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7 Essential Nutrients for Women’s Health & When You Need Them Most

Wondering if you’re getting all the right nutrients to support your unique health needs as a woman? Look no further for details on the seven most important nutrients for women, how to work them into your diet, when they’re most important, and the daily Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of each.  

1. Omega-3 fatty acids 

RDI: 1,100 mg daily

While most advice points us to the importance of a low fat diet, it’s important we don’t neglect essential fatty acids as a nutritional need. These healthy fats, like omega-3s, are an important nutrient for the health of the brain, heart, skin, and bones. Studies also suggest that omega-3s may help to prevent or improve the symptoms of certain mental health conditions, balance hormones like estrogen, act as an anti-inflammatory, promote healthy bones and joints, and contribute to the prevention of mental decline. Omega-3s can also be especially important for women's health as they may play a crucial role during pregnancy by supporting infant development in the womb and while breastfeeding. They may even help to prevent postpartum depression.       

When you need omega-3s: While getting your omega-3s daily for the long term is necessary, these healthy fats can be especially beneficial when you’re experiencing challenging PMS symptoms and while pregnant or breastfeeding (especially DHA). Omega-3s have also been established as an effective nutrient for middle age and beyond, when nutritional support for cognitive, cardiovascular, and bone and joint health can become more essential. 

How to get omega-3s: There are three main types of omega-3s to keep an eye out for when looking to incorporate more healthy fats into your wellness regimen: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in fish, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant-based foods like nuts and seeds. The most beneficial way to get your omega-3s is through your diet, with plenty of fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, or plant-based options like flaxseeds, walnuts, seaweed, and edamame. Great news for sushi lovers– grab a fresh seaweed-wrapped tuna roll with a side of edamame for a meal packed with healthy fats. 

If you don’t eat fish, adding a high quality fish oil supplement* or multivitamin packed with omegas into the mix is an excellent alternative. 

2. Calcium

RDI: 1,000 mg

The mineral that most often comes to mind when we think of healthy bones and teeth, where 99% of it is stored, calcium is also an important factor in muscle and nerve health. Healthy levels of calcium have even been shown to help prevent certain complications during pregnancy.  

When you need calcium: Calcium is essential to maintaining women’s health and supporting active movement throughout life and can help to promote regular menstrual cycles. Later in life, this mineral becomes more necessary as the risk for osteoporosis increases. Our bone mass increases until around age 35, at which point it begins to plateau and slowly decline, making calcium more essential as a preventative from this point on. A higher RDI of 1,200mg daily is recommended for women from around age 50 and on, when our body’s natural levels of calcium deplete and bone strength starts to diminish due to hormonal shifts post-menopause. Rapid drops in estrogen at this time call for special attention to be paid to bones and joints.   

How to get calcium: Some of the greatest dietary sources for calcium are dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese, but can also include plant-based milks such as sesame and soy. Winter squash, tofu, almonds, leafy greens, and sardines are all packed with calcium as well. Snack on figs stuffed with goat cheese for a high calcium treat. To ensure you’re getting everything you need for healthy bones and joints, try adding a calcium-rich supplement to your wellness regimen. 

3. Protein 

RDI: 46g daily

The amino acids in protein are the building blocks for our muscles, tendons, hair, skin, and nails, and support balanced hormones, neurotransmitters, and weight.   

When you need protein: Daily protein is crucial throughout our lives, but certain amino acids can become more essential during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you’re looking to build muscle and have begun a strength or exercise regimen, aim for around 0.36g of protein per pound of your body weight. And if you’ve been working towards reaching a healthier weight, protein can play a key role by regulating hormones and helping us to feel full and satiated.     

How to get protein: Look for lean poultry, fish, seafood, meats, eggs, seeds, yogurt, cheese, nuts, and legumes. Or, for a boost of amino acids with excellent beauty benefits, blend a scoop of collagen into your post-workout smoothie. 

4. Magnesium 

RDI: 320mg daily

Necessary for the activation of vitamin D, magnesium supports heart, bone, muscle, nerve, and mental health. 

When you need magnesium: If you experience symptoms of PMS, taking magnesium has been shown to offer some relief during difficult menstrual cycles. Magnesium also has a relaxing effect, which can apply to muscles as well as the ability to promote restful sleep and ease anxiety. If you’ve been feeling tense or the quality of your sleep has been suffering, magnesium can be a helpful ally. Additionally, if you’re concerned about maintaining your cognitive health in general or as an aging concern, magnesium rich foods have been shown to play a role in supporting brain health, especially for women.  

How to get magnesium: Foods rich in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, cashews, spinach, black beans, brown rice, avocados, and dark chocolate. Start your day with a magnesium-filled breakfast, or reach for an energy and sleep supporting multivitamin to stay on track with your daily magnesium intake. 

5. Essential vitamins 

These essential vitamins are crucial for maintaining whole body health. 

Vitamin A contributes to skin, vision, and reproductive health. 

RDI: 700mcg daily

When you need vitamin A: If you’re experiencing skin challenges, supplementing with skin-supporting vitamin A has been clinically proven to help address acne and other concerts. This nutrient is also critical during pregnancy.    

How to get vitamin A: Reach for leafy greens, carrots, eggs, mangoes, oysters, goat cheese, and cantaloupe. 

B vitamins like Biotin (B7) and Folate (B9) are essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system, hair, and skin, and supporting healthy cell growth and development, respectively.  

RDI: Biotin 30mcg daily, Folate 400mcg daily

When you need B vitamins: These vitamins are critical for those who are looking to become pregnant and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Folate is especially important while pregnant. During this time look to increase folate intake. Supplementing with a multivitamin containing biotin and folate can also make an impact if you’ve been looking for stronger hair and glowing skin. 

How to get B vitamins: Be sure to get plenty of nuts, bananas, oranges, peas, eggs, mushrooms, oats, and avocados. 

Vitamin C aids in the absorption of crucial minerals like iron, supports immunity, promotes skin health, boosts collagen production, is vital to the body's healing process, and has antioxidant properties. 

RDI: 75mg

When you need vitamin C: If you’re looking for extra support with eye health, this vitamin can help to lower the risk of ocular conditions. Vitamin C can aid in the formation of collagen, which gives our skin its elasticity and begins to diminish in our mid-twenties, so ensuring we receive proper intake can support the youthful appearance of skin as we age. Plus, regularly consuming vitamin C in our diets may help in the prevention of a host of health concerns.    

How to get vitamin C: Hit the local farmers market for colorful produce like citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and white potatoes. 

Vitamin D. Essential for the absorption of other nutrients like calcium, vitamin D supports our bones, mental health, and can have anti-inflammatory properties. This vitamin is unique in that, in addition to receiving it from our diets, our bodies also manufacture it when exposed to sunlight.  

RDI: 600 IU daily

When you need vitamin D: Throughout our lives, adequate vitamin D is important to support our physical and mental health, and is helpful in instances like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs when we aren’t receiving enough sunlight during winter months. Many symptoms of vitamin D deficiency manifest as impacts on our mood, including anxiety and depression. If you’re experiencing any of these things, vitamin D could be a helpful addition to your wellness regimen. This vitamin can also act as a hormone balancer, and support reproductive health and pregnancy. Over the age of 70, to help ensure we get the calcium we need for strong bones, increasing to 800IU of vitamin D daily is recommended to help prevent osteoporosis. 

How to get vitamin D: To get the vitamin D you need through your diet, cook up plenty of mushrooms, eggs, cheese, swordfish, and trout, and wash your meal down with a glass of milk. If these aren’t part of your regular rotation, consider opting for a convenient supplement, which also contains the magnesium you’ll need to help metabolize vitamin D properly. 

Because it can be difficult to get the appropriate levels of every essential vitamin we need for optimal wellness through our diets alone, supplementing with an energy, health, and beauty supporting multivitamin can make all the difference. 

6. Potassium 

RDI: 2,600mg daily

The mineral potassium is an electrolyte that balances fluids, promotes organ function and nerve health, and supports the health of muscles, including your heart. Potassium is also a critical element in helping to move nutrients and waste through our bodies.   

When you need potassium: As with other nutrients, potassium is critical for women during pregnancy (RDI 2,900mg) and breastfeeding (RDI 2,800mg). This electrolyte is also important if you’ve found yourself retaining water, may help to alleviate menstrual conditions like premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and is important for the proper regulation of muscle cramping and contractions. If you’re experiencing fatigue or muscle weakness, your body could be crying out for potassium. 

How to get potassium: Stock up on avocados, bananas, dried apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, milk, spinach, chicken, and cucumbers. Or, supplement your daily intake with a convenient, pre-dosed multi

7. Fiber

RDI: 25g daily

Dietary fiber works to support healthy cholesterol levels, digestion, and can aid in weight management. It has even been linked to a longer lifespan and may have a positive impact on balancing blood sugar. Plus, many high fiber foods have antioxidant properties that help to promote immunity.   

When you need fiber: If you’ve been experiencing digestive irregularity or upset, fiber can help to address a spectrum of symptoms from bloating to sluggishness. Adding in a daily probiotic can also help to aid in balancing gut health and digestion. Fiber can also support your heart health and weight management efforts, and promotes a healthy metabolism (which can slow as we age, making dietary fiber especially beneficial after we reach our fifties).     

How to get fiber: Fill your meal plan with plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. For additional nutrient support, try adding in an antioxidant-rich supplement to help keep your immune system strong. 

Our needs as women may change over time and through the different stages of our lives, but by eating a balanced diet and thoughtfully filling any nutrition gaps with high quality supplements, we can be sure our bodies are receiving precisely what they need to carry us healthfully through our best lives. And if you’re looking for tips on designing a nutritional meal plan and staying healthy on a budget, we’ve got you covered: click here to learn more. 

*Always consult your physician before beginning any new dietary supplement regimen. 

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