Sunday, October 24, 2010

Women's Multi-Vitamins and Minerals (and why you should take them!)

Image from
Everyone always harks on and on about how you should take a multi-vitamin don't they? But what is rarely explained, I've found, is specifically why. What it's going to do for you and specifically which kind to take? Multi-Vitamins drastically differ from one another and honestly they don't tend to provide enough information to the general public. I found especially that they dumb it down so much the information is useless. Take a multi-vitamin is one of these statements. That's great and all but I'm healthy, I eat from all four food groups, so why do I want to spend money on something I need to do everyday I'm not going to enjoy? Today I'm hopefully going to tell you why. (And if you take a multi-vitamin already hopefully some other useful facts that will benefit you too!)

Firstly, the amount of vitamins you need changes throughout your life and whether you are male or female. All the recommendations I'm going to list are the amounts for adult premenopausal women so from around 18 - 50 years of age. Also if you're a smoker, pregnant or have any medical conditions your needs will vary. I'm not a doctor, (that's who is the most informed person you can ask is) and I don't know everything about vitamins and what you need. But, I do know Rexall here in Canada also has a free pharmacist service where they'll look at your medications and ask you questions to recommend vitamins that will help you. This post is just an overview to get you started.

Firstly, did you know that your body needs over 50 different vitamins, amino acids and minerals to function properly? I know I didn't until I took a nutrition course in University. I'm going to go over some main ones.

Image from Dead Sea Minerals website
Vitamin A (Code names: beta carotene, retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid)
What's it do for me? You all saw it coming, starting at the beginning of the alphabet, but Vitamin A has got major benefits. It helps you see better, have better more glowy skin, and keeps strong your teeth and bones. 
How much Daily? The minimum recommendation is 2310 IU or 700 mcg. 
Where can I get it? In fact, Vitamin A is the pigmented stuff in dark green and orange fruits and vegies. In other words the stuff that makes carrots orange! These are also excellent anti-oxidants which will help prevent the signs of aging. 1/2 a cup of carrot juice has 1,128 mcg or a 1/2 cup of cubed cantaloupe has 135 mcg.
Too Much! The maximum recommended amount is 3000 mcg or 10,000 IU. Too much Vitamin A isn't going to happen naturally (i.e. from your normal diet- unless of course you're eating only carrots), but taking multiple vitamins that have large Vitamin A amounts could cause liver problems and weaken your bones. 

Vitamin B1 (Also by the scientificy code name thiamine)
What's it do for me? You'd be surprised by how many multi-vitamins skip most of the B vitamins. Essentially this helps your metabolism and immune system. It converts sugars and fats into energy, helps maintain your nervous and muscular system function and boost your system to take on invaders like bacteria.
How much Daily? 1.1-1.4 mg minimum is recommended. 
Where can I get it? Whole grain products have it, but it's elsewhere too! 1/4 cup of macadamia nuts has 0.4 mg and 3 oz of pork tenderloin has 0.67 mg
Too Much! Although there is no upper limit established for this if you go too high it might cause you to feel stomach upset.

Vitamin B2 ( Code name: riboflavin)
What's it do for me? Does much the same thing as Vitamin B1 only through different pathways. (They make a great team!) Vitamin B2 changes food to fuel, maintains the nervous system and strengthens the immune system.
How much Daily? 1.1 mg minimum
Am I already getting it? B2 can be found in 1 egg at 0.2 mg and in 0.1 mg in 1 cup of steamed spinach. (Of course it can be in other places too!)
Too Much! No maximum, and no side effects from taking lots that I could find either. (Though like everything, I'm sure moderation is key :D)

Vitamin B3 (Code name: Niacin)
What's it do for me? I think the more accurate question here is what doesn't it do! This baby converts food into energy, lowers LDL cholesterol, helps regulate hormone production and strengthen your immune system. Talk about bang for your buck.
How much Daily? Minimum is 14mg
Where can I get it? One can of tuna (165g) has 22mg and 8 spears of asparagus (yum!) has 1.3mg.
Too Much! More than 50mg a day can cause tingling and burning sensations as well as feeling flushed or warm. 

Vitamin B6 (Code names: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine)
What's it do for me? Lots. Did you know Vitamin B6 is responsible for making over 100 essential proteins in your body? It also helps you clot when you bleed, turns food into energy, maintains the nervous system, strengthens the immune system, the making of brain chemicals and red blood cells as well as keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
How much Daily? Minimum 1.2 mg-1.3 mg
Where can I get it? 1 banana has 0.7 mg, fortified cereals, and many fruits, vegetables, legumes, poultry and fish.
Too Much! 100 mg a day. Too much Vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage so don't go that high!

Vitamin B7 (Code names: biotin, Vitamin H)
What's it do for me? Ever hear of biotin for nails and hair? This one is famous in some circles for making nails and hair strong and shiny, as well as growing quicker! Vitamin B7 also converts food to energy, and helps prevent illness from invaders. 
How much Daily? 30 mcg
Where can I get it? 1 large egg (25mcg), 1 large avacado (6 mcg). Liver, yeast and egg yolk all contain rich sources of Vitamin B7.
Too Much! From what I've found, there is no too much! (Though don't go overboard)

Vitamin B12 
What's it do for me? Yet another vitamin that makes food into energy. This one also helps again with the immune system and helps the body produce red blood cells.
How much Daily? 2.4 mcg minimum
Where can I get it? 3oz of Salmon contains 5 mcg, and 1 cup of plain yogurt 1.4 mcg.
Too Much! According to scientific studies, B12 isn't toxic in high doses. (Yay!)

From Google Images

Vitamin C (Code name: L-ascorbic acid)
What's it do for me? This one is honestly my favourite. Vitamin C has got so many uses and personally I love the taste of the chewables. Another super vitamin this is actually the vitamin that makes the collagen in your skin. That's the stuff we tend to lose as we get older which causes wrinkles. Vitamin C also allows you to heal quicker, is an anti-oxidant, maintains and repairs bones, cartilage and teeth and has major immune system benefits. I'm not joking when I say if I take more of this when I'm sick I'll get better faster than if I don't.
How much Daily? The minimum recommended varies radically depending on who you're talking to it goes from 75mg and up. (Personally I take 750 mg a day- see it can vary a lot!)
Where can I get it? Citrus fruits and other fruits and veggies. 1 raw red pepper has 209 mg and 1 kiwi 71 mg.
Too Much! Don't go higher than 2000 mg a day. It can cause nausea and diarrhea.

Vitamin D (The sun Vitamin!)
What's it do for me? Most people don't get enough Vitamin D, especially in the darker winter months. Women especially need Vitamin D as it's a large component of calcium absorption. Without vitamin D, Calcium can't absorb no matter how much we take, which can lead to bone issues like Osteoporosis later on. Vitamin D also helps regulate your immune system.
How much Daily? Absolute minimum is 200 IU or 5 mcg, but is pending an increase.
Where can I get it? You do can a little from the sun on your skin but especially for those of us in Northern countries (like me and my fellow Canadians) this isn't enough! The best sources (that don't cause damage like the sun does!) are foods such as fish, yogurt, eggs, beef and milk.
Too Much! Maximum is 2000 IU, as more than that can cause nausea, vomiting, and heart issues (boo!)

Vitamin E
What's it do for me? Vitamin E is a big one for skin repair. It's a staple for many with stretch marks and scars. Vitamin E oil is also a good moisturizer (I like to use it under my eyes sometimes). It also helps ease inflammation, protect against cell damage (yes that means preventing signs of aging) and may help prevent heart disease.
How much Daily? 15 mg or 22.4 IU
Where can I get it? Nuts and veggies! 1 oz of almonds has 7.4 mg and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 2.9 mg.
Too Much! 1000 mg a day can increase your risk for blood hemorrhaging

Vitamin K
What's it do for me? Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone strength.
How much Daily? 70 - 90 mcg minimum
Where can I get it? Green leafy vegetables. 1 Cup of steamed kale has 1,062 mcg, and 1 cup of blueberries has 29 mcg.
Too Much! Nope, not even in high doses.

Image from The News

What's it do for me? Strengthens bones and muscle function. 
How much Daily? 1000 mg minimum, thats a lot!
Where can I get it? 1 cup of milk has 311 mg, it's also in other dairy products too. 
Too Much! 2500 mg or higher can cause kidney stones and interfere with the absorption of other essential minerals and nutrients.

Folic Acid (Code name: folate. This is the one highly recommended for women who are trying or are pregnant)
What's it do for me? Folic acid helps produce red blood cells, and reduces the odds of neural tube defects in fetus'. 
How much Daily? 400 mcg (600 mcg for pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant)
Where can I get it? More green vegetables! 4 asparagus spears have 85 mcg and 1 cup of raw spinach has 58 mcg.
Too Much! Not a concern. 

Iron (Code name: ferrin, ferrous)
What's it do for me? Helps cells function and allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to all the cells of your body. Low iron is often linked to increased fatigue and decreased immunity to illness. Women need way more iron than men so that's something to keep in mind, especially if you have heavy or awful periods.
How much Daily? Minimum 18 mg
Where can I get it? Lean red meat, legumes. 1 cup of chickpeas has 3.2 mg and 3 oz of lean red meat has 3 mg.
Too Much! 45 mg. More Iron than that can lead to constipation, stomach upset and appetite loss.

What's it do for me? Regulates blood sugar levels, maintains muscle and nervous system function, and keeps bones strong.
How much Daily? 310 mg- 320 mg (Men need much more around 400 mg)
Where can I get it? 1 Baked Potato with skin has 50 mg and 1 oz of almonds has 80 mg.
Too Much! 350 mg or more can cause diarrhea

Image from (All potassium rich foods)

What's it do for me? Lets put it this way, without Potassium you wouldn't be able to think or move. It has major importance in the nervous system and muscular system. Oh an in your skin and organs and.... I think you get the idea. It's one of the main things that allows our bodies to communicate with itself (like your brain telling your foot to kick).
How much Daily? 2000 mg- 3500 mg some even say 4.7 grams! (Very confusing)
Where can I get it? Bananas have a huge potassium percentage with 422 mg, Coconut water is known for it's potassium content too and 1 cup of steamed spinach has 839 mg.
Too Much! I wouldn't go much higher than 4.7 grams (though I've heard athletes need more) as though some sources say there is no upper limit some say high doses can lead to muscle weakness and abnormal heart rhythms. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which amount would be right for you if you're worried.

What's it do for me? Many people have found taking Zinc helps control their acne, which makes sense as Zinc helps the body support the skin. It also builds up the immune system.
How much Daily? 8 mg
Where can I get it? 2 medium raw oysters has 26 mg and a 3 oz beef tenderloin has 3 mg
Too Much! 40 mg. More then that can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches. Ugg. I tried to take Zinc to help with my acne, and I'm especially sensitive to it as any more than 10 mg and I start to feel awful. I tried to take the 50 mg they sold at the drug store and felt like crap then cut them in half (25 mg) and still felt like crap the next time I tried it. Now I'm sticking with just the amount in my multi-vitamin.

Image from
Selenium (How many of you haven't even heard of this one? I certainly hadn't until I learned about it here at university!)
What's it do for me? It's involved in the synthesis of anti-oxidant enzymes in your body (thats a good thing!) as well as support of the immune system and thyroid function (which controls hormones and many other important body processes)
How much Daily? 55 mcg
Where can I get it? Tuna or brazil nuts. Most of us in North America get enough through our normal diets.
Too Much! 400 mcg or more. Hair and nail brittleness, possible increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

There are so many more, but these are the most important ones that can be deficient in our normal diets. The thing is most of us don't eat right all the time, or simply don't eat enough of a certain type of food to get everything we need. This is where a multi-vitamin that covers most of these vitamins and minerals comes into play. Here's some tips.

- Look over the many multi-vitamin options in the store with a pharmacist or a fact sheet from the internet to make sure you get one that covers as many essential nutrients as possible in appropriate levels. Personally I use the Jamieson Mega-Vim because it has many of the B vitamins that others seem to lack. It covers the bare minimum that I need and I get a little bit more through my diet. (Yes, I admit, I am a university student and I don't eat well *hangs head in shame*)

- There are vitamins or minerals you may want to take more of for just about every lifestyle out there. Vegetarian? You're going to need more Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Calcium and Vitamin D. Stressed all the time? Vitamin Bs, Vitamin C and really a multi-vitamin are most likely needed as stress uses up your bodies resources at a quick rate. Athlete? Iron and Calcium; Insomniac? B-vitamins. I could go on and on (I won't way too much research time I really need to be doing something else with!) but I'm sure you get the point. Our lifestyles are hard on us, and supporting our bodies is the best thing we can do to keep them functioning the way they are long-term.

- Honestly, less is more. This seems contrary doesn't it if you've made it to this point in the post. But you're not going to want to take five different things every morning, noon and night. Find one good multi-vitamin and if you think you might still be lacking try to incorporate some new foods that contain it into your diet. You're more likely to actually stick with the multi-vitamins if you only need to take one.

- Eat. Eat either before, with or after you've taken the multi-vitamin. On an empty stomach is going to most likely make you feel crappy as your body tries to absorb all these essential things at once with nothing to buffer it. So be kind to your stomach and your body and give yourself at least a snack when you take it.

So that's it. This was a long one, and not directly beauty related, but I figure good health will make you look good and feel good which is beautiful in itself. Please note I'm not a doctor. I'm an undergraduate science student. Each person is different and these are the average guidelines I looked up in magazine articles and through research on the internet. Don't take this post as the be all and end all, it's a quick guideline to give you some food for thought.

Here's the resources I used (some have some excellent alternative food sources available if your interested too!)


  1. Hi its really very nice blog,very useful information..Mobiles

  2. There are many different trace minerals in the food that people eat, but only a handful are considered necessary for good health.

  3. Great post. such precise information is really difficult to get. The exact explanation of things is really nice.

  4. Thanks so much everyone for your comments! Glad this was useful for you. @trace minerals I do know about the trace minerals not being needed because they're in everyones diet naturally but they are needed even though only a very small amount is necssary.
    Thanks so much everyone!

  5. Nice blog and very well said. Living a healthy life is easy with the help of multivitamins.