I am a compulsive label reader. I can tell you about all kinds of horrible things that are in the foods you thought were healthy. I can tell you which brands of yoghurt are highest in protein and lowest in sugars, or which jarred tomato sauces use low-grade, refined cooking oils instead of extra virgin olive oil.
Eating Paleo means that for the most part we buy only whole, unprocessed and unpackaged foods, but there are still a handful of items that make more sense to buy pre-made than to make from scratch, due to the time and/or expense involved in producing them. Examples of this include oils, coconut milk, almond milk, butter, ghee, and yoghurt. When we buy pre-packaged foods, I try my best to find those that are as “natural” as possible, and do not contain unnecessary fillers, emulsifiers, thickeners, sweeteners and other additives, hence why I am so dilligent about reading labels.
So given all of this obsessive label reading, imagine my surprise when I discovered just the other day that I have been taking my prenatal vitamin at one third of the recommended dose for more than four months! How on earth did this happen?!
Back in March, I wrote about my supplement regimen, extolling the virtues of “The Ultimate One – Expecting” prenatal vitamin. For years before becoming pregnant, I had been taking their “Active Women” multivitamin, and I still have yet to find a more comprehensive multivitamin for the money. When I was looking at prenatal vitamins, again, “The Ultimate One” seemed to come out on top in every way, and was by content, the best value. Or so I thought…
I made the assumption, based on my previous experience with their products and the name of the vitamin, that I only needed to take one caplet per day to achieve the stated intake. I don’t think it helped that the prenatal vitamin is sold in bottles of 60 caplets, just like their regular vitamins, and is priced slightly higher per unit (which makes sense for a specialty product). Most supplements are packaged in multiples of 30 that correspond to a one, two or three-month supply. Thus, it seemed perfectly logical to me that one bottle would equal a two month supply.
While I did read the package to compare the ingredients to other prenatal vitamins, I have to say that the teensy tiny writing in the product information block on the back of the package didn’t make it super obvious to yours truly that the stated dosage was in fact three caplets per day, not one. Even once I got the first inkling the other day that I might have been under-consuming my vitamin, it still took some very careful looking to find this information. So now I find that what I thought was a convenient and well-priced prenatal vitamin is in fact three times as expensive as I thought it was, comes packaged as a meagre 20-day supply, and requires me to remember to take it three times per day (this simply won’t happen — I have a hard enough time remembering to take my vitamins on a once daily basis!).
I have given it some thought, compared the contents to those of my regular vitamin, and decided that when I finish the present bottle, I am going to give up on prenatal supplements and revert to my regular one-per-day Active Women formula. The differences between the two are minor in the grand scheme of things, and I figure that the baby and I have been thriving thus far on one third of the dose of the prenatal vitamin, so we’ll actually be getting more micronutrients when we make the switch. My regular vitamin has less Vitamin C and D, less calcium, less magnesium, less iron, and no copper and phosphorous, but I already supplement Vitamin D, iron and magnesium, and I highly doubt that my present diet leaves me deficient in any of the other mentioned micronutrients. The folate content of both vitamins is the same.
All that said, I’m wondering if this mistake has perhaps caused me to become deficient in iron (hence the recent spate of bruising). My iron supplement contains 25 milligrams, and I thought I’d been getting an additional 27 milligrams from the prenatal vitamin, but was in fact only taking in one third that amount. Switching back to my regular vitamin will boost my iron supplementation to a total of 43 milligrams.
And now I am left wondering whether a multivitamin is really necessary anyway, in the context of a nutrient-rich Paleo style diet. Probably not.