A balanced diet does more than provide sustenance and fuel for daily life. Eating an array of healthy foods gives people the best opportunity to naturally obtain the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. But certain nutrients may be lacking even when a diet includes an assortment of colorful produce and a careful mix of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The right supplements can help overcome such deficits, and women often need different supplementation than their male counterparts.
Vitamins geared toward women are not just a marketing ploy; most contain formulations that cater to women’s unique needs at various stages in life. The Office on Women’s Health and WebMD recommends these vitamins for women to maintain good health.
The Cleveland Clinic reports that 42 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D comes from diet but also is produced in the skin when the body is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and maintain adequate levels of calcium and phosphate, which are essential to bone health. Rush University Medical Center says recent research suggests vitamin D may help guard against severe COVID-19 infections. Some populations have higher levels of vitamin D deficiency, particularly people of color, those with inflammatory bowel diseases and postmenopausal women.
Folic acid or folate (also known as vitamin B9) helps the body make blood cells and the DNA for new cells. This B vitamin also is key to preventing birth defects like spina bifida. According to the March of Dimes, one in two pregnancies are unplanned, and adequate folic acid is required at the early stages of gestation to help the fetus develop healthfully. All women who are sexually active are advised to take a multivitamin that contains folic acid in concentrations of 400-800 mcg. In addition, folate can be found in dark, green, leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and cereals with added folic acid.
Vitamin B12 comes mostly from animal products. Therefore, anyone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet may need supplementation to ensure they are getting enough B12. Pregnant women will find B12 is important for baby’s development. Without it, the infant may have low birth weight or other health problems, advises the OWH. Vitamin B12 also helps produce healthy red blood cells, may support bone health, could reduce risk of macular degeneration, and may reduce symptoms of depression. After age 50, women’s bodies cannot absorb vitamin B12 as readily, so supplementing or eating fortified foods can help.
Growing girls need 1,300 mg of calcium each day to develop strong bones for adulthood. After menopause, women may need nearly the same dosage (1,200 mg) to help slow the bone loss that comes with aging. Calcium is found in low-fat dairy products and foods with calcium added.
Healthy eating may be a goal, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that 99 out of 100 Americans don’t meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet. Supplementation can help meet those standards and ensure a long, healthy life.