Vitamins & Other Supplements for Women: Your Expert Cheat Sheet

By Tracy Morris

pic1I wish I could make this easy. I really do. The questions of which supplements to take and how many and how often and with what… I would throw my hands up in the air with resignation, if both palms weren’t regularly filled with capsules and tablets that I’m soon to swallow.

I’m an admitted true believer in vitamins — or more correctly put, nutritional supplements. I’m not really a freak about them. I don’t carry a tackle box around with me. I also don’t spend a big percentage of my income on them. But I take my high velocity multi-vitamin and a couple of others — C, calcium, lysine, a few others now and then — faithfully, every single day.

I’m faithful because, having ingested vitamins daily for decades now, I notice (or at least, I think I do) a difference in things like my energy level, my skin’s condition, and even my hair’s appearance, during those rare occasions when I run short and don’t get around to refilling my vitamin stash for a few days.

But my opinion does not qualify as Supplement Gospel, by any means. Unfortunately, finding the definitive word on supplements isn’t easy. So I went to several sources for their stances on what women should be ingesting to supplement a healthy diet of real food. Here’s what they propose:

Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN
Author, Food Cures (Rodale, 2007)
Prevention’s 3-2-1 Weight Loss Plan (Rodale, 2007)

Do not spend money on “fat burners” and “appetite suppressants”, even if your primary dietary goal at present is to lose weight.

Multivitamins should have at least 100 percent of recommended daily value (DV).

However…
DV’s for Calcium and magnesium will not fit into a pill small enough t o swallow; expect to take additional supplements for both.

More thoughts on choosing a multi-vite:

100% Must-have’s:

  • Vit B6
  • Vit B12
  • Folate
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese

Vitamin K isn’t well-represented in most multi’s.

Premenopausal women — find 25 micrograms or more
Women over 50 — go down to a minimum of 10 micrograms or more
(Caveat: Talk to your doctor about Vit K if you take blood thinning medications.)

Vitamin A, we already know, can be taken in harmful quantities.

One of the keys is what form A comes in — Take no more than 2,000 IU of Vit A from palmitate or retinol. Too much of that, and you risk hip fracture, liver disease, and birth defects.

Mixed carotenoids & beta-carotene, on the other hand, are safe, convertible forms of A.

Iron can be a female’s friend at one point in her life.

But if you’re older than 50, don’t add it to your diet with supplements. Premenopausal women can do it, but with no more than 18 milligrams.

Magnesium — look for at least 50 mg in a multi.

Back to Calcium, which has been fortunately found to be of such great importance to women’s health.

Younger than 50 — 1,000 milligrams per day
Older than 50 — 1,200 mg per day

Forms — calcium carbonate (must be taken with food) or citrate

Spread the wealth: Take 500 – 600 mg twice daily.

Bauer especially recommends D3  “or cholecalciferol, the most bioactive type of Vitamin D” for both superior absorption and risk reduction of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

David Edelberg, MD
Author, The Triple Whammy Cure (Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Dr. Edelberg is one of those supplement lovers who has to keep his daily goodies in two trays. In one of his very personable newsletters, he admits that the jury is still out with a final say on the impact of supplements, but adds “overall the data is compelling enough that I keep it up.”

I have a lot of respect for doctors who reveal their human-ness.

In the same newsletter, Dr. Edelberg, whose book The Triple Whammy Cure is all about the female body, reveals exactly what he takes daily (many of which will be found available on his website.):

1. Multiplex (multiple vitamin without iron), twice a day
2. Vitamin C–1,000 mg, twice a day
3. Vitamin D–1,000 IU, twice a day
4. Vitamin E–400 IU, twice a day
5. Co Q 10–50 mg, twice a day
6. Fish oil–one capsule twice a day
7. Acetyl-L-carnitine–500 mg, twice a day (memory enhancement)
8. Phosphatidyl serine–100 mg, twice a day (memory enhancement)
9. Phosphatidyl choline–500 mg, twice a day (memory enhancement)
10. Glucosamine/chondroitin–twice a day (joint health)
11. Prostate phytonutritional–twice a day (prostate)
12. Lycopene–twice a day (prostate cancer prevention)
13. Lipotropic factors–twice a day (liver support)
14. Detoxication factors–twice a day (liver support)
15. UltraResveratrol–twice a day (antioxidant)
16. Cyto-Redoxin–twice a day (antioxidant)
17. Green Tea Extract–twice a day (antioxidant)
18. Host Defense–twice a day (herbal immune support)
19. Low-dose aspirin–81 mg, once a day (heart attack/stroke prevention)

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