While it’s possible to get all of the vitamins and minerals from a carefully selected food and a nutrient-rich diet, research shows that many women still experience at least one type of nutrient deficiency, if not more. There are 13 vitamins important for women’s health—including Vitamin C, A, D, E, K and the B Vitamins (such as Thiamine and Vitamin B12), plus a number of important trace minerals and fatty acids. It’s believed that around 30 percent of all women are deficient in one or more of these vitamins and minerals, and for many women the risk only increases with age.
Antioxidant Vitamins (Vitamins A, C and E)
Vitamin A, C and E fight free radical damage, which is the underlying cause of aging and many diseases that affect the heart, eyes, skin and brain. Vitamin C improves immunity against colds and infections by enhancing the effect of white blood cells in microbial killing. It is also important in protecting the vision and skin from damage caused by UV radiation and environmental pollution. Vitamin A and E are strong antioxidants in protecting healthy cells from oxidative damage, and halt cell mutations.
Vitamin D3 can be obtained from certain foods like eggs, dairy products and mushrooms; however, the majority of vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure. This vitamin is important for bone/skeletal health, brain functions, preventing mood disorders and hormonal balance because it acts very similarly to a hormone once inside the body. Both men and women are at high risks for vitamin D deficiencies since more people spend a large majority of their time indoors.
There are two main types of vitamin K, both of which we acquire from our diets. Vitamin K1 is found in vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in dairy products. These vitamins are important for building and maintaining strong bones, blood clotting, and preventing heart disease. Studies have shown that individuals who increase their intake of dietary vitamin K have a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. Many women fall short in this valuable nutrient, which is known to be reduced when taking antibiotics for an extended period of time, suffering from intestinal problems such as IBS or inflammatory bowel disease, or taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
According to recent studies, women between the ages of 20–39 have the lowest urine iodine levels compared to all other age groups. Iodine intake is especially important for young women looking to become pregnant or who are pregnant because it plays a role in brain development of the growing foetus. It’s also crucial for making proper amounts of thyroid hormones. Most people eating a western diet consume a good deal of iodized salt found in packaged foods and refined grain products, which has iodine added purposefully to help prevent deficiencies. However, the best way to get iodine is from iodine-rich foods like sea veggies and seafood.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body but also one of the most common deficiencies. As an electrolyte, magnesium helps regulate calcium, potassium and sodium and is essential for over 300 different biochemical functions in the body. Soil depletion has resulted in many crops being lower in magnesium than in past generations — plus health conditions like digestive disorders, leaky gut syndrome, chronic stress and ongoing medication use can all lower magnesium levels. For older women, the risk of deficiency might be even greater. Studies have shown that many older women are prone to experiencing reduced magnesium intestinal absorption, reduced magnesium bone stores and excess urinary loss.
This electrolyte, which is actually the body’s most abundant mineral, can be obtained from drinking raw milk, yogurt or kefir, leafy green vegetables (such as collard greens and kale), broccoli, okra and beans. Getting enough calcium is important for bone strength, but it’s also crucial for regulating heart rhythms, aiding in muscle functions, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and many other functions related to nerve signalling. Calcium, when consumed with other key nutrients like Vitamin D and Magnesium, has been shown to offer protection against some of the biggest threats to women: heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer.
BSc Alternative Medicine; MSc Pharmacology
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