Are Prenatal Vitamins Good for You?

It is common saying that you will be eating for two during pregnancy, but you have to understand that it is not about increasing your portion size and getting more calories. In fact, it is more about handling your nutritional needs in a better way, and that is when many women think of including prenatal vitamins in their diet.

Prenatal vitamins may help reduce risks for pregnancy complications, such as anemia and neural tube defects. However, the benefits of prenatal vitamins make many women wonder if they can take prenatal vitamins when not pregnant. Let's find out more about it.

Are Prenatal Vitamins Good for You If You Are Not Pregnant?

Yes, there are benefits associated with prenatal vitamins, but there are many unproven claims associated with their use. Moreover, too much of a good thing can also be bad, and the same holds true in case of prenatal vitamins. While you may feel like taking it when you are not pregnant to get better hair or skin, you may end up dealing with side effects of getting too much of certain nutrients for too long.

These vitamins are for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant – they are also designed for women who are breast-feeding. They work for pregnant women because they have their emphasis on certain nutrients. For instance:

  • Folic Acid: You should get at least 600mcg of folic acid a day to lower your risk of giving birth to a child with neural tube defects. If you are not pregnant or not planning to become pregnant any time soon, you only need 400mcg of folic acid a day. Getting too much of it from prenatal vitamins may increase side effects and even mask the symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Iron: You should take 27mg of iron a day when you are pregnant. If you are between 19 and 50 years of age with no intention to become pregnant any time soon, you only need 18mg of iron daily. If you are over age 51, you only need 8mg of iron a day. Iron overdose can actually prove toxic and result in issues, such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and even death.
  • Calcium: During pregnancy, you need 1,000mg of calcium a day, especially if you are between the ages 19 and 50. Women require 1,200mg/day of calcium when they are above age 51. Interestingly, prenatal vitamins do not contain much of calcium – you get only 200-300mg of calcium per serving – and that is mainly because it is designed to supplement calcium you may already be getting through your diet. Relying on prenatal vitamins would leave you with a calcium deficiency when you are not pregnant, and this increases risk of osteoporosis and other issues.

Natural Ways to Get Nutrients in Prenatal Vitamins

Are prenatal vitamins good for you? They are, but only when you are pregnant or planning to conceive in near future. You should avoid relying on them when you are not pregnant, especially when you can get the same nutrients naturally.

1. Sources of Folic Acid

You need folic acid to stay healthy. You need more of it during pregnancy because it is essential for cellular growth and regeneration. Getting enough folic acid through diet can prevent Alzheimer's disease, anemia, birth defects, and several types of cancer. Here is more about how much folic acid is available in different foods:

 

Serving Size

Micrograms of Folic Acid

Calories

Broccoli

Half cup

52

26

Sunflower seeds

1 ounce

66.6

173

Pinto beans

1 cup

249

245

Avocados

1 avocado

162.8

322

Turkey liver

100g

691

273

Asparagus

4 spears

89

13

Bananas

1 medium banana

23.6

105

Peanuts

Half cup

105.9

427

Dry roasted soybeans

Half cup

176.3

388

 2. Sources of Iron

Without getting enough of this essential mineral, you will end up developing several health related problems. It helps transport oxygen to different parts of your body, and its deficiency can make you feel tired all the time. A chronic deficiency may even result in organ failure. It is equally important to ensure that you do not get too much of it, as it can lead to the production of free radicals and even affect your metabolism.

Here is how much iron you get from a 100g serving of the following foods:

Food

Iron

Squash and pumpkin seeds

15mg (83% DV)

Liver (Chicken)

13mg (72% DV)

Seafood (Mussels, oysters, clams)

9.2mg (51% DV)

Nuts (Pine, cashew, peanut, hazelnut)

6.1mg (34% DV)

Lamb and Beef (Lean Chuck Roast)

3.8mg (21% DV)

Beans and Pulses (Lentils, White Beans)

3.7mg (21% DV)

Whole Grains, Bran, and Fortified Cereals

1.5mg (8% DV)

Dark Leafy Greens (Swiss Chard, Spinach)

3.6m (20% DV)

Cocoa Powder, Dark Chocolate

17mg (97% DV)

Tofu

2.7mg (15% DV)

 3. Sources of Calcium

Are prenatal vitamins good for you? Not if you rely on it to get calcium. You need calcium for the growth and maintenance of your bones and teeth. It is equally important for proper nerve signaling, secretion of hormones, and muscle contraction. You may experience numbness in toes and fingers, convulsions, muscle cramps, and abnormal heart rhythm due to a calcium deficiency.

Here is how much calcium is available in a 100g serving of the following foods:

Foods

Calcium

Dark leafy greens (watercress)

120mg (12% DV)

Low fat cheese (Mozzarella Nonfat)

961mg (95% DV)

Yogurt and Milk (Low-Fat)

183mg (18% DV)

Chinese cabbage (Bok Choy, Pak Choi)

105mg (11% DV)

Fortified soy products

350mg (35% DV)

Cooked okra

77mg (8% DV)

Broccoli

47mg (5% DV)

Green Snap Beans

37mg (4% DV)

Canned Fish (sardines in oil)

383mg (38% DV)

Almonds

264mg (26%)

 
 
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