We need vitamins for normal cell function, growth, and development.
Unfortunately, our bodies do not typically make vitamins, so we need to get them from other sources. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to what we eat.
It should come as no surprise that women have different nutritional needs than men. Meeting your nutrient goals gets increasingly important as you age, and there’s no better time to start than now.
So, if you are a woman, here are 5 essential vitamins and nutrients you should make sure to get enough of every day.
5 Best Vitamins For Women
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A certainly gets high marks among nutritionists who tout this powerful antioxidant as one of the most important vitamins for women.
Vitamin A actually refers to several different but related nutrients, which make up two main types (1):
- Retinoids (retinol), the bioavailable forms of vitamin A found in animal foods
- Carotenoids, pre-vitamin A found in plant foods.
Retinol is the only type of vitamin A your body can readily use. It is typically found in animal foods like liver and eggs. Carotenoids found in plant sources must first be converted by your body into bioavailable retinol before you can benefit from this vitamin.
For people who are healthy, this is usually not an issue. However, things like genetics, digestive issues, excessive alcohol use, certain medicines, exposure to chemicals and environmental toxins, and some medical conditions that interfere with the digestion of fat can all inhibit this process. This can ultimately lead to a vitamin A deficiency (2).
Too much vitamin A can be toxic, however, so make sure when supplementing this vitamin to only take as directed. If you can get the required amount of vitamin A from food, your best and safest option is to consult a nutritionist, MD, or naturopath before supplementing on your own.
Good food sources of vitamin A include (3):
- Sweet potatoes
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Beet greens
The first thing you should know about vitamin C is that it is water soluble, meaning your body cannot store it. This also means you can easily become deficient in this powerful vitamin since your body cannot make it on its own.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, known to counter the damage caused by DNA-damaging free radicals that can accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health issues.
Studies clearly show that vitamin C can help prevent the common cold, cancer, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, and many other common diseases. It is also useful for boosting your immune system, improving vision and healing in people with conditions such as eczema and hay fever. It can even be used to heal burns, wounds, and sunburns.
Plus, this vitamin can fight viral infections such as mononucleosis and decrease blood sugar in diabetics (5). It truly is a powerhouse every woman needs to take.
Like vitamins A and C, vitamin E is an important antioxidant that is necessary to fight off free radicals. This fat-soluble vitamin is also essential for making red blood cells. Vitamin E further helps your body assimilate and use vitamin K, which is key for heart health (7).
More and more studies show how important vitamin E is to health. Yet, according to a review presented at the World Congress of Public Health Nutrition, more than 90 percent of Americans are not meeting their daily requirements. In fact, it’s estimated that close to 6 billion people worldwide are deficient (8).
Other sources show that over 75 percent of the population in both the UK and the US do not meet the minimum vitamin E levels (9).
And studies demonstrate that a deficiency in vitamin E can result in a wide range of health issues including immune disorders, cognitive deterioration, and even cardiovascular disease.
Good sources of vitamin E include (10):
- Sunflower seeds
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Beet greens
- Mustard greens
- Wheat germ
- Cod liver oil
4. Vitamin D
Like Vitamin E, most of the population in the US is deficient in this vitamin.
Oddly enough, vitamin D is actually not a true vitamin, but a steroid hormone we typically get from sun exposure or through supplementation. Studies show that by simply increasing our levels of vitamin D3, we can prevent the vast number of chronic diseases that currently plague millions of people each year.
Vitamin D is linked to cancer risk in numerous studies. For example, some studies show that higher levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of cancer and tumors. It was also found to slow or prevent the development of cancer, including promoting cellular differentiation, decreasing cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death (apoptosis), and reducing tumor blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) (11).
Studies further link lower levels of vitamin D to infections, colds, and the flu since it has been shown to boost your immune system and help it attack and destroy bacteria and viruses (12).
There is also evidence that vitamin D can help with cardiovascular disease by reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. In fact, one study showed that vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of heart attack by as much as 50 percent (13, 14).
The best source of natural vitamin D is sunshine. Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily is enough to produce vitamin D.
Good food sources are eggs, salmon (especially wild-caught), mackerel, tuna, sardines, mushrooms, milk and yogurt, beef and calf liver, and cheese (15).
5. B Vitamins
All of the B vitamins are among the best vitamins for women.
Women, especially need B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folate, which are key for your metabolism and for preventing fatigue. B vitamins help boost your cognitive function and are necessary for key cellular processes as well as healthy growth.
They are vital for energy because they work together with other vitamins such as iron to create red blood cells and they help turn the calories you eat into useable fuel.
Folate (folic acid) is also key, especially during pregnancy as it helps the developing fetus form properly.
What’s more, a 2010 study discovered that people who received a vitamin-B regiment suffer significantly less brain shrinkage compared to those who received a placebo (17).
Good sources of the various B vitamins include (18):
Additionally, foods high in folate are spinach and leafy greens, asparagus, citrus fruits, melon, and beans.