I generally eat a pretty balanced diet, but I’m worried that I’m not getting enough vitamins in my diet. Should I be taking supplements? And if so, which ones should I take, and how often?
A balanced diet, including a wide variety of foods, usually provides adequate amounts of essential nutrients. However, there are some nutrients of concern for women, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. If low levels are determined, consuming foods high in these nutrients is the best way to include them in the diet. Supplementation may be a good secondary option (1).
Low iron, anemia, has been associated with fatigue, depression, and impaired cognitive function. Oral supplements may be taken daily in doses determined by doctor and patient (2). Calcium and vitamin D are deficient in many women leading to osteoporosis and poor bone health. If consuming three 8-oz glasses of vitamin D fortified low fat milk is not an option a 1000 mg calcium supplement with 600 IU of vitamin D is recommended (3,4).
If supplementation is needed, be aware that not all supplements are what they say they are. However, look for the FDA seal or U.S. pharmacopeia, Consumerlab.com, or NSF International seals. These seals indicate the product has been properly manufactured, contains listed ingredients, and does not contain contaminants in harmful levels(1).
1. Dietary Supplement: What You Need to Know. http://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/DS_WhatYouNeedToKnow.aspx. Updated June 17, 2011. Accessed March 15, 2015.
2. Friedman AJ, Chen Z, Ford F, Johnson CA, Lopez AM, Shander A, Waters JH, and Van Wyck D. Iron Deficiency Anemia in Women Across the Life Span. Journal of Women’s Health. 2012;21:1282-1289.
3. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1997:432.
4. Lee C and Majka DS. Is Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation Overrated? J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;7:1032-1034.
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