Whilst we should all try to get our nutrients from our culinary efforts in the kitchen, sometimes this isn’t always possible. There are often external influences or stressors, such as sleeping poorly, chronic illnesses, or more sedentary lifestyles, which can affect our body’s abilities to absorb nutrients from food in the most efficient way (Fairfield and Fletcher, 2002). So what can we do to ensure that we are getting the most out of our supplements?
The simplest way might seem to be just grabbing a multivitamin off the shelf and hoping for the best. Multivitamins are designed to fill gaps in our nutrition, and can form a good nutritional base for your overall health and wellbeing. But there are certain things which need to be taken into account, especially for women.
Whilst the difference in composition between men and women’s multivitamins is minimal as all humans need similar nutrition, there are a few things women need to look out for when considering a multivitamin.
What should women consider when looking for multivitamins?
Ultimately, in terms of nutrition, all bodies need the same groups of vitamins and minerals, it’s the quantities which can change dependent on age and biological sex. Some people might require more of a certain nutrient, and for some groups of people, this might be due to ageing, hormonal changes, or lifestyle. However, any good multivitamin should contain the following to supplement a balanced diet:
Vitamin D: Everyone needs Vitamin D. Usually, we get it mainly from sunlight (handy!) but having some in a multivitamin is also important throughout the year. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, is really important for our immune systems, combating the symptoms of depression and looking after our hair, skin and nails (Martens et al., 2020). Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, you can read more about the importance of Vitamin D for health and wellbeing here.
Calcium: For women, having a multivitamin which contains calcium is really important. Calcium helps to reduce bone density loss, which happens to everyone as they age, but affects women earlier than men (Lamy and Burckhardt, 2014). Ensuring that you have enough calcium in your diet, and in your multivitamin can help to prevent the loss of bone density. Broccoli, kale, nuts, and lentils are all a good source of calcium, but ensuring your multivitamin contains calcium will help to fill any gaps - especially if it also contains Vitamin D to help absorption!
Zinc: Zinc helps to support our immune system, and aids the body in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy, and is very important for the continued healthy operation of our immune system (Prasad, 2008). However, zinc is not something that the body is able to store, so we need to make sure that we are getting enough every day, and having a portion of the recommended daily amount within a multivitamin can go a long way towards this. This is especially important as we age, as lower levels of zinc are typically found in older people.
Iron: Iron is pivotal for increased energy, and for healthy blood cells, and it is especially important for women to choose a multivitamin which contains iron. This is because iron is used by the body when it is going through times of very rapid development or growth, such as during puberty, pregnancy, and also during the menstrual cycle. All of these require the body to utilise more iron, and so a regular supplement can be useful in preventing a deficiency. Further, women who don’t eat meat are more likely to experience an iron deficiency (known as anaemia) so, as well as enjoying iron rich foods (dark leafy greens are a must!), a multivitamin can help to fill in any gaps. (Abbaspour, Hurrell and Kelishadi, 2014)
Folate: Folate, or folic acid, is also known as Vitamin B9, and is one of the 8 types of B Vitamins, and works mainly to form red blood cells. It is particularly helpful to the body during conception and pregnancy, as it helps to reduce the risk of birth defects and promotes foetal development. It may also help to reduce the likelihood of developing certain types of cancer in women (Giovannucci, 1998). Whilst it is found in leafy green and cruciferous vegetables the body cannot store folate, so ensuring that your multivitamin contains it can help to boost your levels. (Fairfield and Fletcher, 2002)
So, whilst ensuring that you get all of the above in a single multivitamin might seem daunting, I can tell you right now that it’s not - and you can, in fact, gain a lot more from a multivitamin.
Vivo Life’s Vegan Multinutrient and Mineral Supplement is an essential vitamin and mineral complex developed to support a plant-based diet. Not only does it give a functional dose of all of the nutrients listed above it also contains B12 and Iodine, which plant-based diets often lack. It is proven to reduce tiredness, support immunity and help with muscular function. All this with no fillers, and it’s third party tested for heavy metals, pollutants and contaminants. Finding the right multivitamin for you doesn’t have to be time-consuming!
Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R. and Kelishadi, R. (2014). Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, [online] 19(2), pp.164–74.