Do prenatal vitamins have benefits, even if you’re not pregnant?

This essential macromineral promotes fetal development by helping in the formation of bones and teeth, and also helps maintain maternal bone density.* Calcium is also important for nerve conduction, muscle movement, normal blood circulation, and circulation hormonal.*

“Calcium is an extremely important mineral that is routinely under-consumed in America, and guess where a developing fetus gets its calcium from if the pregnant mother does not get enough calcium daily? The baby gets it from the bones of his mother. Although he is thrifty, this is obviously not a good thing,” Ferira warns. In other words, daily calcium intake should be the top priority of food and supplement sources during the pregnancy.

Although you usually won’t find large amounts of calcium (like 500 milligrams and up) in prenatal vitamins. This is less because of its potential to compete with iron absorption (again, at very high calcium levels) and more because “calcium is a truly bulky mineral that requires a lot of ‘real estate’ during the prenatal period,” says Ferira. “You’d be looking at a bunch of capsules or tablets if the prenatal formula includes 300 milligrams or more of calcium, plus all the other prenatal essentials.”

If you’ve been told to increase your calcium intake, it’s best to take a diet-focused approach and then take the appropriate amount of supplements for your unique nutritional needs to “fill in those gaps,” like said Ferira. Extra calcium is best taken with food and away from other supplements to avoid stomach upset and promote proper absorption.

Ferira recommends spacing any standalone calcium supplement away from your prenatal multi (or any multivitamin, for that matter) to optimize its absorption. She also shares that “morning can be tough in pregnancy, but minerals can also be tough on the tummy in the morning for non-pregnant women, so listen to your instincts (literally) and personalize your approach to supplement timing.”

While teens ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily, adult women and men ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams daily from food and supplements combined. whether they are pregnant, breastfeeding or neither.

To put this daily need into perspective so you can plan accordingly, “one serving of dairy products, such as one serving of plain Greek yogurt or one cup of milk, provides about 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium, respectively.” notes Ferira. “And before you ask about greens, yes, the plant kingdom also offers calcium, but in much lower doses. A whole cup of chopped broccoli or kale will give you about 50 milligrams of calcium,” adds she.

You may still be wondering if prenatal vitamins are appropriate if pregnancy is not in the near future. If you’re hoping to boost your energy or strengthen and shine your hair, keep reading.

Patricia J. Callender