If you want to improve your health and boost your energy, you may wonder if multivitamins can help. The honest answer is "no". The vast majority of vitamin supplements available on the market today are full of cheap, synthetic ingredients that cannot be properly utilized by your body. Buying any of these supplements is a waste of your money.
To find the handful of multivitamin products that are truly effective, you need to tune out the marketing noise and analyse the Supplement Facts listed on the back of the label. Only then you can see clearly which the top multivitamins for women really are.
MultivitaminGuide.org can be a good first step in that direction. This guide offers comparison of over 100 multivitamin brands for women based on careful analysis of the Supplement Facts of each product. Each of the reviewed multivitamins is evaluated against 4 key parameters - composition, bioavailability, safety and potency.
Then each supplement is assigned an effectiveness score ranging from 0 to 10 (10 being the best), which enables you to easily compare the various brands. For best results, using a multivitamin with a score of 8.0 or above is strongly advised.
The table below provides a summary of the Effectiveness Scores of 101 multivitamins for women that are currently available on the market.
|1||Xtend-Life Natural Products||Total Balance Women's||9.6|
|3||Douglas Laboratories||Ultra Preventive X||9.3|
|4||USANA Health Sciences||HealthPak||8.9|
|5||Dr. Mercola||Whole Food Multivitamin PLUS||8.7|
|6||Metagenics||Wellness Essentials Women's Prime||8.5|
|7||Nutrilite (Amway)||Double X||8.3|
|8||Garden of Life||Vitamin Code Women||8.2|
|9||Source Naturals||Women's Life Force||8.1|
|12||FitMiss||Balance Women's Multi-Vitamin||7.7|
|14||Dr. Julian Whitaker's||Forward Multi-Nutrient||7.6|
|15||New Chapter||Every Woman's One Daily||7.2|
|16||Mountain Naturals of Vermont||Superior Care||7.1|
|17||amni||Added Protection III||7.0|
|18||Purity Products||Perfect Multi Focus Formula||7.0|
|19||GNC||GNC Women's Ultra Mega||6.9|
|20||Doctor's Nutrition||Mega Vites Woman||6.8|
|21||DaVinci Laboratories||Spectra Woman||6.8|
|22||Nutrition Dynamics||Optimum Health Essentials||6.8|
|23||TwinLab||Daily One Caps with Iron||6.7|
|24||FoodScience of Vermont||Superior Care||6.6|
|25||Puritan's Pride||Women's One Daily Multivitamin||6.5|
|26||Colgan Institute||Formula MCS||6.4|
|27||Rainbow Light||Advanced Nutritional System||6.4|
|28||NOW Foods||Multiple Vitamins - LiquidGels||6.4|
|31||Nature's Way||Alive! Whole Food Energizer||6.1|
|32||Jean Carper's||Stop Aging Now!||6.0|
|33||Natural Factors||MultiStart Women's||5.9|
|34||Advanced Physician's Products||Maximum MultiVitamin/Mineral||5.8|
|35||EcoNugenics||Women's Longevity Rhythms Gold||5.8|
|37||Nature's Blend||Vitaminix Ultimate||5.6|
|38||Pharmanex (Nu Skin)||LifePak Prime||5.4|
|40||Herbalife||Formula 2 MultivitaminComplex||5.3|
|41||QCI Nutritionals||Ultra Vitality #1||5.2|
|43||Essentials by Megafood||Essentials for Life||5.2|
|44||Optimox||Androvite for Women||5.1|
|45||Swanson Premium||Women's Prime Multi||5.0|
|46||Jarrow||Multi E-Z Powder||5.0|
|47||Great Earth||TNT - Total Nutrition Tablet||5.0|
|48||Nikken||Kenzen Mega Daily 4||4.9|
|49||Garry Null's||Supreme Health Formula||4.8|
|50||Thorne Research||Al's Formula||4.8|
|52||Vitamin World||Daily 3 With Antioxidant Factors||4.7|
|53||PhytoPharmica||Clinical Nutrients for Women||4.7|
|55||4Life||BioVitamins Type III||4.5|
|56||Bronson Laboratories||The Woman's Formula||4.5|
|57||One A Day||Essential||4.5|
|59||Nature Made||Multi Complete||4.3|
|60||Quest||Maximum Once A Day||4.2|
|61||Nature's Bounty||Green Source Vegetarian Formula||4.1|
|64||Michael's Naturopathic Programs||for Women||3.8|
|65||Natrol||My Favorite Multiple Original||3.8|
|66||Nu-life||Ultimate One for Women||3.7|
|68||Walgreens||Ultra Choice Premium Women||3.5|
|69||Swiss Natural Sources||Super Adult Chewable||3.4|
|70||Ripple Creek||Mega-100 (Slow Release)||3.3|
|71||Thompson||Human Nature Green Multi||3.0|
|72||Safeway Select||Super Women's Multivitamin||2.9|
|73||Perfect Choice||Multivitamin Specially Formulated for Women||2.9|
|75||Vitamin Power||Power Source 100||2.8|
|76||Pilgrim's||Silver Stars Multi||2.7|
|77||Absolute Nutrition||Dieters' Multi's||2.7|
|78||Nature's Sunshine||Super Supplemental Vitamins and Minerals||2.7|
|79||Freeda Vitamins||Ultra Freeda||2.7|
|80||ZonePerfect||Multi Vitamin & Mineral||2.6|
|83||Nature's Plus||Uitra One||2.0|
|84||Kirkland Signature (Costco)||Daily Multi||1.9|
|86||Lifestyles||Lifecycles for Women||1.6|
|87||Western Family||Multra Forte||1.3|
|88||Avon||VitAdvance Women's Complete Multivitamin||1.2|
|92||YourLife||Super Multi with Herbs||0.9|
|93||Rite Aid||Whole Source||0.8|
|94||21st Century||One Daily Women's||0.7|
|95||Spring Valley||Maximum One Dally||0.6|
|97||Good Neighbor Pharmacy||Balanced Care Complete Multi||0.6|
|98||Kroger||Advanced Formula Complete||0.6|
|100||Action Labs||Essential Nutrients||0.5|
Just as a woman’s body changes during her life span, so does her nutritional needs. If you are a 50-year-old woman who uses the same multivitamin as your husband or you take the same supplement you did when you were in your twenties, then you are at risk for a variety of different health problems. By taking time to learn about the essential vitamins and minerals for women, and how women’s nutritional needs change as she ages, you can ensure that you, or the women your love, maintain optimal health throughout their lives.
Regardless of your age, here are the eight most essential vitamins and minerals a woman needs in order to stay healthy:
The primary function of iron is to carry oxygen throughout your body. Additionally, your body needs iron to make red blood cells, for optimal immune functioning, and for temperature regulation. During a woman’s childbearing years, she needs 18 mg of iron daily, while after menopause, she needs only 8mg/day.1 The reason for the difference is that women who are menstruating lose a significant amount of iron-rich blood each month.
Women whose diets are deficient in iron are at risk of anemia. Some of the symptoms of anemia include shortness of breath, even with only mild exertion, fatigue, and difficulty regulating body temperature. Some dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and lean red meats are good sources of iron.
Calcium is especially important for women since they are at significant risk of osteoporosis after menopause. Since bone loss in women actually starts when they are in their twenties, it is important for all women of all ages to ensure they get 1000 to 1300 mg of calcium daily, either in their diet or by taking supplements. Calcium is also essential for muscle and blood vessel functioning, hormone synthesis, and transmission of messages through your nervous system.2
Magnesium plays a part in more than 300 biochemical processes in your body. Because of that a woman’s health depends on ensuring she has enough of this nutrient on a daily basis. Adult women need 310 to 320 mg of magnesium daily in order to avoid heart arrhythmias, immune system problems, bone fragility, and blood pressure irregularities.2 Additionally, women who are deficient in magnesium are at risk for migraine headaches.
Women need at least 2333IU of vitamin A for healthy eyes and immune functioning. If she does not get enough vitamin A through supplements, a woman is at risk of macular degeneration, measles, and some forms of cancer. Foods such as beef liver, sweet potatoes, and spinach are rich sources of vitamin A.3
This nutrient is one of the B vitamins women need to maintain a healthy nervous system as it supports the brain’s ability to regulate emotions. During pregnancy, folate is critical to prevent neural tube defects in the unborn child. While women who are not carrying a child require 400 mcg of folic acid per day, those who are pregnant need 600 mcg to 1 mg of this B vitamin daily. Women who do not have enough of this nutrient in their systems are at risk of anemia and certain types of cancers.4 Dietary sources of folate include beans and dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale.
Your body uses biotin to make fatty acids and blood glucose. Additionally, it also plays a role in energy production. Women who do not get the recommended daily allowance of 30 µg of biotin are at risk of depression, as well as hair loss and brittle nails.5
Vitamin C is especially important for women because of its role in facilitating iron absorption. It also helps make collagen, which provides the structure to our skin. This vitamin also helps in repairing tissues in our body as well as supporting immune health. Since our bodies are not able make vitamin C, we need to get it through our diet or by taking supplements. Women need at least 75 mg of this nutrient each day.
Women need to ensure they have enough vitamin D because of its role in calcium absorption for healthy bones. In addition, this nutrient is essential for immune health, optimal nervous system functioning, and research indicates in may play a role in preventing type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as some forms of cancer.6
As you might suspect, age plays an important role the nutritional needs of women. Below we cover how your vitamin and mineral supplementation needs change in each of the life stages women go through:
A teenage girl’s nutritional needs are different from those of an adult woman because she is still growing and maturing. For example, a teenage girl needs less vitamin K, B6, iron, chromium, and manganese than she will need as an adult. On the other hand, the recommended daily allowance for magnesium is higher for teenage girls (360mg) than it is for adult women (310-320 mg) because this nutrient is shown to decrease the severity of PMS symptoms.7 In addition, adolescent girls need more phosphorus (1250 mg) as compared to adult females (750 mg) because this mineral is essential for fully developing their growing bone mass and brain function.8
As you would expect, a woman’s nutritional requirements change significantly when she is carrying a child and when she is breastfeeding. The following chart outlines the different vitamins and mineral needs that increase during pregnancy and lactation.
Table 2: Supplementation needs during pregnancy and lactation
*Same as adult women
While most of these nutrients are needed for the healthy growth and development of the fetus and young infant, women could harm themselves if their diets do not contain sufficient amounts of these vitamins and minerals. The reason is that their bodies divert these nutrients to the developing child, which means the woman runs the risk of a multitude of ailments due to deficiencies in these micronutrients.
After menopause, women's needs change yet again. At this stage of their lives, they need more calcium and vitamin D to decrease their risk of bone loss. They also need less sodium and chloride in their diet to reduce their chances of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Recently these have been a lot of concerns about the increased risk of cancer associated with hormonal and pharmaceutical treatments used for the relief of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms. Because of that, women need to consider using herbal remedies that research has shown to be safe yet effective.
Some examples of herbal supplements scientists have found to help in relieving the pain, bloating, and cramping associated with PMS include:
Scientists have found that a compound in Feverfew extract (Tanacetum parthenium leaf) reduces the inflammation that causes much of the discomfort associated with PMS. It also alleviates some of the headaches that occur before and during a woman’s monthly cycle.9
Native to Asia and areas on the Mediterranean coast, the small peppermint scented berries of the chaste berry plant (Vitex agnus-castus berry) have been used since the 1950s for the treatment of the breast tenderness that often accompanies other PMS symptoms. Recent studies have found it to be effective in treating menstrual cycle irregularities, such as heavy bleeding, as well as the irritability, depression, and headaches that occur just before a woman’s monthly period.10
Herbal supplements useful for the treatment of the symptoms related to menopause include:
Dong Quai extract (Angelica sinensis root) has been used for more than 1000 years to treat menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.11 It is also used to treat PMS symptoms such as cramping and headaches.12 Scientists attribute the effectiveness of Dong Quai extract to its ability to balance a woman’s estrogen levels.
Black Cohosh (Cimifuga racemosa) has undergone numerous clinical trials that show it is a safe and effective alternative to hormone replacement therapy.13
By paying attention to their nutritional needs through their lifespan and taking advantage of the different herbal remedies available, women can stay healthy and enjoy a heightened sense of well-being. Some of the high quality multivitamins we've come across, that are designed specifically for women, contain these herbal extracts, so be sure to look out for them when shopping for your next multivitamin.