The Vitamin Aisle

Walk into any grocery store or pharmacy this time of year and chances are you’ll see a sale on vitamins. The selection can be overwhelming and it is not a decision to be taken lightly!

PillsHow do you know if you need to take vitamins? And, if you do, which one(s) should you choose?

A good place to start is to take a look at your eating habits. It’s important to remember that vitamins cannot replace balanced meals and healthy snacks. If you eat a well-balanced diet, you may not need a multivitamin.

Are you hoping to take vitamins to prevent a chronic disease? If so, eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and getting recommended health screenings are likely better solutions.

Prenatal Vitamins

There are certain times where vitamins are essential. If you are planning pregnancy, currently pregnant or breastfeeding, prenatal vitamins are recommended. An adequate intake of folic acid has been shown to prevent birth defects. Prenatal vitamins are essentials for moms-to-be and their babies because they provide folic acid, iron and calcium. They can help fill in any gaps in vitamins and minerals, but they are not meant to substitute the need to eat a healthy diet. Learn more about prenatal vitamins here.

Calcium and Vitamin D for Bone Health

If you are perimenopausal or postmenopausal, you may need to increase your intake of Calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium and Vitamin D work hand-in-hand to slow the rate of bone loss and prevent Osteoporosis.  Vitamin D is necessary to ensure that Calcium is adequately absorbed and incorporated into your bones. Without Vitamin D, Calcium would be sent out of the body as waste.

Ideally, you should obtain Calcium by eating foods that are rich in Calcium. Some good sources include low-fat dairy products, dark green vegetables and fish.  If necessary, you may also need to take a Calcium supplement.

You can increase the amount of Vitamin D you get by choosing milks, yogurts, cheeses and cereals that are fortified with Vitamin D. In addition, tuna and salmon are good sources. Spend time outside each day as exposure to sunlight converts a chemical in the skin to Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements and/or therapy might be recommended for individuals who are not getting an adequate amount.

Talking with your Health Care Provider

There are other situations where vitamins might be recommended. For example, if you are vegan or vegetarian, you may need to supplement your diet in order to maintain a balanced supply of nutrients. Similarly, vitamins might be recommended if you have certain medical conditions or allergies that affect how your body absorbs or uses nutrients.

It is always important to talk with your health care provider to weigh the potential benefits and risks of any vitamin/supplement before starting. Vitamins can be beneficial to some individuals, but they are not right for all people. There are side effects, medications and health conditions that need to be considered.

Virginia Women's Center

About Virginia Women’s Center

Virginia Women’s Center is a full-service women’s health care provider specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, urology, high-risk obstetrics, obstetrical genetic counseling, ultrasound, in-office procedures, mammography, bone health, psychology, nutrition and clinical research. The practice sees patients in four locations in the Richmond area and has additional offices in Kilmarnock and Tappahannock. For more information, visit, or find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.