Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Your Nutrition Insurance Policy

Although ideally we should get all the nutrients we need from our daily diets, this is not always possible-which is why supplements have an important role in our daily lives. Unless your diet is picture-perfect everyday, a daily multivitamin is important for your health---and if you are pregnant---the health of your unborn baby or babies. I practice what I preach-I take supplements everyday-and I'd like to share my favorites with you.

Multivitamins
It is recommended that pregnant women take a multivitamin to make sure that they're getting all the essential vitamins they need during this critical period. But many multivitamins are difficult to take-either because they cause nausea due to excess levels of vitamins plus minerals, or are too hard to swallow. My favorite is One-A-Day Essentials because it contains just 100% of the Daily Value of all essential vitamins, as well as being small and easy to swallow. For women who are not pregnant, and for women pregnant with singletons, I recommend one tablet daily. For women pregnant with multiples, I recommend one tablet through 13 weeks of pregnancy, doubling the dose (two tablets) after 13 weeks. www.oneaday.com/essential.html

Additional Antioxidant Vitamins
Medical research suggests that our requirements for the antioxidant vitamins-particularly vitamins C and E-may be much higher than previously believed. Higher dosages reduce free radicals-cellular reactions that can cause damage at the tissue level. For individuals in general, an excess of free radicals can lead to premature aging as well as other problems. During pregnancy, higher doses of the antioxidant vitamins C and E have been shown to reduce the risk for preeclampsia. The ideal dose is 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E. My favorite supplement company is Nature Made Brand-famous for the purity of their products. For best absorption, you should take the vitamin C in divided doses-500 mg in the morning and 500 mg at night. www.naturemade.com

Calcium and Magnesium with Zinc
These are the three minerals recognized by the World Health Organization as holding the most promise for reducing pregnancy complications-and they are among the nutrients most likely to be lacking in the average woman's diet.

  • Calcium is critical for healthy bones throughout the life cycle, but during pregnancy it also has the double role of reducing the risk of developing preeclampsia. This dangerous complication of pregnancy is more common among women pregnant for the first time as well as those who are expecting multiples.
  • Magnesium helps to prevent premature labor by minimizing uterine contractions. It also lowers the baby's risk of cerebral palsy or other developmental disabilities because it protects the developing nervous system, even if the baby is born early.
  • Zinc is vital for the healthy development of the baby's nervous system. Plus, it reduces the risk of infection-whether or not a woman is pregnant. All three of these minerals also help with the common complaints of heartburn, leg cramps, and insomnia.
Nature Made Brand makes a Calcium and Magnesium with Zinc supplement which contains, per tablet, 333 mg of calcium, 133 mg of magnesium, and 5 mg of zinc. For nonpregnant women, the daily dose is three tablets. For women pregnant with multiples, the dose is six tablets (sorry-minerals are bulky), for a total dose of 2 gm oc calcium, 800 mg of magnesium, and 30 mg of zinc. I began taking this wonderful supplement many years ago for migraine headaches-and I haven't had a recurrence in years. If possible, take the larger amounts (six tablets) in divided doses.

Omega-3 Fish Oils
As essential fatty acids required for good health, the omega-3s top the list. They are essential because we cannot produce them within our bodies and must get them from dietary sources or supplements. Omega-3s form biological compounds that effect blood pressure, blood clotting, and the immune system. They have been shown to lower the risk for heart disease and breast cancer, as well as premature labor. Omega-3s are critical to baby's visual and brain development. They can also protect the expectant mom's brainpower. During pregnancy the mother's blood level of omega-3s drops by almost two-thirds-probably the result of the growing baby's need for this vital nutrient. Studies have shown that the expectant mother's brain shrinks by about three percent during the last trimester. This may explain the memory loss that has long been associated with pregnancy, and may be linked to postpartum depression as well.

Most individuals don't get enough omega-3s in their diets-fish and fatty seafood are the richest sources. For example, a three-and-a-half ounce serving of salmon has twice as much omega-3s as tuna and six times as much as crab. But because our oceans and streams may be polluted, national health authorities recommend limiting fish intake to 12 ounces or less per week, and choosing only smaller varieties. If you do not eat fish, or don't eat it regularly, a daily supplement is an excellent alternative. My favorite is Super Omega-3 Fish Oils from Carlson Laboratories (www. carlsonlabs. com). Aim for at least 1,000 mg per day-some researchers suggest as much as 3,000 mg per day.