Vitamins and other supplements are so popular these days that it can be hard to separate what's helpful from what's merely "hype-ful." On the one hand, nutrition experts agree that the best possible way to get vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is through food. That's because your body absorbs vitamins and minerals most easily from food. But for certain people and in certain situations, supplementing with a multivitamin may be a good idea. back to top
Who needs multivitamins?
Well, it's possible that you
do. Adolescent and teenage girls are some of the people that may benefit from taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement. This is partly because girls in this age group often don't eat a balanced diet. Think about your own eating habits. Are you often dieting—keeping your calorie count so low that it would be impossible for you to meet your daily quota of vitamins and minerals through what you eat? Are you experimenting with a fad diet that ignores an entire food group—and all the nutrients that food group contains? Do you tend to fill up on junk food and sugary snacks while skimping on whole grains, fruits, and veggies? Do you sometimes skip meals?
If you suspect that you're not getting the full range of vitamins and minerals you need through the food you eat—and many girls your age don't—supplementing your diet with a multivitamin/mineral might be a good idea.back to top
What if I'm a vegetarian or a vegan?
There are certain essential vitamins and minerals that can only be found in animal products, so if you eat very little or no foods in this category you do
have a special need for a multivitamin/mineral supplement. To learn more, check out Vitamins for Vegetarians
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What kind of multivitamin/mineral should I choose?
There is a dizzying variety of vitamin and mineral products on the shelves these days. This includes special formulas that contain mega-doses of certain nutrients. When it comes to multivitamins/minerals, however, more is not necessarily better. Dietary experts suggest choosing a basic multivitamin/mineral product that contains at least 20 essential vitamins and minerals. It should have no more than 150% of your daily value (DV) for each nutrient. This information is printed on the label. (If you have trouble figuring out the label, ask the pharmacist at your drugstore or a clerk at a good health-food store to help you.) back to top
Do I need to take a multivitamin/mineral with iron?tion
It depends. Because your body is growing, you need more iron now than you will when you get older. On the other hand, having too much
iron in your system is unhealthy. Experts suggest that you should not take iron pills unless you really need to. If you tend to feel weak or tired—two possible symptoms of anemia
—or if you have heavy periods
, you may want to check with your health professional about having the iron levels in your blood tested. If your iron levels turn out to be low, you may be told to eat more iron-rich foods such as red meat, spinach, dried fruit, eggs, and red peppers. In some cases, you may also need to take an iron supplement. back to top
If I take a multivitamin, do I still have to eat from all the food groups?
Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they're popping dietary supplements, they don't have to be too concerned about what they eat. Don't make that mistake! Multivitamins and other nutritional supplements are just that: supplements
. They are supposed to add to your regular diet. No pill can duplicate all the nutritional elements found naturally in foods, including fiber
, and a good balance of antioxidants
, all of which help protect your health.
Multivitamins may help back you up on days when you don't eat as well as you should, but they can never substitute for a balanced diet
. back to top