of serious health conditions, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. Taking a multivitamin with antioxidants can help reduce your risk of experiencing oxidative stress and helps support the body’s immune system. Examples of important antioxidants include:
There are eight different B-complex vitamins, all of which are needed to maintain good health and support your energy levels. However, three of the B-complex vitamins - vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folate, or vitamin B-9 - are especially important for women.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals because it helps build and protect strong bones and teeth and also plays a role in the transmission of messages between the brain and muscles. Calcium is stored in the bones, and people who do not ingest enough calcium can experience bone density loss as the body takes calcium from the bones to perform other functions. Women are more likely to experience bone density loss than men, and the risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis increases as we age, particularly after menopause. Pregnant women have an even higher demand for calcium, as their developing baby needs enough calcium to build strong bones and teeth. If the growing baby does not receive a sufficient amount of calcium, it will leach calcium from the bones of the mother, causing bone density issues to develop.
Magnesium is an electrolyte that carries out more than 600 different functions in the body, so women must have an adequate supply, particularly after age 40. Magnesium plays a role in the formation of teeth and bones, influences growth, supports physical and cognitive development, and supports a healthy pregnancy. Magnesium also helps strengthen the bones and prevents losses in bone density that can eventually cause osteoporosis. In terms of magnesium’s influence on heart health, the mineral reduces the risk of heart disease, helps regulate blood pressure levels, keeps blood sugar levels under control, and lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
More than 40 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency can lead to a host of different problems. The body needs vitamin D in order to promote the movement of calcium and phosphorus into the bloodstream, which helps keep the bones strong. When people experience vitamin D deficiency, the body will naturally leach calcium and phosphorus from the bones and cannot absorb calcium efficiently. Loss of bone density can lead to conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis, which women are more likely to experience than men. Bone density loss contributes to an increased risk of experiencing fractures, which can be life threatening in older adults.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that the body needs in ample quantities to support numerous important functions. The body relies on vitamin K to assist with blood clotting and to maintain healthy bone strength. Women who do not receive enough vitamin K may experience bleeding issues, including an increased risk of bruising and bleeding problems, because the blood will require more time to clot properly. A vitamin K deficiency can also lead to a reduction in bone strength and a greater risk of experiencing osteoporosis and osteopenia over time.
What else should women consider when choosing a multivitamin?
It is certainly important to consider the ingredients and formula when choosing a multivitamin, but just because you choose a multivitamin that claims to contain the right ingredients doesn’t mean you’ll actually be getting what you paid for. Dietary supplements are not subject to the same rigorous regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as medications are, so some multivitamins may not be as beneficial as they claim. However, by reading the label, you’ll be able to read in between the lines and determine which vitamins are premium quality and which are just premium priced. Multivitamins should be specially formulated to be readily absorbed and utilized by the body. In addition to considering the vitamins and minerals included in your multivitamin, also consider the following when choosing a multivitamin:
- Lists vitamins and minerals in their chelated forms (i.e. folate versus folic acid) for maximum absorption and utilization by the body.
- Manufactured in an FDA-registered facility to promote transparency and ensure compliance.
- Contains bioavailable nutrients, also known as vitamins and minerals in their active form. Bioavailable nutrients are more readily absorbed and utilized by the body, which means they are better suited to address nutritional deficiencies. When examining the label of a multivitamin, consumers should look for differences between the active and inactive vitamins, such as folate or methylfolate instead of folic acid, vitamin K2 instead of K1, methylated B vitamins instead of synthetic B vitamins, and active vitamin D3 instead of inactive vitamin D2.
- Supplements that are listed as being gentle on the stomach in order to minimize digestive distress and stomach upset
- Free of common allergens like peanuts, yeast, gluten, corn, dairy, soy, and caffeine
- Contain a CGMP or GMP stamp on the label, indicating that the multivitamin is manufactured in accordance with the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices. These guidelines were outlined by the FDA in order to provide added accountability for the consumer, ensure accurate labeling, promote quality production, and ensure the absence of contaminants.
- Free of artificial chemical binders or additives, as well as artificial sweeteners and flavors