According to CDC, vitamins are defined as “any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth, development and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.”
While vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth, soil and water and are absorbed by plants.
Simple enough, right?
While all experts seem to agree that the best way to get your vitamins is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, they also seem to always be weighing in on which vitamins you need and which ones you don’t. In addition, doctors say that different people need different nutrients at different times in their lives.
So, what are the most important vitamins for women, for total and long-lasting wellness?
Bone mass decreases as you get older, which means your body needs more calcium to lower your risk of osteoporosis. Women typically need 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily, depending on their age.
How to get more: You can reach this daily requirement by consuming dairy products (preferably low-free), drinking pure orange juice that has been fortified with calcium, or taking calcium supplements.
Vitamin D always seems to be in the news as a powerful nutrient in the fight against multiple diseases and conditions. Also, without vitamin D, your body can’t process calcium. But did you know that, as you get older, you lose some of your ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D?
How to get more: Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D (ten minutes, according to doctors, should be fine). However, the sun is less likely to provide your daily needs at higher latitudes, in the winter, or if you’re older or have darker skin. Other sources include salmon, tuna, and fortified milk. Again, it may also be particularly important for older women (50+) to take a multivitamin containing both vitamin D and calcium.
If you’re still menstruating, you need to be sure you’re getting an adequate amount of iron in order to prevent anemia. If you’re past menopause, you tend to need less iron.
How to get it: Great sources of iron include meat, poultry, beans, eggs, and tofu. However, doctors note that it’s important to pair iron-rich meals with foods that contain vitamin C, like orange juice or citrus fruits, because vitamin C helps increase iron absorption. If you’re a woman who has undergone menopause, and need to take a multivitamin, choose one without iron, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant need to get more folic acid; it has been shown that low levels of this B vitamin can lead to birth defects in the baby affecting the brain and spinal cord.
How to get it: In addition to supplements, folic acid can be found in orange juice, beans, and green vegetables, and in foods such as breads and flour that have been fortified with it.
Beta-carotene is one of the most powers antioxidants around. Antioxidants help protect your body from cell damage and help fight off cancer.
How to get it: Food sources are best ways to get in your beta-carotene, so be sure to include carrots, apricots, papaya, cantaloupe, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and mangoes in your diet. Orange is good!
Vitamin B6 helps in the formation of red-blood cells.
How to get it: Some of the top food sources for vitamin B6 are sunflower seeds, pistachios, tuna, chicken, dried fruit, bananas, avocados, spinach and bran.
B12 is an essential vitamin with roles throughout the body. It is needed for the development and maintenance of a healthy nervous system, the production of DNA and formation of red blood cells.
How to get it: Chicken breast, eggs, yogurt, milk and fortified cereals. However, it’s important to note that women over 50 should make sure that their multivitamin also contains B12, since as many as 30 percent of older people may lack sufficient stomach acid to absorb adequate amounts of B12 from natural sources.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These acids have been shown to act like natural anti-inflammatory substances in the body. They may also be important in helping to keep your heart healthy. As a woman gets older, her levels of estrogen decline, and that puts her at greater risk for heart disease.
How to get it: Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, is a great source of omega-3 fats, and pure orange juice is often fortified with omega-3s. In addition, or as an alternative, fish oil capsules are excellent sources as well.
How Much Is Enough?
Did you notice that, while reading about various types of essential vitamins and nutrients, the exact amounts you should be taking weren’t included? This is because there is much speculation that the amounts of nutrients you need depends greatly on your age, your current health conditions, etc. So, in order to figure out much of a certain nutrient you need is to talk to your doctor, since they’re the ones who have a more complete picture of your overall needs.
How To Find A Great Multivitamin
Although most nutritional needs can be met through a healthy, well-balanced diet, many women, especially older women, can benefit from a good multivitamin. But how do you know what a “good multivitamin” is? In addition to checking with your doctor or a pharmacist, When looking for multivitamins check to see that the bottle has a USP (United States Pharmacopeia) or DSVP (Dietary Supplement Verification Program) stamp. These organizations assure that the content claims on the label are true.