Many women take a daily multivitamin because it helps them insure they get all the micronutrients and vitamins they need for the day.
(Especially for women on-the-go)
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For vitamins, supplement companies have created female-specific vitamins. But which ones are the best? We looked through the options to rank the ten best women’s multivitamins.
1. Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women
Garden of Life is known for its unique approach to vitamin and mineral supplements, and it shines in the multivitamin category.
Its vitamin and mineral contents are bolstered by the inclusion of fruit and vegetable powders which have an untold number of nutrients that support the main “alphabet vitamins” and minerals. Independent lab testing ranks its purity and quality very high, which makes it a winning choice.
2. Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women
Optimum Nutrition show that they’ve done their homework with their women’s multivitamin. Instead of just amping up the vitamin B content and throwing in some extra calcium like second-rate women’s multivitamins, they put in some extra nutrients that are truly useful for women, like soy isoflavones.
Scientific research shows that these are particularly useful at building and preserving bone mass in women, which is a critical component of health as you get older. Fans of herbal extracts will find a few choice ingredients as well, with dong quai extract and the fat burning garcinia cambogia.
3. Now Foods Eve Women’s Multivitamin
Now Foods provides standard doses of pretty much everything except B vitamins, which come in hefty-sized mega-doses. The presence of mineral ingredients as chelates, instead of inorganic salts, is an attractive feature; these are absorbed much better by your body.
Now Foods Eve scores well on purity and label accuracy testing by independent labs, and it doesn’t have much in the way of shady ingredients, so it’s a very smart choice.
4. Naturelo One Daily Multivitamin for Women
Naturelo might be the company that does “natural” best. The vitamins and minerals in their women’s multivitamin are extracted from a wide range of naturally-occurring sources, ranging from acerola cherries (vitamin C) to kelp (iodine).
These actually stand a chance of being absorbed much better than standard multivitamin ingredients, and the fact that many of the metals are bonded in amino acid chelates only helps the case. It could use a higher calcium and vitamin D content to help women build bone mass, but aside from that, it’s a strong choice.
5. MegaFood Women’s One Daily
MegaFood Women’s has an unusual approach to providing its multivitamin nutrients. Instead of the inorganic chemical forms that most supplements deliver their vitamins and minerals in, MegaFood’s nutrients are isolated from specially-bred strains of brewer’s yeast–because the nutrients are directly salvaged from a natural process, the hope is that they will be easier for your body to absorb.
The downside is that the product takes a purity hit: the label-stated contents of the multivitamin isn’t always in line with what’s actually in it; some key ingredients are off by as much as 30%!
6. New Chapter Every Woman’s One Daily
New Chapter takes a naturally-produced vitamin and mineral approach like a few of its competitors, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Purity and label accuracy are still big sticking points for vitamins and minerals derived from bacteria, algae, and yeast.
They may be more easily absorbed, but it looks like the quality control isn’t quite there in the manufacturing process.
7. Smarty Pants Women’s Complete
Smarty Pants gummies claim to be “more than a multivitamin,” and at first glance, the ingredients look pretty impressive: the gummies have the cognitive-power boosting supplements CoQ10 and omega three fatty acids. The trouble is that these supplements aren’t present at nearly as high of a concentration that they’d need to be to have the desired effect.
Not only is one serving six gummies from the bottle, but even in these six gummies, there are only 72 mg of EPA and 54 mg of DHA, the two most important and influential omega three fatty acids in fish oil. You’d be far better off getting a separate fish oil supplement than try to scrape by with these low amounts.
8. Centrum Women Multivitamin
The biggest national brand when it comes to multivitamins is, as you might expect, a bare minimum supplement. It will meet your recommended daily intake, but it doesn’t have much in the way of added extras or cutting-edge features.
The vitamins and minerals are derived from the least-expensive and most efficient industrial processes. The presence of artificial coloring agents will also be a real turn-off for a lot of people.
9. GNC Women’s Ultra Mega
GNC is a pretty standard “boilerplate” women’s multivitamin. It scores well on purity rankings, though one thing you’ve got to watch out for is the herbal extracts in the “energy blend.”
It’s got caffeine as well as green tea extract, so you’ll be getting a kick of caffeine every day. If you aren’t caffeine sensitive and you take it in the morning, it shouldn’t be a problem, but this will be a big drawback for a lot of people (especially when the label doesn’t disclose the exact amount of caffeine).
10. Vitafusion Women’s Gummy Vitamins
Gummy vitamins taste great, but the problem is that all that sugar and gelatin displaces vitamins and minerals that need to be in a multivitamin. Vitafusion falls short with their women’s multivitamin because it does not contain some of the key nutrients women need most.
It only has 100 mg of calcium per serving (10% of your daily value), and it doesn’t contain any vitamin D, which helps boost calcium absorption and is important for bone health in its own right.
Similar problems plague other ingredients. The hard truth is that to get a good multivitamin, you’re going to have to take a pill or swallow a capsule.
Part Two: Multivitamins for women benefits and side effects
If your diet isn’t as good as it could be, you might be able to benefit from a multivitamin. Women are particularly vulnerable to a number of dietary deficiencies, and they also have some unique biological characteristics that shift the amounts of vital nutrients their body needs.
The health benefits of taking a multivitamin in women are robust and numerous. Women tend to have a high prevalence of several nutritional deficiencies that can be addressed with multivitamins, and moreover, there is even good evidence that taking a multivitamin is directly associated with positive health benefits.
Let’s look at the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies first. One deficiency people are becoming increasingly aware of is a lack of vitamin D.
A study published in 2002 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that around five percent of women in the US had serious vitamin D deficiency, and these numbers skyrocketed for women with darker skin–over 40% of African American women in the study were vitamin D deficient (1).
Vitamin D deficiency is also intimately linked with calcium deficiency, and these go hand-in-hand with preventing loss of bone density as you get older.
One scientific paper in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that the combination of calcium and vitamin D had a significant impact on the reduction of risk of hip fracture in older women (2).
But it’s not just bone health that’s at risk. Women have specific needs with regards to the B vitamins, too, and if these aren’t met, deficiencies can be associated with a higher risk of developing chronic diseases.
Another study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that the risk of severe depression increases two-fold in women who are deficient in vitamin B12 (3), providing evidence that nutrient intake is connected with both your physical and your psychological health.
Fortunately, a multivitamin supplement for women can address these nutritional deficiencies, improve health and longevity, and possibly even decrease your risk for serious disease.
One study from the Annals of Internal Medicine examined multivitamin use in women and risk of colon cancer (4). The paper, first published in 1992, looked at a large cross-section of women enrolled in a long-term study.
The study found that multivitamin use, especially in the long-term (at 15 years of follow-up) was associated with a significant decrease in risk of colon cancer. The effect seemed to be related to the B vitamin folate, also known as vitamin B9.
Other research has found that higher dietary intake of vitamin B9 is associated with a lower risk of cancer in women, too. One upside of this is that you should always make sure that your multivitamin has a high amount of folate–some cheaper versions skimp on the B vitamins.
Multivitamin use is also associated with overall indicators of health and longevity. A study by a team of researchers at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences examined the relationship between multivitamin use in women and telomere length, an indicator of “biological age” (5).
Telomeres are segments at the end of your DNA strands that protect the DNA from damage each time it multiplies. As you get older, your telomeres get shorter, and so your DNA is less protected from damage during cell division.
So, among people of the same chronological age (e.g. all 60-year-old women), the ones who have longer telomeres are younger and healthier, biologically speaking.
The researchers found that women who used multivitamins had telomeres that were, on average, five percent longer than women who did not. That may or may not translate into a 5% difference in “biological age,” but that’s still pretty good!
When it comes to side effects, multivitamin supplements are pretty safe. The vast majority of products don’t contain any ingredients that are harmful even at fairly high doses.
A few women’s multivitamin supplements on the market contain herbal and chemical compounds that are intended for weight loss purposes, so you do need to be a little careful with these. Some products contain caffeine, or caffeine-containing extracts like green tea extract.
These are always found in safe amounts, but the caffeine might cause jitters or sleeplessness if you take it late at night or if you are especially sensitive to caffeine.
Some research has connected very high doses vitamin B with an increased risk of cancer, but only in men. Women, it appears, don’t need to worry about this.
When it comes to dosage, you are pretty much at the mercy of the nutritionists at the supplement companies. You can’t do much about the ratio of the different nutrients in a given product.
Instead, you should shop around for multivitamins that have appropriate amounts of all the important nutrients. For women, these include vitamin D, the B vitamins, and calcium, among others.
If the supplement includes other “extras” like fish oil or green tea extract, try to find out if these are included in dosages that are high enough to actually be beneficial. If they aren’t, you’re probably better off taking them as a separate supplement, and not as a part of your multivitamin.
One other thing to watch out for are multivitamins that appear to offer high doses of vitamins, but require you to take multiple pills every time per day.
For women who want to improve their physical and mental well-being, reduce their risk for chronic disease, and fight off nutritional deficiencies, multivitamins are almost a no-brainer.
If you choose the right product, you’ll get a safe, effective, and scientifically proven way to improve your overall health and longevity. Do your homework when you are shopping for a multivitamin, because it’s critical to choose the right one.
Some of the health benefits of a multivitamin supplement take several years of consistent use to kick in, so you want to be sure you have a quality supplement.