The Best Supplements for Womens Health

Womens Health

What to Choose When You Need Dietary Supplements (and You Will)

There is a world where you wake up each morning, get a pot of boiling water going on the stove, pour in your steel-cut oats, turn it down to a simmer, and chop up some fresh fruit to add in when the oats have finished cooking, about half an hour later. After a cup of green tea and small pear later that morning, you start contemplating which leafy green you'll have as the base of your lunchtime salad—it's always a tough call between arugula and baby spinach. The next decision point comes when you're choosing which vegetables are at their peak in your backyard organic garden. Summer means you've been loading up on squash and tomatoes; fall offers the indulgence of a small, roasted sweet potato. A quick roasting of vegetables, addition of tuxedo quinoa, and grilled chicken breast complete the dinner.

There is also a real world, in which you live. It has far less time for breakfast, far greater temptations during lunch, and no organic garden apart from any nutrients growing wildly in your unkempt lawn. This is the world that has prioritized taking care of your work and family at the expense of a nutrient-dense diet for your body. This is where dietary supplements come in.

Basic Training: Your Daily Multivitamin

Even if we suspend reality for a moment and assume you, in fact, carefully tend a pot of steel-cut oats each morning and list kale among your favorite foods, you could still be missing essential nutrients from your diet. A basic multivitamin is the best way to ensure your body gets its recommend daily dose of dozens of vitamins and minerals. Calcium, vitamin D, and potassium are three core nutrients found in almost any multivitamin and are important for the health of all adults and children. Most daily multivitamins are similar and include these and other important nutrients such as vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iodine, selenium, borate, zinc, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, betacarotene, and iron, among others. It's important to remember that more is not necessarily better: There's no reason to exceed 100 percent of the daily recommended dose unless directed by your doctor.

Meeting Your Specific Needs

Some multivitamins tailored to women—specifically those of child-bearing age—will contain greater quantities of folic acid and iron, which help prevent birth defects. About 400 micrograms of folic acid are necessary for women of child-bearing age, with a recommend dose of 600 micrograms during pregnancy. Iron supplements are necessary due to losses that occur during menstruation. After menopause, women's need for iron decreases to levels equivalent to men. Most senior multivitamins, gender specific or not, will reflect this difference. Continuing to take iron supplements or multivitamins with high doses of iron after menopause can put women unnecessarily at risk for heart disease.

Most high-priced or exotic supplements are usually clever ways to part consumers with their money, and occasionally are dangerous to your health. Consult your physician before starting any new supplement regimen.