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A Mini-Guide to Vitamins and Supplements for Women

A Mini-Guide to Vitamins and Supplements for Women

Every body is different, and every person will have a different set of nutritional needs.

When it comes to women’s health, we have to pay particular attention to certain vitamins and nutrients, as we tend to lose a significant amount of them when we menstruate: the average woman who gets her period at age 12 or 13 and goes through menopause in her early 50 has 40 years’ worth of mineral loss to make up for. Fun, huh?

The vitamins and minerals listed below are a few that women need to ingest on a regular basis, whether through supplement form, or through a very well-balanced diet. Granted, all nutrients are important for optimal health, but these are the ones that we really need to be diligent about.

Iron

Since the average woman menstruates for at least 30 years, there are going to be a lot of minerals lost with every menstrual period. One of the primary nutrients that leaves the body when blood is lost is iron; something that’s vitally needed for overall well being. Anemia caused by iron deficiency can have some significant effects on one’s health if left unchecked, so it’s seriously important to ensure that enough iron is being absorbed on a daily basis.

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Foods rich in iron include mollusks (clams, oysters, and mussels in particular), kale, pumpkin seeds,

*Note: Iron supplements can wreak havoc on some people’s digestive systems, so it’s good to check with one’s health provider to determine which would be the best option. Remember that folic acid and vitamin C aid in iron absorption, while caffeine prevents proper absorption, so you can take your iron pills with orange or grapefruit juice, but not coffee or tea.

Calcium

Our bones are made of calcium, and women’s bones in particular tend to deteriorate over time, leading to osteoporosis and injuries like broken hips, femurs, knees, and arms. Women who have given birth to several children are particularly at risk for calcium deficiency, as the developing fetus draws nutrients from its mother’s body to form its own, and if an insufficient amount of calcium is absorbed via the mother’s diet, it will be drawn from mama’s bones and organs instead.

Calcium is found in all dairy products, but if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan, you’ll have to go for fortified soy or almond milk instead. Dark leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach also have calcium in them, as do chick peas, white beans, tahini (sesame seed paste) and almond butter.

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Vitamin A

This goes along with iron when it comes to regulating red blood cell production, and it’s actually the nutrient that allows iron to be incorporated into hemoglobin; the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. This vitamin is also important for maintaining eye health, and for keeping your immune system strong. The retinol form of vitamin A is responsible for maintaining the function of cells that make up the linings of your respiratory, urinary, and digestive tracts, so when you don’t get enough of it, you’re at greater risk for issues like ulcers, urinary tract infections, and lung complaints.

Some dietary sources of vitamin A include all orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potato, squash), as well as spinach, kale, eggs, and cod liver oil.

Vitamin D

Vital for bone health, this helps you absorb calcium, and also helps to defend your body against immune disorders and possibly even certain cancers. Vitamin D assists in weight management, and may even reduce the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis. People who get a significant amount of exposure to natural sunlight tend to have good levels of this nutrient, but if you live in a place that’s often cool, foggy, smoggy, or overcast, you may be lacking in it. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include depression and worsening of symptoms like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

There aren’t many natural food sources for D, but salmon, tuna, mackerel, and fortified cereals have decent levels therein.

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Vitamins B6 and B12

These are 2 of the 3 major B vitamins (the third being folate, which follows next), and it’s in our best interest not to let these get too depleted. In addition to assisting with the production of hemoglobin, B6 helps to regulate white blood cell production, and assists in maintaining your glucose levels. When it gets depleted, you can end up depressed, anxious, lethargic, and prone to gastro distress. B12 helps you process fats and carbohydrates, and is also responsible for producing DNA, and for governing your nervous system as well. A deficiency of this nutrient can lead to all kinds of neurological impairments, including nerve damage and dementia.

You’ll find B6 in avocados, spinach, potatoes, and bananas, as well as beef, poultry, and fish. B12 is found in trout, haddock, tuna, and clams, as well as cheese, milk, eggs, and enriched cereals.

Folate (Folic Acid)

As mentioned earlier, this lovely nutrient helps the body to absorb iron properly, but it actually serves other purposes as well: this member of the B vitamin family may be vital in maintaining heart health, and it’s also needed to ensure that one does not develop anemia.

Folate is also incredibly important for pregnant women, or those who are planning to have children—a lack of it can result in birth defects such as spina bifida, or any number of issues relating to lack of brain cell development.

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Dietary sources of folate include dark-leaved greens, citrus fruits, and beans. Many whole grains also have folic acid within them, but the best source of it is actually fortified cereals, breads, and flours.

A daily multivitamin can keep your vitamin levels where they should be, provided that you remember to take it every day! If you have a history of anemia or B12 deficiency (which is common in women who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding, or have Celiac or Crohn’s diseases), or if you have a family history of osteoporosis, it’s also good to ensure that you eat plenty of the foods that are rich in the nutrients your body may be craving.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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