Thanks in part to a millennial makeover, vitamins have become trendy. New direct-to consumer-companies like Ritual and Care/of aim to take the tedious research out of selecting a vitamin through curated selections that ship right to your door. But choosing the right vitamin can still be overwhelming. Our bodies are always changing, and with so many options, how can we be sure we’re getting the nutrients we need throughout our lives?
Rachel Posner, a clinical dietitian at St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington, Louisiana, tells SheKnows that most of our necessary nutrients should be coming directly from our diet, but vitamins and supplements can help to fill in the gaps where we’re missing the right amount of micronutrients.
And though she says there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to starting a vitamin regimen, she does feel that a multivitamin is an easy place to start.
“Look for a multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the daily value for each nutrient,” she said. “[But] keep in mind that nutrient needs change as we age.” In every decade, though, there are simple additions we can make to our diets to aid in relieving woes, from acne to menopause.
“While our 20s can be an exciting time, this is also a time when the daily stress of school or new relationships coupled with poor eating habits can take a toll on our health and our skin,” Posner explains.
She recommends iron to counteract iron deficiency that can be typical in women in their 20s and folic acid if you’re planning a pregnancy. But her top recommendation for women in their 20s is fish oil. Adult brains aren’t fully developed until the age of 25, and getting the fatty acids provided by fish oil is vital to continuing cognitive development.
“If you are unable to consume at least two 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week, taking a fish oil supplement containing 1,000 milligrams of EPA and DHA [omega-3 fatty acids in fish] combined may help improve attention span, mood [and] overall brain function,” Posner says.
Posner again recommends iron and folic acid for women in their peak childbearing years, also adding that incorporating a vitamin C supplement can carry multiple benefits for aging skin — including protecting against dry skin, wrinkles and UV damage.
Dr. Christel Malinski of Benson Dermatology in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, agrees, telling SheKnows that vitamin C “increases collagen production” and reduces redness.
If you’re taking a multivitamin, Posner suggests confirming that the multi contains at least 75 milligrams of vitamin C, but if you’re taking it on it’s own, she cautions to not exceed 2,000 milligrams.
If adult acne is your personal plague, Malinski prescribes vitamin A to her patients. “Vitamin A treats acne by promoting skin turnover, thus unclogging pores and helping to expel [blackheads],” she says. “[It] also helps to even skin tone and decrease wrinkles, making it ideal for antiaging as well.”
Perimenopause (the transition into menopause) usually begins at this time and causes decreased estrogen levels as well as symptoms like hot flashes, bloating and irregular sleep patterns. Posner again recommends fish oil to “fight the effects of hormonal changes that cause hot flashes.”
Additionally, she recommends a probiotic for hormone-related digestive issues, immune support and mental stability.
“When choosing a probiotic, consider your particular digestive issues and critically read the labels for health benefits,” she says.
Posner also recommends a magnesium supplement for this age group, as it can help to relax muscles, leading to better sleep while also regulating blood pressure and insulin.
“The RDA [recommended dietary allowance] for magnesium for females in this age group is 320 milligrams,” she explains. “If your diet is lacking in magnesium-containing foods [like] spinach, broccoli, nuts or legumes, consider taking a magnesium supplement.”
Once you’ve fully transitioned into menopause, you’re most susceptible to major bone-density loss leading to osteoporosis and bone fractures, making calcium crucial.
“The RDA for calcium for females increases from 1,000 milligrams per day to 1,200 milligrams per day once you are over the age of 50,” Posner says, also noting that it’s important to find a supplement with calcium citrate, which does not require stomach acid in order to be absorbed since gastric acid-production also declines with age.
As we age, hair loss can also begin to plague many women. “Low levels of biotin can be associated with hair loss. [While] an excess of biotin is not necessarily helpful for hair growth, I do recommend supplements such as Nutrafol that contain biotin along with turmeric and other helpful ingredients,” Malinski advises.
No matter your age, Posner suggests consulting a medical professional before regularly taking any supplements and finding supplements that are USP-certified to ensure they have been tested for harmful levels of contaminants. She also warns against going overboard.
“Some supplements in large doses can lead to adverse effects or even toxicity,” she says. “Taking a multitude of supplements cannot override the effects of unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle.”