An expert’s guide to what women should look for in a vitamin…

There’s no substitute for a healthy diet, but a high-quality daily multivitamin and mineral formula can be a smart way to supplement. The key to reaping the potential benefits is to know what ingredients – and in what amounts – to look for on the label.

Whatever formula you end up taking, don’t overlook the importance of getting essential nutrients primarily from your diet. “Supplement carefully if you do and focus first on foods,” says Wendy Bazilian, a DrPH, MA, RD, & author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet: Lose Weight with the Power of SuperNutrients.

Vitamin A – Helps form teeth, bones, soft tissue, skin and mucous membranes; helps lower the risk of infection.

Recommended Amount: No more than 10,000 IU

Beta-carotene- Precursor to vitamin A.

Recommended Amount: No more than 15,000 IU

Vitamin E- Protects cells from free-radical damage and boosts immunity, among other functions.

Recommended Amount: 30-100 IU

Vitamin C– Helps keep teeth and gums healthy and boosts the immune system. Also plays a role in blood-vessel health and the formation of collagen for healthy skin elasticity.

Recommended Amount: 60-1000 mg

Vitamin D– Promotes healthy bones, nerves and muscles; helps support the immune system; helps the body absorb calcium.

Recommended Amount: 600 IU (18-70 years); 800 IU daily (71+ years)

Vitamin K- Helps blood clot normally and plays a role in enhancing bone health.

Recommended Amount: 20 mcg or more

B Vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, folic acid, etc.) –

Recommended Amount: Varies by type

Calcium- Helps keep teeth and bones healthy; helps support blood clotting and proper working of nerve and muscles.

Recommended Amount: 1000-1200 mg (if a multi is doubling as your calcium supplement); split the dose up in order to get 500-600 mg per dose to maximize absorption.

Selenium- Helps protect the normal lifespan of cells and helps support the immune system.

Recommended Amount- 20-105 mcg

Magnesium- Involved in making protein, bone and DNA as well as regulating blood sugar levels, blood pressure and nerve function.

Recommended Amount– 100-350 mg

Zinc- Supports the Immune system and is needed to make proteins and DNA.

Recommended Amount- 8-23 mg

Iron- Helps oxygen move through the blood; needed for growth, development and normal cellular functions; involved in hormone and connective-tissue synthesis.

Recommended Amount– 18 mg for pre-menopausal women, no more than 10 mg for post-menopausal women. (Multis without iron are available and commonly recommended for most post-menopausal women.)

Copper– Helps form red blood cells and contributes to the health of nerves, bones, blood vessels and the immune system.

Recommended Amount– 0.9-10 mg

Chromium- Involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and protein.

Recommended Amount– 3 mcg or more

*Article reprinted from: Organic Spa Magazine, September-October 2014, pages 22-23.