According to CDC, vitamins are defined as “any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth, development and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.”
While vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth, soil and water and are absorbed by plants.
Simple enough, right?
While all experts seem to agree that the best way to get your vitamins is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, they also seem to always be weighing in on which vitamins you need and which ones you don’t. In addition, doctors say that different people need different nutrients at different times in their lives.
So, what are the most important vitamins for women, for total and long-lasting wellness?
Bone mass decreases as you get older, which means your body needs more calcium to lower your risk of osteoporosis. Women typically need 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily, depending on their age.
How to get more: You can reach this daily requirement by consuming dairy products (preferably low-free), drinking pure orange juice that has been fortified with calcium, or taking calcium supplements.
Vitamin D always seems to be in the news as a powerful nutrient in the fight against multiple diseases and conditions. Also, without vitamin D, your body can’t process calcium. But did you know that, as you get older, you lose some of your ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D?
How to get more: Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D (ten minutes, according to doctors, should be fine). However, the sun is less likely to provide your daily needs at higher latitudes, in the winter, or if you’re older or have darker skin. Other sources include salmon, tuna, and fortified milk. Again, it may also be particularly important for older women (50+) to take a multivitamin containing both vitamin D and calcium.
If you’re still menstruating, you need to be sure you’re getting an adequate amount of iron in order to prevent anemia. If you’re past menopause, you tend to need less iron.
How to get it: Great sources of iron include meat, poultry, beans, eggs, and tofu. However, doctors note that it’s important to pair iron-rich meals with foods that contain vitamin C, like orange juice or citrus fruits, because vitamin C helps increase iron absorption. If you’re a woman who has undergone menopause, and need to take a multivitamin, choose one without iron, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant need to get more folic acid; it has been shown that low levels of this B vitamin can lead to birth defects in the baby affecting the brain and spinal cord.