Vitamins can be good for you, but could never replace the food pyramid.

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Multivitamin Health Benefits

Eating enough food that will supply your body with the recommended daily value (DV) of nutrients your body needs is possible, but not easy. You'd really need to be vigilant about what you eat and keep track of exactly what goes into your mouth. If you're busy and on-the-go like most of us, you may have a hard time doing this, in which case a multivitamin may be right for you.

Here are some basic rules you can use to find a multivitamin that works for you:

  • For men: You won't need as much iron as a woman, only about eight milligrams per day. You can most likely get that much iron from your diet if you're a meat eater. Pork, beef, shrimp, turkey and liver all contain a lot of iron. So do potatoes with the skin on, lentils and beans, and oysters. Most multivitamins for men contain no iron at all. They also contain extra selenium, a mineral, and vitamin E to help prevent prostate problems.
  • For women: You need extra iron because of a loss of the mineral during monthly menstruation, about 18 milligrams per day. If you've made it through menopause, then congratulations -- you'll now need a little more vitamin D in your multivitamin. Folic acid is big for women who plan on having children. It prevents certain neural tube defects like spina bifida, so doctors recommend that all women take extra folic acid during their childbearing years. There are also pre-natal vitamins specific to women looking to get pregnant that contain more folic acid and extra vitamin A.
  • For kids: Contrary to what you might think, kids don't really need large amounts of vitamins and minerals. A lot of children's foods are already fortified with vitamins and minerals, so if your child eats a well-balanced diet then he or she may not even need a multivitamin. Vitamin D is important for bone growth and it's difficult to get enough through diet, so most children's multivitamins contain large amounts of it. Multivitamins for kids often look and taste like candy, so never allow them to take the pills themselves and keep them out of reach.
  • For the over-60s: If you're more than 60 years old, then you should probably take a daily multivitamin. Sadly, as we age we lose the ability to absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. B12 is one of these, so multivitamins for older folks contain more of it. Vita­min K can help protect you from hip troubles, but it can also mess with your blood-thinning medication, so consult your doctor for a recommended multivitamin that jibes with your meds. Too much iron is no good for the older set, so most multivitamins for the elderly don't contain any. Look for men's and women's formulas for multivitamins formulated for people over 60.
  • For vegetarians and vegans: If you're one of these people, you'll have a laundry list of vitamins and minerals you won't be getting without a meat and dairy-rich diet. Iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and B12 are likely to be scarce if you're the type to eat Tofurkey with soy gravy every Thanksgiving. Choose a vegetarian specific multivitamin to help you restore these necessary nutrients.

Despite the fact that multivitamins are recommended for many people, not everyone needs them, and some doctors even think that they can do more harm than good in certain cases. Studies in the past few years have revealed some startling new findings for people who rely on multivitamins to provide their recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.