Those Flintstones vitamins you took as a kid may have tasted like candy, but they were good for you. And while you may be a little old for tablets in the shape of Pebbles and Bam Bam, vitamins can still make a difference, particularly for busy college students who often don’t have time to eat a balanced diet.
“College-age women are at the age where they’re building up to their peak bone density, so calcium and vitamin D are especially important in building strong bones,” says Laura Thompson, a nutritionist at Sargent College’s Nutrition and Fitness Center. “If women aren’t eating three servings of calcium a day or not drinking vitamin D–fortified soy milk, then perhaps they could take a calcium supplement if they’re not already taking a multivitamin.”
Multivitamins contain a variety of nutrients that are important for overall health, such as vitamin C or calcium. Vegans, vegetarians, athletes, and smokers may benefit from multivitamins, which can be purchased at grocery stores or drugstores. (In addition to other harmful side effects, smoking decreases the absorption of vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and calcium.)
But Thompson has a word of caution. “Many of the processed foods we eat, such as cereals, snack bars, and orange juice, are all fortified,” she says, “so we get many extra vitamins and minerals from those foods, which can make up for not eating a variety of foods.” Taking a multivitamin on top of fortified foods could mean you are overloading on certain nutrients, she says.
How can you tell if you should be taking a multivitamin? Thompson suggests evaluating your diet through the Nutrition and Fitness Center’s (NFC) healthy meal planning session offered to all students.
Amy Laskowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.