It’s so important to try and get as many nutrients as you can from the foods you eat, but still there are some supplements beneficial to women that we may not be getting enough of in our diets. Vitamins and other dietary supplements are not intended to be food substitutes since they can’t replace all of the nutrients and benefits of real food, but many can be beneficial additions to a healthy diet.
With so many options available at health food stores, what do we really need and what should we spend our money on? I consulted with a trusted dietician who helped me put together this list of supplements which can be beneficial to women. (Of course consult your personal doctor before taking any vitamins/supplements.)
If you’re a healthy eater the only supplement you may need is a good multivitamin. Whole food-based multivitamins are much better for your body than synthetic multivitamins. Whole food vitamins are derived from plants. The label should state that it is derived from whole foods. They are usually in tablet form and have a long list of ingredients.
Whey is a quality source of protein and is beneficial for anyone living an active lifestyle. Milk is made of two proteins, casein and whey. Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese making. Whey protein is considered a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Whey gives you energy, promotes muscle strength and endurance, can help to lower blood pressure, and even help you lose weight since it gives the feeling of fullness. Add a scoop to your daily shake. (Note: avoid whey if you have a milk allergy)
For those of you who don’t get enough supergreens in your diet (spinach, chard, kale) a supergreen supplement is a good option. Supergreen supplements are whole foods, usually in powder form, with ingredients such as wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, and spirulina to name a few. Supergreens have healing qualities due to the amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they provide. Another benefit of supergreens is that they provide digestive enzymes, which help with the digestion of other foods, especially proteins. A glass before exercising gives a great energy boost. Many people can’t get past the taste of powdered supergreens so here is a great way to make it palatable. Mix a few ounces of your favorite fruit juice with water and add a scoop of supergreens. Mix well and pour over ice. Tastes so much better. The ice is key!
Many people are coming up short on their omega-3 fatty acids. Omega–3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can’t make them — you have to get them through food. Omega–3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. These essential fatty acids play an important role in the anti-inflammatory system of our body. Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation, helping to prevent inflammatory diseases like heart disease and arthritis. In addition to warding off inflammation, omega 3s are also essential to the brain, impacting behavior and cognitive function. preventing the devastating damage that can occur with heart attacks or strokes and effective in fighting Alzheimer’s.
Flax: Flax contains the shorter chain omega-3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Flax is a great source of fiber. Flax contains lignans which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. The
lignans alter the way your body metabolizes estrogens into safer forms. Flax is great for the hair and skin, has cardiovascular, antioxidant and anti inflammatory benefits. You can buy flax seeds and grind them yourself or choose a good quality flax oil. Recommended 1-2 tablespoons a day.
Fish Oil: Although Omega 3s can be found in other foods the greatest concentration is found in fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines and tuna. Some of the benefits of fish oil are:
Decreases the risk of sudden death (from heart disease) and abnormal heart rhythms
Decreases the development of atherosclerosis and plaque formation
Decreases blood clots
Improve the overall health of the body’s arteries
Lower triglyceride (a type of lipid or cholesterol ) levels in the blood
Always buy a good quality fish oil. The most offensive thing about fish oil supplements are the awful taste and the fishy burping and repeating. This is the #1 complaint people have about fish oil and the reason why people stop taking Omega-3 supplements. You can avoid this by buying a good quality pill that has a enteric coating. Another good option is a flavored emulsified fish oil. Tip: 1000mg of fish oil is not the same as 1000mg of omega 3s so read they label carefully. Recommend dose 1000 to 4000mg omega 3s.
Vitamin D — specifically the form D3 — is the only vitamin your body makes itself. It’s fat-soluble, which means your body stores vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin since your body makes it from sunlight. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in strengthening bones, fighting depression, and boosting immunity, but now, after decades of research and thousands of studies, experts are finding that we may need more vitamin D than previously thought. There have been numerous reports recently about the widespread vitamin D deficiency, even among teenagers, due in part to today’s indoor living and the extensive use of sunscreens. Using a sunscreen with as little as a 15-factor protection cuts the skin’s vitamin D production by 99 percent, and there are few sources of the vitamin in our diets. Some food sources are salmon, tuna, mackerel and vitamin D-fortified dairy products, such as milk.
There are two ways we get our D other than exposure to sunlight: diet and supplements. Realistically, though, not many of us can count on getting all our vitamin D needs from diet alone so adding a supplement is a good idea. Recommend dosage is 1000-2000 IU daily. There is a simple blood test called 25-hydroxy vitamin D which is the most reliable way to tell if you have a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is one of the safest and most effective nutrients. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Some of the many benefits of vitamin C are:
1- Protection against immune system deficiencies and cardiovascular disease
2- It’s an important factor in collagen production, which helps to heal wounds, from cuts and broken bones to
3- Combats the oxidative damage caused by smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke.
4- Applied topically, vitamin C may protect the skin from free radical damage after exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Biotin is a B complex vitamin. These B complex vitamins are important in metabolism, helping your body to process energy and transporting carbon dioxide from your body’s cells. Some of the benefits of biotin are:
1- Benefits Hair and nail growth
2- Improves the health of your skin
3- Helps Boost Metabolism
4. lower cholesterol
A biotin deficiency can lead to a variety of skin problems including rashes, acne, psoriasis, dermatitis
and overall itchiness. B vitamins play a key role in the function of the nervous system and do affect hormone function, which suggests why depleting biotin levels can in turn play a significant role in skin health.
Biotin should be taken with a multivitamin or b complex.
Magnesium is a mineral that’s crucial to the body’s function. It helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady. Magnesium’s benefits can include reduced symptoms from conditions such as chronic pain, fatigue and insomnia. Magnesium may also provide protection from a number of chronic diseases,
especially those associated with aging and stress.Because magnesium is so essential to body energy production, common symptoms of magnesium depletion include fatigue, along with headaches, insomnia, and muscle pain, cramps, and spasms.
Women of all ages can benefit from the intake of magnesium. Besides keeping osteoporosis at bay,
magnesium health benefits in women include relief from symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Magnesium brings balance and controls stress hormones. Stress and tension are often reasons why people suffer from insomnia. Serotonin, which relaxes the nervous system and elevates mood, is dependent on Magnesium. Magnesium can have a laxative effect which may be a benefit to some.