“Help! Should I Take a Multivitamin?”
When people find out I’m a registered dietitian, they often ask me what I think about taking a daily multivitamin. Research over the years has conflicting evidence of their benefits or harm. Recently there have been a handful of studies suggesting an excess of folic acid (more than 1000 mcg/day) may increase the risk of colorectal cancer and possible prostate and breast cancers. Too much selenium (more than 200 mcg/day) may raise the risk of skin cancer and diabetes. And too much iron for men (more than 8 mg/day) may raise the risk of heart disease and cancer. So what’s a person to do?
If you are in good health, eat a wide variety of whole foods, and a minimum of processed foods you probably don’t need to take a multivitamin. But if you fall into one of the categories below, you may want to consider taking a multi (it’s always a good idea to discuss this with your doctor first):
- Woman of childbearing age
- Pregnant or breast-feeding
- On a diet to lose weight
- Not eating a well-balanced diet
- Over 60 years of age
I like the recommendations below from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org) based on the latest research and suggestions from the Harvard School of Public Health:
- Men and postmenopausal women: If your multi has 400 mcg of folic acid (it’s hard to find ones with less than this), take it every other day. If you decide not to take a multi, take 1000 IU of vitamin D daily.
- Premenopausal women: Take a multi with 400 mcg of folic acid every day to prevent neural tube birth defects…these can occur before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
- Everyone: If you take a multi, avoid foods that are fortified with 100%DV of folic acid (it will say this on the Nutrition Facts label). This includes some breakfast cereals and energy bars such as Total, Product 19, Special K, and Kashi Heart to Heart. Don’t worry about naturally occurring folic acid in foods like leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables. It isn’t as well absorbed as the kind that’s added to vitamins and foods.
To Be On the Safe Side, Choose a Multi That Follows the Guidelines Below
|Vitamin A||no more than 4000 IU|
|Beta Carotene||no more than 5000 IU|
|Vitamin C||60-1000 mg|
|Vitamin D||400 IU or more|
|Vitamin E||30-100 IU|
|Vitamin K||20 mcg or more|
|Thiamin (B-1)||1.2 mg or more|
|Riboflavin (B-2)||1.7 mg or more|
|Niacin (B-3)||16-35 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||2-100 mg|
|Folic acid||no more than 400 mcg|
|Vitamin B-12||6 mcg or more|
|Calcium||Men: no more than 200 mg, Women: 200 mg or more|
|Iron||Men and postmen women: < 10 mg, Premenopausal women: 18 mg|
|Phosphorus||no more than 350 mg|
|Chromium||35 mcg or more|
Note: “or more” doesn’t mean that the nutrient is safe at any dose, just that the levels in most multis are probably not high enough to cause harm.
A Partial List of Some Multivitamins That Meet the Above Guidelines
Men and postmenopausal women—take every other day:
- NatureMade Multi for Her 50+
- NatureMade Multi for Him 50+ (I like these 2 brands as they contain 1000 IU of vit D)
- One-A-Day Men’s Health Formula and Men’s 50+ Advantage
- Target Men’s Daily
- Theragran-M Advanced
- Walgreen’s One Daily Men’s and Daily 50 Plus
Premenopausal Women—take every day:
- GNC Solo Day
- Kirkland Signature Daily Multi
- NatureMade Multi Complete
- One-A-Day Maximum
- Sundown Naturals Complete Daily and Daily Multi
- Target Multivitamin/Multimineral
- Walgreen Advanced Formula A thru Z
If you would like help determining your unique nutritional needs, please click here to contact me for an appointment.
Sweet Potato-Carrot Soup with Ginger and Apple
Great for a cool autumn night, this delicious soup keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week, and the flavors blend while it is stored.
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 medium leeks (about 1 1/3 cups), white part only, washed and sliced
3/4 lb. carrots, cut in half
1 large sweet potato (about 12 oz.), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tart apple (about 8 oz.), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tsp. peeled, minced fresh ginger root
5 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup orange juice
2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
In large nonstick saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring, 6-8 minutes, or until translucent. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, apple and ginger. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add broth, juice, zest, ground ginger, nutmeg and white pepper. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 30 minutes, or until carrots and sweet potatoes are tender. Let cool 5-10 minutes. Using a blender or food processor, puree half of carrot mixture with half of cooking liquid until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl. Repeat process with remaining solids and other half of liquid. Stir puree back into saucepan. Reheat, if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 103 calories, 1 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 22 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 340 mg sodium.
Adapted from the American Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org)