You’ve probably heard the headlines that multivitamins won’t help you live longer. But what about living better? Considering that 9 out of 10 of us don’t get all the nutrition we need from food, most of us could use a little boost. If your eating habits aren’t perfect (and whose are?), here are five reasons to invest in a multi:
You take heartburn medication. Everyone gets heartburn sometimes. But if you take certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), to control chronic heartburn, you may not be absorbing vitamin B12 properly, which can put you at risk for fatigue, dementia, permanent nerve damage, and more. Why? “Proton pump inhibitors reduce the stomach acid needed to absorb naturally-occurring vitamin B12 from foods,” says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., author of Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy. “If you’re on a PPI, strive to get most of your vitamin B12 in supplement form, which doesn’t require stomach acid for absorption.”
Bad bones run in your family. Bone health may not be on your radar right now, but if you have a family history of osteoporosis, a little prevention today can make a big difference later. Trouble is, only half of us get the calcium required for healthy bones. And even fewer consume enough vitamin D necessary to absorb that calcium. While you can get the calcium you need by eating roughly two to three daily servings of dairy, vitamin D is naturally found in very few foods. The good news is most multis deliver at least the recommended daily dose of 600 international units of D, plus a little calcium too.
Wine is always on the menu. Wine may be loaded with the heart-healthy antioxidant resveratrol, but it depletes folate, an essential B vitamin that protects against certain cancers, depression, and stroke. So even if you eat plenty of folate-rich foods like spinach, beans, and asparagus, you could still fall short. Your mission: Take a multi with 400 micrograms of folic acid, suggests Ward. “The body absorbs this synthetic form of folate more easily, especially on an empty stomach,” she says. “If you plan to have a glass of wine with dinner, then take your multivitamin in the morning.”
You’re all about a plant-based diet. A vegetarian or vegan diet can be super healthy. But it’s not without its challenges. Take iron for example. Because the type of iron in plants can be difficult to absorb, it can be tricky to get all the iron you need for energy, stamina, and concentration. Then there’s vitamin B12, found only in animal foods like meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. That said, if you’re a vegan it can be nearly impossible to obtain the B12 you need for proper brain health. Perhaps that’s why one recent study found that vegetarians with the strictest plant-based diets were the most likely to suffer from depression.
You’re even thinking about having a baby. Nutrition is key for fertility—even if you’re a guy. It’s so important that one study found that men with the healthiest diets had better sperm motility than those who ate the standard American junk-food diet. And for women? To get the extra folate, iron, vitamin C, and zinc you’ll need for a healthy pregnancy, The American Pregnancy Association recommends preparing your body three months to a year before conception.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.