Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of 20 Online Resources for Free E-Books 10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills 10 Things That Even You Can Do to Change the World

Trending in Health

1 7 Signs You’re Burnt out (And How to Bounce Back) 2 6 Health Benefits of Tumeric (And How to Take It For Good) 3 10 Weight Loss Tips to Help You Lose Weight the Easy Way 4 How to Get More Energy for an Instant Morning Boost 5 15 Most Effective and Nutritious Healthy Foods to Lose Weight

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

Advertising

If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

Advertising

Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

Advertising

Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

    Advertising

    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next