Detailed below is a list of the vitamins and minerals that women require, an explanation about what they do for us and what foods contain these essential elements.
Firstly, it is important to remember that by consuming a healthy balanced diet, this will provide the vitamins and minerals you require and is the best way to stay healthy but some women choose to take a supplement. Secondly, burger and fries plus a supplement won’t work!
Supplements are defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins for Women
Vitamins are defined as any group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet.
Vitamin A – promoted an antioxidant to boost your immune system. May slow skin aging.
Caution: Can be toxic taken in large doses.
Food sources include: sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, dried apricots, bell peppers, fish, liver, tropical fruits
Vitamin B Group
B5 (pantothenic acid)
B9 (folic acid)
These vitamins help your body to make energy from the food you eat and help to form red blood cells.
Food sources include: fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, leafy green vegetables, beans, peas. Many cereals and some breads have added B vitamins.
A lack of B12 or B6 can cause anemia. B9 is important for young women planning to become pregnant.
Vitamin C – promoted as an antioxidant to boost your immune system.
Food sources include: citrus fruit, leafy vegetables, red or green peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, cantaloup
Vitamin D – known as the sunshine drug. Known to reduce risk of breast cancer, offer protection from ovarian cancer and diabetes. Helps calcium absorption and plays a large part in muscle function.
For more information on the benefits of Vitamin D see this article: Vitamin D Facts.
Food sources include: milk, orange juice, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, boiled eggs. Fortified foods are a good source. Vitamin D is added to milk and other dairy products and cereals. Check the food label to see if vitamin D has been added to your staple foods.
Vitamin E – may protect against heart disease. Some women find that a high dose of vitamin E help with hot flushes, however, whilst studies have been encouraging it would appear that vitamin E has a relatively minor effect on hot flushes.
Food sources include: sunflower seeds, paprika and red chilli powder, almonds, dried apricots, cooked spinach, pickled green olives.
Also known for its beneficial effects on skin and hair.
Minerals for Women
Defined as a solid inorganic substance of natural occurrence.
Calcium – women start to lose bone density in their twenties, therefore, it is crucial that women get enough calcium. In the past it was recommended that postmenopausal women take a calcium supplement, however, current evidence suggests that taking a calcium supplement can have a detrimental risk v benefit outcome for some women. Taking a supplement of 1000mg daily is now associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney stones, constipation and gastrointestinal symptoms. So while it is sensible to increase your calcium intake with calcium-rich foods, it is now thought that more is not necessarily better. If you are already taking a calcium supplement, it may be time to reconsider and revise your approach. You can do this together with your healthcare professional who will be able to offer you a blood test to check your calcium levels. The outcome will determine whether your diet is giving you what you need or if you need a small amount of supplement. The mineral also helps to build strong teeth and nourishes your nervous system.
Food sources include yoghurt, milk, cheese, canned fish (particularly sardines and salmon), green vegetables, brazil nuts, dried apricots, tofu.
Phosphorus – an essential nutrient for cell functioning and regulation of calcium. Phosphorus is a nutrient that we all need and is found in almost all food, therefore, deficiency is rare. Bran and wheatgerm, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, cashews and almond, soya, beans, cheese, eggs, sardines.
Magnesium – a supplement many help in preventing bone loss. A lack of magnesium may play a role in PMS and ME.
Food sources include – dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans and lentils, whole-grains, avocados and low fat dairy.
Iron – too little of this mineral and you can become anemic (lacking in red blood cells), your immune system can also become weak. (Iron is also good for women experiencing heavy periods).
Food sources – you can probably get what you need from one cup of some breakfast cereals or iron rich goods like red meat. If these are not part of your diet you may need a supplement. Take advice from your healthcare professional as too much iron can be harmful.
Zinc – small doses helps with skin damage and repair as well as promoting a healthy immune system.
Food sources include – oysters, toasted wheat germ, veal liver, roast beef, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, dark chocolate and cocoa powder, lamb, crab.
Copper – small doses may prevent bone loss. (Copper supplements should be taken alongside zinc.
Food sources include – liver (pate), oysters, sesame seeds, cocoa powder and chocolate, nuts, calamari and lobster, sun-dried tomatoes.
Manganese – low levels of manganese can result from a highly processed diet of convenience food. It is sometimes recommended that iron and manganese are taken together.
Food sources include – spices and herbs, wheat germ and bran, nuts, mussels, oysters and clams, roasted pumpkin, flaxseed and sesame seeds.
Selenium – selenium supplements have been associated with a reduction in cancers although study outcomes vary. To achieve this protective effect you will need higher amounts of selenium than can be provided by diet alone.
Food sources include – brazil nuts are the richest source, shellfish, liver, fish, brain, sunflower seeds, bacon and pork chops, lobster and crab, shrimp and prawn.
Probiotics – In order to be of benefit, probiotics must reach the intestine in sufficient quantities and so resist the effects of stomach acids. Certain strains of probiotics balance the intestinal microbiome, which helps support normal digestive and immune health. You can boost friendly gut bacteria by including low-fat probiotic milk, yogurts and other dairy products in your daily diet.
Tips For Taking MENOPAUSE Supplements
Get the vitamins and minerals (nutrients) your body needs through food first by eating a healthy diet consisting of fruit, vegetables and whole-grains..
Make sure that you absorb the nutrients: take your supplements as directed in the information and avoid caffeine as it inhibits absorption.
Always read the labels of ingredients and follow the recommended dosage. You must consult with your healthcare professional if you are taking prescribed medication and to ensure that the supplement will be beneficial for you.
Swallow them whole: take easily absorbed capsules not hard or liquid supplements.
Alan R Gaby, Forrest Batz, Rick Chester, “A-Z Guide to Drug, Herb, Vitamin Interaction: Improve Your Health And Avoid Side Effects When Using Common Medications.” (2006)
Jewel Pookrum, “Vitamins and Minerals from A-Z, (Ethno-Conscious Series), (2010)
Menopause. Retrieved from http://www.marilynglenville.com/womens-health-issues/menopause/
Diet, Exercise & Lifestyle. Retrieved from http://www.menopausematters.co.uk/diet.php
Healthy Eating for Strong Bones. Retrieved from https://www.nos.org.uk/healthy-bones-and-risks/healthy-bones?
Probiotics. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/probiotics/Pages/Introduction.aspx