The Best Multivitamins for Women at Every Stage of Life, According to Experts
When it comes multivitamins, you should only take one to fill potentials gaps in your diet while still attempting to meet your nutrient needs through food. Only 10% of Americans are eating enough veggies and fruit — not to mention the fact that 10% of us don’t get enough dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and omega-3’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control. We’re also lacking in choline and vitamins A, D, E, and C, the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 found. These nutrients have one main, overarching theme: They’re all found in plant-based foods, seafood, and fortified dairy products (or non-dairy alternatives).
Before taking a multivitamin, consider maximizing your intake of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids by loading up on the veggies, plant-based protein, fruit, unsweetened dairy products, 100% whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes (plus plant-based oils for cooking). If you’re a seafood eater, aim for 8-12 ounces of seafood every week (about 2-3 standard servings) to reap the benefits of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
But since there may be moments when you require a little extra help, dietary supplements can lend a hand.
How to Choose a Multivitamin:
Do your homework. Supplements are not evaluated for safety and efficacy by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there’s not a 100% guarantee that you’re getting what you pay for when you purchase a supplement. You can check that any supplement you’re considering follows the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices and also look for products tested by a credible third party, like NSF for Sport, USP Certified, or ConsumerLab.com. These ensure that there’s no harmful substance (e.g., lead, which has been found in supplements) in the products themselves, and also verifies that what’s in the bottle is what it claims to be — like vitamin C rather than grains of rice in tablet form!
Check with your doctor. It’s crucial that you always check with your physician before starting any supplement regimen. Supplements can interfere with medications you’re taking, or you may need to change the time you take them. You may also have an allergy or intolerance to an unlisted ingredient or an underlying condition causing a nutrient deficiency. In a medical emergency, having a specific dietary supplement listed on your chart can help healthcare providers, too.
Consider your food, first. Supplements can’t do much for you unless you’re actually deficient in a given nutrient. That said, we know it’s highly likely that we’re not getting everything we need from food every single day (see the above statistics on that!). It’s the habits that comprise our dietary patterns overall that make the most significant impact on our health — not just taking a supplement!
To recommend multivitamins that work for you, we looked at the factors that often affect women at various stages of life, and corroborated with ConsumerLab.com, an online, third-party database where testing of specific ingredients can be verified for safety. Our three general categories include: multivitamins for women at any age; multivitamins for women over the age of 50, and prenatal vitamins.
Best Multivitamins for Women of All Ages
The key difference in supplements marketed as general women’s multivitamins and ones geared toward women over 50 is that they contain slightly more iron and less calcium and vitamin D. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen via your bloodstream, making it crucial for energy metabolism — especially if you’re doing a lot of high-intensity physical activity. That said, supplements with higher iron content can make you feel slightly nauseous or constipated, depending on the form of iron in the specific brand you’re taking.
Other factors can influence the specific nutrients you may need, including whether you’re in peri- or postmenopausal; pregnant or lactating; or vegetarian or vegan. If you do fall into the category of women who need both extra iron and calcium, you’ll want to take your iron-containing vitamin and separate calcium and vitamin D supplement at different times of day, since calcium can block the absorption of iron in your GI tract. On the flipside, vitamin C helps you absorb iron in food form, so try to eat more tomatoes, citrus, broccoli, and leafy greens to maximize nutrient absorption.
For Any Age
mykind Organic Women’s Once Daily Whole Food Vitamin Supplement
Each of these vegan tablets provides 100% of your daily value for iron, as well as vitamins A, C, D, K, and many B vitamins.
For Any Age
Alive! Women’s Gummy Vitamins
For Any Age
Women’s Health Formula Multivitamin
One A Day’s Women’s formula also checks the boxes when it comes to those key nutrients many of us are missing.
Best Multivitamins for Women Over 50
Over the age of 50, your body will often require less iron but increased intake of calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients function in tandem: Calcium is primarily stored in your bones and it’s indispensable to cellular function — especially in your muscles, nerves, and glands.
Vitamin D is in charge of the maintaining bone mineral density and managing calcium levels. It can draw calcium from your bones to raise blood calcium; help absorb the calcium you eat in your GI tract; and recycle calcium in your kidneys if you need more (that would otherwise be lost in urine).
With that in mind, there’s certainly no reason to toss out your multis at the age of 49 and three-quarters. Any multivitamin that’s been third-party tested and approved will contain similar nutrients no matter what the marketing says! Plus, your doc may recommend taking a vitamin D supplement (or even a prescription level supplementation), since it’s harder to get enough from the sun as we age, though it becomes even more crucial for maintaining strong bones over time.
Centrum Silver Multivitamin for Adults 50+
This brand’s been around for decades, and the classic version is still a solid choice for covering your bases.
Spectravite Adult 50+ Multivitamin Tablets
Each tablet of this CVS-brand multivitamin contains 22% of your daily recommended amount of calcium and more than an entire day’s worth of vitamin D.
Core Daily-1 Multivitamins for Women 50+
Best Prenatal Multivitamins
The key nutrients to look for in any prenatal and multivitamin is a safe level of folic acid (400-600mcg); choline (200-600mg) DHA/EPA (250mg/day); and iodine (150mg), a relatively newer update to prenatal recommendations as per the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The nutrient most often associated with pregnancy has traditionally been folic acid because it offsets risk of fetal brain defects during the first trimester. However, many supplements include more folic acid than necessary (sometimes even more than what’s listed on the packaging), which can put you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Folate is also found in 100% whole grains and enriched grain-based products like cereal, bread, and rice.
Prenatal vitamins also typically have higher amounts of choline, a vitamin that’s especially important for fetal brain development and may even help prevent birth defects. The foods that contain the most choline are less intuitive than you might realize — two large eggs contain more than 50% of the recommended amount for pregnant women.
Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are important for immune function, decreased risk of chronic disease, and fetal brain development. You can find them in various nuts, seeds, oils, and soy, but DHA and EPA are best absorbed by your body when they come from marine sources. The seafood with the highest amounts include salmon, sardines, and herring. To maximize the benefit of any multivitamin supplement: Eat at least two to three (8-12 ounces) servings of mixed seafood per week. If you’re not keen on seafood or avoid fish of all types, consider an algal oil supplement, which also has the benefit of a non-fishy aftertaste.
FYI: ConsumerLab.com found that many tested prenatal supplements lacked in one or more of those key areas, so your best bet may be to take both a standard multivitamin with additional choline and/or DHA/EPA (depending on your current seafood intake) to get everything you need.
And it’s most important to speak with your doctor before taking any supplement while pregnant.
mykind Prenatal Once Daily Whole Food Vitamin
These certified USDA Organic prenatal vitamins are made from real foods like guava, apples, lemon, and beets.
Kirkland Signature Daily Multi
These Costco multivitamins are verified by third-party testers USP and at only $0.03 per tablet, cost considerably less than other supplements on the market when you buy them in bulk.
If you’re looking for choline specifically, try these capsules. Choline also helps with memory, mood, and muscle control and may help reduce risk for liver and heart disease.
Triple Strength Fish Oil
In terms of omega-3’s, these coated softgels with DHA/EPA may be easier on the tummy.
Vegan Omega-3 DHA Vitamins
Since they’re derived from algae instead of fish, these vitamins are vegan and vegetarian friendly.