Should You Swallow? The Vitamins and Supplements You Really Need
How to Pick the Best Vitamin for YouPick the Best Vitamin
With more varieties at the drugstore than lipstick shades, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But don't eeny-meeny-miny-mo it. Look for a logo from the nonprofit group NSF International or from the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), which certifies that you're getting exactly what the label advertises.Pop Smart
Which vitamins, if any, do you need? Read on for expert recommendations tailored to your lifestyle.If you are of childbearing age
Consider taking: A multi containing folic acid (400 micrograms) and iodine (150 micrograms)
Why it's crucial: About half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so having a steady level of folic acid and iodine, both essential to a developing fetus, is a must.If you are on a calorie-restricted diet
Consider taking: A multi
Why it's crucial: If you eat less than 1,400 calories a day, you may fall short on the RDA for most vitamins and minerals.If you are vegetarian or vegan
Consider taking: Vitamin B12 (2.4 micrograms) and zinc (8 milligrams)
Why it's crucial: Vital for red blood cell formation and cognitive function, these nutrients are naturally present mostly in animal foods. You may set yourself up for a deficiency when you nix or limit seafood, meat, and dairy.If you are lactose intolerant or vegan
Consider taking: Calcium (500 milligrams twice a day)
Why it's crucial: Calcium is essential for bone health, yes, but many people who don't eat dairy get plenty of it from veggies like kale and broccoli as well as from fortified foods like cereal and milk substitutes. So you probably don't need the full recommended amount of 1,000 milligrams via supplement. Take only 500 milligrams or less at one time -- more than that may not be absorbed properly -- and choose calcium citrate with vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium. (Vegans: D2 is plant-derived.)If you have very heavy menstrual periods
Consider taking: Iron (18 milligrams)
Why it's crucial: Your body relies on iron to manufacture hemoglobin, a blood protein that shuttles oxygen from your lungs, but your level may get depleted during heavy periods. Up to 20 percent of U.S. women experience iron-deficiency anemia (symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating).If you live north of Atlanta and/or regularly wear sunscreen
Consider taking: Vitamin D (1,000 international units; the RDA is 600 international units)
Why it's crucial: Due to the angle of the sun in northern latitudes during the winter, your skin is unable to manufacture vitamin D from its rays for four to six months of the year. Wearing sunscreen, while important for preventing skin cancer, also blocks the vitamin's production.If you eat fish less than twice a week
Consider taking: Omega-3 fatty acids (about 1,000 milligrams total of DHA and EPA, the types found in fish oil)
Why it's crucial: Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means your body can't make it, so you need to get it from your diet. It's necessary for brain health, and recent studies suggest that it may also help relieve depression, anxiety, and muscle pain.
Sources: Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, the director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, and Mark Moyad, MD, the director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2012.
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