How do you choose the right prenatal vitamin when there’s such a wide selection available?
Ideally, being on a prenatal vitamin is always a good idea during your child-bearing years. Taking a prenatal during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is crucial for your health and your baby’s. Early and consistent supplementation is critical as your body’s requirements for certain vitamins and minerals will increase far above your usual dietary intake. Key nutrients such as folic acid and B12, vitamin D, DHA (see previous post on “Mommy Brain“), calcium and magnesium, zinc, and iron are beneficial to influencing the development of your baby and ensuring you don’t become deficient of your nutritional needs. In general, these key nutrients can reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions later in life.
Here’s a breakdown of the key nutrients you body requires and how their important functions serve you:
Vitamin A, D, E, and K are apart of the fat-soluble family. These vitamins help to maintain proper heart and bone health. Be sure to take safe supplement levels as taking too much of any fat-soluble vitamin can be toxic.
The B vitamins, vitamin C, folic acid, biotin, and folic acid are considered water-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are readily utilized by the body and whatever isn’t used gets expelled during a visit to the loo. The B vitamins are important to your overall health but are most popular for increasing your energy supply, while Vitamin C boosts the immune system. Folic acid is actually better absorbed in a synthetic form which is known to reduce the risk of birth defects.
The big minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Calcium is necessary for building strong bones and magnesium is also good for the bones, muscles, immune system, and balancing your blood sugar. Both calcium and magnesium are helpful in reducing stress so taking them before bed can ensure a good nights rest. Calcium works best when combined with phosphorus which helps to strengthen kidney and heart function. Along with potassium which is also important for muscle and nerve activity. Contrary to popular belief, sodium is actually crucial for maintaining a healthy heart and proper fluid levels in the body.
Trade minerals such as iron, zinc manganese, chromium, and selenium are also known as micro minerals which our bodies require less of. Iron is important for the growth and development of babies and the production of hemoglobin. Zinc aids our immunity as well our digestion of proteins and carbs. It also supports reproductive organ and growth development. Manganese synthesizes fat and cholesterol, builds strong bones, normalizes blood sugar along with chromium, and helps your body fight free radicals. Lastly, selenium helps to build healthy cells which makes it an anti-cancer mineral.
You need all these vitamins and minerals in your diet as well as in a good multivitamin during pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding to share with your baby. A general rule of thumb when choosing your prenatal vitamin is to stay away from inorganic minerals, artificial additives, and tablet form which are cheaper, poorer-quality and thus less effective.
10 Tips to maximize your vitamins:
How do you know if you’re getting the most out of your vitamins to ensure optimal health?
There are a few things to consider when selecting effective supplementation in order to ensure premium quality and better absorption for the best results:
1. Capsules have a higher absorbency in comparison to tablets because your body breaks them down easier. In general, cheaper supplements are often in a hard tablet form, which makes the nutrients less digestible and more difficult to ingest. Liquid form is preferred because it’s the easiest to absorb, especially when you or your child has difficulty swallowing a pill. You can even lace a favourite food with the liquid vitamin to mask the taste, which is a better alternative than mixtures that use artificial sweeteners to enhance the taste.
2. Steer clear of acidity which decreases the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients from supplements and makes you more prone to health issues. To maximize absorption add alkalinized foods such as greener vegetables and avoid processed foods such as sugars and cereals. This will improve your body’s pH level. Also, take a calcium supplement which is needed to maintain your body’s alkaline balance.
3. Choose a vitamin and mineral supplementation products that are free of any additives. Carefully read the label and avoid anything that uses fillers, binders, preservatives, artificial colours and flavours, which may cause harm to your body.
4. Read the label and look for the words amino-acid “chelate”, “citrate/malate”, or “fumarate” to ensure you are absorbing most of the available nutrients. For example, calcium citrate is better absorbed than calcium. Generally, inorganic forms of minerals such as carbonates, sulphates and oxides have less bioavailability, which refers to how well your body assimilates the minerals.
5. When you take your vitamins is also crucial to its effectiveness. Try to take your vitamins with food. Many vitamins such as A, E, D, and K need to be consumed with fat for your body to integrate them. Taking vitamins with food also reduces upset stomach. And avoid taking your vitamins with a fibre supplement, which will decrease the overall effect.
6. Look for the word “standardized” on the label when buying herbal supplements. If a product is standardized it means it contains a certain amount of active ingredient, which offers greater benefits to your body. Also, be sure to take herbal remedies away from food for better results.
7. Be careful to take your medication at least two hours from any vitamins to avoid negative interactions. Basically, vitamins can work against each other and alter the level of effectiveness of the medication. For example, take iron away from supplements containing calcium or magnesium, since taking it together may interfere with the bioavailability of the other supplements. Be sure to consult your doctor before you start any new medications.
8. Choose a product and supplement manufactured by a reputable company as these products are cleaner and undergo extensive testing. Why not seek advice from a well-informed health practitioner for their preferred companies and find out why. In general, the more expensive brands tend to be higher-quality products and are more effective for optimizing your health. Cheaper supplements also tend to be in tablet form as an easy giveaway and are poorly utilized by your body.
10. Take the suggested dose on the label or follow the recommendation under the care of your health care provider. Excessive amounts of certain vitamins can be harmful. For example, high doses of any fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K can be toxic. And be careful not to take too much of the water-soluble Vitamin B6 which might decrease your milk supply while breastfeeding. Also, take your vitamins and minerals throughout the day instead of all at once to ensure you don’t overdo it.
Always know exactly what you’re looking for and gather plenty of information so you are fully informed when purchasing any vitamins or minerals. And remember, vitamins are meant to enhance not replace a healthy diet. They can help compensate for what your daily intake is lacking. It’s important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to improve your overall health.
A good pre- and post-natal multivitamin before, during, and after pregnancy is crucial for achieving optimal health and overall wellness. Click here to purchase Pregna-Vite by Genestra, a trusted Canadian company.
Photo Credit: Rakka