The Best Vitamins For Women
The modern woman is faced with many challenges - balancing work, family life, social life, exercise and relaxation time - and it’s not always easy to stay on top of nutritional requirements.
And with the added confusion of diet trends constantly coming and going, how can you possibly know which plan will ensure you get enough of the best vitamins for women?
Add to this the stress of environmental pollution and the decreasing nutrient content of our foods and things become even more challenging.
So what can you do to ensure you don’t become nutritionally deficient in this day and age, and more importantly, how can you recognise any existing deficiencies and correct them?
Let’s read on and find out..
Why Certain Vitamins And Minerals Are So Important For Women
The truth is, most women could benefit from an extra boost in their daily nutritional intake.
Even if you have a carefully planned, highly nutritious diet that you stick to religiously it is very likely that you have favourite meals that you tend to eat time and time again.
There’s nothing wrong with having a strong routine as this can help with stress management and time management, but eating the same foods week in, week out, can lead to you falling short in certain nutrients.
As a woman, you have different nutritional needs than your male counterparts due to possessing different biology and experiencing different bodily functions and processes.
From losing menstrual blood on a regular basis to the huge nutritional requirements of pregnancy and breastfeeding, nutritional needs for women can be much more demanding.
If you follow a strict diet template of vegetarianism, veganism, paleo or keto you need to be even more educated and focused in order to get enough of the right nutrients.
These days it’s not enough to simply cover your basic nutritional needs. You also must be aware of what could be actively depleting you of those hard earned nutrients on a regular basis.
Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, pollution and stress can all have a negative impact on your nutritional status and strip you of precious nutrients.
And finally, food just ain’t what it used to be, with soils becoming depleted from over farming and intensive agriculture, the same foods you eat today aren’t as nutritious as they used to be.
Taking all of this into account, it seems that now, more than ever is a great time to consider adding a nutritional supplement to your routine and making sure you get enough of all the best vitamins for women.
Is A Women’s Multivitamin Enough?
Many women take a multivitamin for overall health and disease prevention, however this is a broad approach with very few immediate, perceivable benefits.
On top of this, multivitamins often contain cheap, synthetic ingredients and are unlikely to be a good source of the best vitamins for women.A better approach to supplementation is to focus on the outcome desired, such as:
Preventing anaemia and improving energy levels
Balancing hormone levels
Preventing hypothyroidism and boosting the metabolism
Faster fat loss
The Best Vitamins For Women To Overcome Common Deficiencies
The most common deficiencies in women are:
Iron - An Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia which is characterised by constant fatigue and easy bruising.
Iodine - Low iodine levels can lead to impaired thyroid function and a sluggish metabolism, this typically results in extreme fatigue and unwanted weight gain.
Vitamin D - Being low in Vitamin D can result in an underperforming immune system, poor skin quality and low energy levels.
Calcium - Low calcium levels can lead to boor bone health and osteoporosis and if levels get too low, even abnormal heart rhythms.
Magnesium - Magnesium deficiency can cause cramps, insomnia and anxiety. Women who exercise regularly or experience PMS are more at risk of developing a magnesium deficiency.
Folate - Folate deficiency can lead to the inability to produce enough red blood cells which, when combined with an iron deficiency can lead to severe fatigue. For pregnant women, a folate deficiency can dramatically increase the risk of birth defects.
Iron is arguably the most important nutrient for you to focus on as a woman, due to the regular loss of blood via menstruation, this means your iron levels tend to fluctuate quite a lot.
Around two thirds of your body's iron stores are found in Hemoglobin. This little molecule helps to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body, so if you’re low in iron you may feel out of breath when performing simple tasks like walking up a set of stairs.
Vitamin B12 is very important for the production of red blood cells, so a deficiency can increase your chances of developing anaemia.
Vitamin B12 helps to lower homocysteine levels in the blood, an inflammatory protein which, when elevated for too long, can increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and mood disorders like depression.
Magnesium plays many roles in the body and can help you improve your sleep quality, and reduce the severity of PMS symptoms and period pain.
Magnesium can also help to prevent osteoporosis by improving the absorption of calcium.
Iodine’s most important function is in maintaining healthy thyroid function and therefore a healthy metabolism and consistent energy levels.
When it comes to pregnancy, adequate iodine levels in the body are needed for proper development of a baby’s brain cells.
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is very important when it comes to immune health, healthy hair, skin and nails, and also for improving mood and preventing depression.
Ever noticed how you tend to be happier in the summer rather than the winter? This has a lot to do with your Vitamin D levels.
You probably know calcium is important for strong bones and teeth and for preventing osteoporosis, but there are other benefits to maintaining adequate calcium levels too.
Calcium also works with Vitamin K to maintain healthy blood clotting in the body. It also helps to convert cholesterol into sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
And calcium also aids Vitamin B12 absorption, a very important vitamin we discussed earlier.
Folate, otherwise known as Vitamin B9, is mostly known for its importance when it comes to the development of a healthy baby.
It can also help with lowering homocysteine levels just like our friend Vitamin B12.
Folate may also help with preventing mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
What Foods Contain The Best Vitamins For Women?
Most kinds of meat contain vitamin B12 and iron, but red meat in particular is your absolute best source for these. For bonus points like extra omega 3 fats, try to go grass-fed.
Many nuts contain a variety of important vitamins and minerals but should be eaten in moderation due to their high calorie content and the presence of some “anti-nutrients” which in high doses may actually prevent you from absorbing some of these nutrients.
Almonds are a great source of magnesium, calcium and iron and taste great!
Hazelnuts also do well when it comes to their magnesium, calcium and iron content and are not too far behind almonds.
Cashews may not have much calcium but when it comes to iron and magnesium, they contain quite a lot, with even more magnesium per serve than both almonds and hazelnuts.
Eggs are one of the only dietary sources of Vitamin D out there. Eggs also contain saturated fat and cholesterol which are important in the formation of sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Leafy greens, particularly the darker types like spinach and kale, contain good amounts of magnesium, Vitamin B12, folate and iron.
Having said that, these plants also contain a lot of “anti-nutrients” which can interfere with the absorption of the nutrients you need.
So it’s best to consume them lightly cooked, by throwing them into a fry pan for a few minutes or quickly steaming or blanching them.
I like tossing a few big handfuls of baby spinach into the pan as I’m finishing up my grass fed beef. This way it wilts to a smaller size while also absorbing some of the delicious flavour from the meat. It’s an easy and tasty way to dramatically increase your leafy green intake.
Sea vegetables like Dulse and Kombu are primarily sought out for their iodine content, but are also a good source of magnesium, calcium and iron.
Vegan and Vegetarian Diets
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you have a higher risk of becoming deficient in iron, zinc, and Vitamins B12, D and K, than your meat eating counterparts.
Another important nutrient often overlooked by many people following these diet protocols is saturated fat, which provides your body with the cholesterol needed to produce sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
As a vegetarian you can get a good dose of saturated fat by eating eggs and other fatty animal products such as cheese.
If you’re a vegan however, your options are much more limited. But don’t despair, both coconut oil and palm oil (farmed sustainably of course) are great sources of saturated fat that are vegan friendly.
Keto and Paleo Diets
The highest risk phase for those on a strict ketogenic diet is the first few transition weeks.
As you make the switch from burning carbs to primarily burning fats for fuel, you’re at risk of developing a deficiency in certain minerals due to the loss of stored glucose (glycogen) and the water attached to it.
These include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
The same risk applies to the paleo diet. Particularly if you’re not consuming enough carbohydrates via paleo approved carb sources such as root vegetables like potato and sweet potato.
As the paleo diet focuses on real, fresh foods, there is also an increased risk of developing low sodium levels.
You can counteract this simply by adding more salt and natural sauces to your foods.
A pinch of sea salt or himalayan salt with your first glass of water for the day is also a good option, as is coconut water or slightly salted water after a big sweaty workout.
Choosing The Right Supplement
By now you may be considering taking a nutritional supplement to help you cover all your bases and prevent the issues that come with the deficiencies described above.
This begs an important question: Which supplement should you take?
With so many options on the market and thousands of new supplements released each year, the choice can be confusing and overwhelming.
For a long time, multivitamin tablets have been the dominant choice for most people who want to cover their bases and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Before grabbing the nearest multivitamin, think about this…
Most multivitamin supplements contain synthetic, hard to absorb versions of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Add to this the fact that they are in the form of a hard to digest, compressed tablet, and it is very unlikely that you will be able to absorb many of the nutrients contained within.
This is where the ‘expensive urine’ anecdote comes in, implying that all you’re really doing by taking a multivitamin, is creating urine that contains a whole lot of unabsorbed ingredients.
As well as being difficult to absorb, some synthetic vitamin supplements can actually be dangerous.
Companies often compensate for low quality ingredients by increasing the dosage. An increased dosage means an increased risk of toxicity, particularly from fat soluble vitamins such as A and D, and minerals such as zinc and selenium.
There is a healthier alternative to synthetic multivitamins...
All-in-one greens powders are gaining popularity as a more powerful alternative to traditional multivitamins.
Greens powders that use fruits, vegetables, superfoods and natural sources of key vitamins and minerals provide your body with the nutrients it needs in a highly absorbable, easy to digest form.
Now of course, eating a diet high in nutritious, whole foods is always the best way to achieve optimal health in the long term, and this is unlikely to ever change.
But considering changes in your routine, changes in the environment, changes in the food supply and your natural tendency to stick to foods you know and enjoy, it’s a wise move to add some additional “nutritional insurance” to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need each day.
Where safety is concerned, greens powders are favoured over synthetic multivitamins.
Not only do these powders contain highly absorbable, natural sources of vitamins and minerals, they also contain the right amounts of each.
In a powder there’s no need to jack up the doses. Each component is added in the right amount, ready for your body to absorb.
As you can see, it’s not just about finding the best vitamins for women, it’s about using the best source of these vitamins. Even those of us with excellent diets stand to benefit from some additional nutritional insurance.
And now, more than ever, there are great options on the market to cover all your nutritional bases with a very low risk and a very high reward.