Vital vitamins

This week You! takes a look at which vitamins and minerals are essential for women’s health…

Did you know that women’s bodies have different needs when it comes to vitamins? Yes that is right! Women’s nutritional needs change throughout life. Various researches show that almost 30 per cent of all women are deficient of vitamins and minerals, and for many women the risk only increases with age.

The best vitamins for women

According to studies, vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition weakens women’s ability to survive childbirth; makes them more susceptible to infections, and leaves them with fewer reserves to recover from illnesses. Also, post-menopausal women become deficient in nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin D and calcium; hence, they are more susceptible to disorders like osteoporosis. Women who lack antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin C are at a greater risk of losing their vision. Pregnant women need more vitamin B6 and B12, as well as folic acid, to prevent vitamin deficiencies that could harm a developing foetus. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of a number of birth defects, such as spina bifida, and can also prevent low birth weight.

Wondering which vitamins and minerals are essential for women’s health? Read on to found out …

Antioxidant vitamins: There are specific vitamins that are known as antioxidant vitamins. They include vitamin A (retinol), the carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E. They play an important part in protecting the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Antioxidants may lower the risk of some health problems and slow down the process of ageing. Some researchers also think they help boost the immune system, your body’s defense against germs.

Beta-carotene: Found in apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, and green peppers, among other foods, this antioxidant is converted in the body to vitamin A and is important for healthy vision, a functioning immune system, and good skin.

Vitamin C: This vitamin is found in citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, and green peppers. Studies show that taking vitamin C regularly might reduce the length of a cold by a day. It also aids in healing wounds and helps your body in making red blood cells. It boosts levels of the brain chemical called noradrenaline, which makes you feel more alert and amps up your concentration.

Vitamin E: Your body needs vitamin E to keep cells healthy. It is an important antioxidant strengthens your immune system, and can help in slowing the process of macular degeneration. It’s found in foods like wheat germ and sunflower seeds. You can also get your vitamin E from peanuts, eggs, fortified cereals, fruits, and green, leafy vegetables.

Vitamin B6: Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 changes food into energy (metabolism) and helps produce myelin (a protective layer around cells). It can be toxic if you get too much of it at once, so your best bet is to eat foods that have this nutrient in it. Try fish, potatoes, chickpeas, avocadoes, bananas, beans, cereal, meats, oatmeal, and poultry.

Vitamin B12: This vitamin is also important for metabolism and for the production of healthy red blood cells and nerve cells. You can get vitamin B12 from cheese, eggs, fish, meat, milk, and yoghurt.

Folate (folic acid): It helps build a healthy brain and spinal cord. It also makes DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells, and prevents the changes in DNA that can lead to cancer. Adults and children need it to build normal red blood cells and prevent anaemia. Foods high in folate include spinach and leafy greens, asparagus, citrus fruits, melons, strawberries, fortified grains, legumes, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, eggs, and liver.

Vitamin D: This vitamin aids in calcium absorption and is necessary for bone health and optimal immune function. The best source of vitamin D is sun. Also, you can get it through foods, such as fatty fish or fortified milk. Lack of vitamin D can contribute to osteoporosis. Because calcium and vitamin D are closely linked, many doctors recommend that older people, especially women who have been through menopause, take a supplement that has both nutrients.

Vitamin K: It plays an important role in keeping the bones strong and your heart healthy. Vitamin K can help the blood to clot and prevent excessive bleeding. The best food sources include green leafy vegetables, soybean oil, broccoli, alfalfa, cooked spinach, and fish oil.

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