With the kind of busy lifestyles we lead nowadays, it’s hard to have a wholesome diet. And, even if we do try to stay healthy, we’re bound to miss out on certain nutrients sometimes. Unfortunately, this might lead to deficiencies that we often discover only after we’ve had a health complication associated with it.
Women need a set of vitamins and minerals for their overall health. And, while it’s easy to pop one pill that has all of these nutrients, it’s important to understand why you need each of them. Here are five essential nutrients that women must have.
All the milk and dairy commercials have drilled the importance of “strong bones” in our minds. But, this mineral is particularly important for women since they start losing bone density as they age. This process gets accelerated further after menopause due to a drop in estrogen. And, lack of adequate calcium has been linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis.
While it is believed that you should have 1200 mg of calcium a day, recent research recommends up to 700 mg a day only. So, incorporate calcium-rich foods like dairy, seafood, and fortified foods into your diet. Supplementation with calcium is linked to an increased risk of kidney stones and heart attack, so be sure to consult a medical professional before buying calcium pills.1 2
2. B Vitamins
Condensing 8 essential vitamins – B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B12Folic acid –into one, B vitamins maintain metabolism, muscle tone, and the mind. But, for women, the most important B vitamin is folate (B9) which is aids in the formation of red blood cells and protects against cancer. It is also responsible for the development of the fetal nervous system, DNA synthesis, and cell growth.
Hence, it’s especially important to eat foods rich in, or take supplements of vitamin B9 during pregnancy. Deficiency of this vitamin might lead to an increased risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida (improper growth of the spinal cord) for the baby.Additionally, high intake of foods rich in vitamin B1 and B2 might alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Foods rich in B vitamin include seafood, dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, egg whites, mushrooms, leafy vegetables, meat, and seeds. If you decide to take a supplement for B vitamins, don’t forget to consult a doctor first.3 4
3. Vitamin A
This nutrient manages vision, the reproductive system, and the immune system. It also keeps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs functioning well. But, when it comes to women specifically, it’s important to note that vitamin A deficiency in pregnant women causes an eye condition called xerophthalmia which results in dry eyes and night blindness.
Deficiency in this nutrient in pregnant and lactating women also causes maternal and infant morbidity, slower infant growth and development, and increased anemia risk. Foods rich in vitamin A include organ meats, fish, leafy vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and fortified foods. If you’re planning on going for supplements, then it’s important to consider that high intakes of this nutrient might cause birth defects in women. So, it’s important to figure out a recommended dosage only after talking to your doctor.5
Most commonly discussed in relation to anemia, iron is responsible for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all other parts of the body. It is also a component of myoglobin, which is a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Besides this, iron is needed to make hormones and connective tissues.
In women, iron deficiency is most likely to be caused due to heavy periods and pregnancy, both of which deplete iron resources from the body. In pregnant women, specifically, iron supplements are required after the first trimester because the amount of blood in their body increases during this time, making it important to have enough iron for both her and the baby.
Too little iron during pregnancy increases the risk of iron deficiency anemia and infant’s risk of low birth weight, premature birth, stunted brain development, and low iron levels. Foods rich in iron include meat, beans, nuts, seafood, peas, dark chocolate, and tofu. But, iron supplements shouldn’t be self prescribed, so consult a professional before you head to the chemist.6 7
5. Vitamin C
If you’ve been popping vitamin C tablets all throughout the flu season, then it’s time to stop. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that vitamin C intake prevents a viral infection. However, what it does do is ensure the proper functioning of gums, tooth, bone, and body tissue formation.
It might also fight photoaging, hyperpigmentation, and tissue inflammation. Furthermore, it promotes tissue healing, healthy immune system and might prevent heart disease, prenatal problems, and eye infections. Vitamin C is also important for the absorption of iron.
A balanced diet doesn’t just have a mix of vegetables, fruits, and grains. It’s important to have a good balance of essential nutrients to avoid health complications. Go in for check ups regularly and keep a track of what you eat to stay healthy.
|↑1||What causes bone loss? US National Library Of Medicine.|
|↑2||How much calcium do you really need? Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑3||Vitamin B. Victoria State Government.|
|↑4||Chocano-Bedoya, Patricia O., JoAnn E. Manson, Susan E. Hankinson, Walter C. Willett, Susan R. Johnson, Lisa Chasan-Taber, Alayne G. Ronnenberg, Carol Bigelow, and Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson. “Dietary B vitamin intake and incident premenstrual syndrome.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2011): ajcn-009530.|
|↑5||Vitamin A. US Department Of Health And Human Sciences.|
|↑6||Iron-deficiency anemia. US Department Of Health And Human Sciences.|
|↑7||Iron. US Department Of Health And Human Sciences.|
|↑8||Nutrition – women’s extra needs. Victoria State Government.|
|↑9||Telang, Pumori Saokar. “Vitamin C in dermatology.” Indian dermatology online journal 4, no. 2 (2013): 143.|