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Your nutritional needs tend to change in accordance with your advancing age and overall health. However, there are certain vitamins that are required by everyone in different amounts to sustain important body functions.
The female body has to undergo drastic physical and biological changes during the process of reproductive maturity, which is why women generally require more of certain vitamins than men.
The reproductive process starts with menstruation during the teenage years that involves monthly loss of blood, followed by pregnancy wherein you have to carry another life inside your body, lactation once the child is born, and finally menopause.
Each reproductive phase can be quite taxing on the body and has its own nutritional demands. Women need to adjust their diet according to their evolving nutritional needs.
Which vitamins are essential for women, and what foods can provide these vitamins?
Women require certain vitamins more than others. Here’s a list of such must-have vitamins along with their best food sources that can be included in your daily diet to help you meet the recommended intake:
- Iron: Iron is abundantly present in dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, cereals, beans, lean red meat, fish, chicken, and turkey. Consuming these foods with those rich in vitamin C can lead to better absorption of iron in the body.
- Calcium: Calcium is found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt as well as dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
- Magnesium: Magnesium can be obtained from green vegetables such as okra, certain varieties of beans, unrefined whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A can be supplied by leafy greens as well as orange and yellow-colored vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots. Other great sources include tomatoes, fruits, dairy products, liver, fish, and fortified cereals.
- Folate: Folate in pure natural form can be derived from green leafy vegetables, avocados, beans, eggs, and peanuts. Synthetic folate, or folic acid, is used to fortify cereals, pasta, bread, and rice or is available as supplements.
- Biotin: Biotin needs can be met through a variety of foods such as cauliflower, sweet potatoes, avocados, raspberries, liver meat, almonds, seeds, eggs, milk, and grains.
- B-vitamins: These vitamins can be procured from fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, green leafy vegetables, legumes, many kinds of cereal, and some breads.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is available in ample amounts in all fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits, red pepper, and broccoli.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is majorly found in fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, and fish liver oils. Small amounts are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Many people also meet some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. So, if you live somewhere where sunny days are rare, you may want to consider eating extra vitamin D-rich foods or taking a supplement.
- Omega-3 acids: These beneficial fatty acids are richly available in fish, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel. They can also be derived from plants and nut oils.
Do vitamins aid in weight loss?
No. Weight loss is best achieved when consuming a well-balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle. Weight loss occurs when calories consumed are less than calories expended.
Is it safe for women to take multivitamins every day?
If one consumes a varied diet, a multivitamin (MVI) likely is not needed.
A daily MVI is likely not harmful. The water-soluble vitamins (B and C) are excreted via urine if not needed in the body.
It is always best to check with your healthcare provider before starting a new drug, medicine, or vitamin.
What are the best anti-aging vitamins for women?
Antioxidants: Vitamins A (retinol, beta-carotene, and carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Antioxidants may slow down the aging process and may lower the risk of some health conditions. They appear to play a role in protecting you from free radicals, which are tiny particles your body makes that can tear cells apart.
What are the best vitamins for women who are trying to conceive?
Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid are important for women who are trying to conceive and/or become pregnant.
Vitamins B6 and B12: These are involved in several critical body functions, such as the conversion of food into energy, metabolism, building muscle tone, improving mental acuity, proper nervous system activity, and maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and eyes.
A deficiency of these vitamins during pregnancy can hamper fetal development and can lead to birth defects in the newborn child. Moreover, the need for both vitamins B6 and B12 tend to increase slightly as you move from the childbearing to the breastfeeding stage.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pregnant women are advised to take at least 1.9 mg of vitamin B6 per day, which increases to 2 mg when they start breastfeeding their newborn. (1) Similarly, the recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 is 2.6 mcg for pregnant women and 2.8 mcg for those who are lactating. (2)
Folate: Folate is a B vitamin that produces and maintains new cells, including red blood cells, and it is necessary for proper brain function. (3)
Because most women are unable to meet their folate needs through diet alone, doctors usually recommend a synthetic version of the same called folic acid, which is available in supplement form or in fortified foods.
This vitamin is essential for all women, but especially for those who are pregnant as it helps in the development of the fetus.
The daily recommended intake of folate/folic acid for women of reproductive age is 400 mcg, which increases to 600 mcg during pregnancy.
Once the child is born, the folic acid dose is tapered to 500 mcg per day. (4) Childbearing women who do not get enough folic acid are more likely to give birth to babies with spinal cord problems, such as spina bifida.
What vitamin supplements are good for teenage girls?
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. You want to build bone density in your teens and twenties because the body will lose some as you age.
In your twenties, you need at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day and 600 IU of vitamin D daily.
Do women need to take multivitamins to meet their nutritional needs?
Eating a varied, well-balanced diet is the best way to fulfill your nutritional needs, but some people may have to resort to alternative sources.
Every woman should strive to meet her quota of essential vitamins through whole foods first, failing which she can consider taking supplements or gummy vitamins.
Always check with your doctor and/or dietitian before taking vitamins, especially if you are pregnant or lactating.
Despite the popularity and extensive use of multivitamins in recent times, studies have shown that they do not necessarily reduce the risk of certain chronic illnesses. (6) Moreover, many multivitamin supplements are largely unregulated.
If you follow a specific eating pattern or diet that omits specific foods or food groups, you may need to supplement certain vitamins.
For example, vegetarians need to supplement B12, whereas vegans need to supplement B12 as well as vitamin A.Also Read: The Most Important Vitamins for Women