10 Essential Vitamins Women Over 30 Need to Take

Women today are, for the most part, health conscious and follow a healthy eating plan with regular exercise. But can we be sure our modern diets… Simi - October 8, 2017

Women today are, for the most part, health conscious and follow a healthy eating plan with regular exercise. But can we be sure our modern diets are providing the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need? Women of all ages and activity levels need to include a wide variety of the correct vitamins in their diet to achieve optimal health and prevent health problems arising, both short-term and long-term.

But what are vitamins and why do we need them? Vitamins are organic compounds that enable different parts of the body to function at their best. Each vitamin performs a very specific function. When there is a deficiency of the essential vitamins we stand a greater chance of developing serious health issues, which is why we need to ensure we get them from the foods we eat, and if necessary, from vitamin supplements. In total there are 13 vitamins all women need for their bodies to function well. These include vitamins C, A, D, E, K and B vitamins as well as various trace minerals and fatty acids.

Research shows that almost 30 percent of all women are deficient in one or more of these vitamins and minerals and for many, the risk will increase with age. Even scarier, is that studies show that 75 percent of women would develop nutrient deficiencies if vitamin supplements didn’t exist. With this in mind, what are the most important vitamins for women? What are the possible risks and complications if there is a deficiency?

1. Vitamin A

Women of all ages need vitamin A. It helps build and strengthen our teeth, bones, soft tissue, and skin, as well as reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. It improves vision, boosts the immune system and the antioxidant properties slow down the aging process. By fighting free radicals. The antioxidants in Vitamin A regulate gene regulation, facilitate cell differentiation. It is essential for the protection of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts against different infections.

There are two types of Vitamin A: preformed Vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids. The preformed type, also called retinol, is used by the body. It can be found in animal products like milk, liver, and eggs. Provitamin A carotenoids are naturally found in fruit and vegetables, that your body has to work to convert them to retinol. While Vitamin A is important for pregnant women, it’s also important to not get too much-preformed vitamin A, as it can cause birth defects and liver toxicity.

The most well-known health issues that can cause malabsorption of vitamin A include leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune response, gluten sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatic disorders. People who drink too much alcohol invariably have excess toxicity which creates low vitamin A levels. They too are at a much higher risk of vitamin deficiency.

Because it’s easy to get from your diet, Vitamin A deficiencies are quite rare, unless it’s a result of a medical condition. There are a few signs of a deficiency, including impaired night vision and a weakened immune system. There is also a condition called xerophthalmia, which results in the cornea becoming thick and dry. Vitamin A can be found in milk, eggs, liver, yellow or orange vegetables like squash, pumpkins, and carrots. Cantaloupe, apricots, watermelon, guava, papaya, and peaches are some of the fruits that have Vitamin A.

2. Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 is also called riboflavin and acts as an antioxidant. B2, like all B vitamins, is water-soluble and must be provided by a healthy diet. In order to avoid a deficiency, it needs to be replenished every day. Simply put, it is a crucial vitamin for breaking down food components, absorbing nutrients and maintaining healthy tissues. The group of B vitamins is used to digest and extract energy from the foods we eat. They do this by changing nutrients from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy which is called “ATP”.

Vitamin B2 is essential for every single cell in our body to function properly, which means a riboflavin deficiency could result in serious health issues. It’s important to note vitamin B2 is used with other B vitamins to make up the “B Vitamin Complex“. It needs to be present in high enough amounts to allow other B vitamins, including B6 and folic acid to be absorbed into the body to be able to do their jobs. Vitamin B2 assists the body to maintain healthy blood cells, helps boost energy levels, encourages a healthy metabolism, prevents free radical damage and protects our skin and eye health.

A B2 deficiency can result in serious health issues, affecting our metabolism, the immune system, and neural functions. Nerve damage, fatigue, anemia, mouth or lip sores, sore throat, swelling of mucous membranes, skin inflammation and changes in mood, including signs of depression and increased anxiety.

It can be found in meat, fish, and poultry like chicken, turkey, beef, kidneys, liver, and fish. It’s also available in dairy products, eggs, asparagus, avocados, cayenne, kelp, mushrooms, nuts, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, like spinach, watercress, and broccoli. Whole grain bread, enriched bread and wheat bran are also good sources of Vitamin B2.

3. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine and is one of the vitamins that’s included in the “Vitamin B Complex” family. Like the other B vitamins, B6 plays an important role in a range of psychological and physical functions. They help to maintain a healthy metabolism, liver and nerve function, eye and skin health and boost energy levels. There are a number of derivatives including pyridoxal, pyridoxal 5-phosphate, and pyridoxamine.

Each one of these is an important compound involved in various biological functions. It is used by the body in different ways every single day and plays a part in major functions like movement, energy expenditure, memory and blood flow. A vitamin B6 deficiency can show up in a number of ways, some temporary but others can be a lot more serious. Vitamin B6 isn’t important; it’s vital. It helps the body maintain a healthy nervous system, makes hemoglobin that carries oxygen in red blood cells throughout the body, and provides energy from the food we eat.

It balances sugar levels, acts as a natural treatment for pain, boosts the mood and it creates antibodies that our immune system uses to protect us from illnesses and infections. produces hormones and brain chemicals that help reduce depression, heart disease, and memory loss. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels and pregnant women can eat foods with it to get rid of or ease morning sickness. For pregnant and breastfeeding women it helps their babies’ brains to develop properly.

Vitamin B6 is important for nerve function, which means a deficiency is linked with neuropsychiatric disorders like migraines, chronic pain, seizures, and depression. Other symptoms include anemia, as well as depression, nausea, confusion, susceptibility to infections and various skin disorders. The best sources of Vitamin B6 are chickpeas, tuna, salmon, beef liver, watermelon, potatoes, spinach, bananas, avocados, nuts, seeds and whole grains, and cereals.

4. Vitamin B7

Biotin, or Vitamin B7, like other B vitamins, is water-soluble and forms part of the “Vitamin B Complex” group. It is essential for healthy nerve, digestive, cardiovascular and metabolic functions. Biotin acts as a coenzyme in the body and is needed for the breakdown of amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids. What this means is that the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates we eat need to be converted to macronutrients for energy; biotin is what ensures this process takes place, which means our body can function correctly, physically and psychologically.

It helps with high blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes and can also help decrease insulin resistance and improve glucose tolerance. It has also been used to treat conditions like alopecia, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Rett syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, seborrheic dermatitis, and vaginal candidiasis.

Vitamin B7 helps maintain healthy hair, nails, and skin, and is often called vitamin H, which comes from the German word Haar and Haut, which means “hair and skin”. Vitamin B7 is also added to hair and skin beauty products, although it’s not necessarily absorbed very well through the skin. There are eight different types of vitamin B7 biotin, of which only one is natural, the one found in food. This is called “D-biotin” and is the only one that has full vitamin capabilities. Although we’re able to get our vitamins from supplements it’s still better to get our nutrients from real food sources wherever possible.

A deficiency in B7 is rare but it can occur. The symptoms include brittle hair, abnormal heart functioning, lethargy, anemia, depression, and rashes. Other symptoms can include a swollen and painful magenta-colored tongue, dry eyes, cracking in the corners of the mouth, loss of appetite, and insomnia. The best foods to get your fix of vitamin B7 from are sweet potatoes, almonds, carrots, bananas, cantaloupes, fish, yellow fruits, green leafy vegetables, lentils, brown rice, peppers, egg yolks, soybeans, dairy products, nuts, and mushrooms.

5. Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 is also known as folate, one of the essential vitamins that help with DNA and RNA synthesis, which is important during periods of rapid growth like puberty and pregnancy. Folate also helps control homocysteine levels. When these are too high it can lead to a number of chronic conditions like heart disease, depression, diabetes, and cancer.

Is there a difference between folate and folic acid? While the two are interchangeable they are different. Folate occurs in various chemical forms and is found in food and the body. Folic acid, on the other hand, is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 and has no physiological activity unless it’s converted into folates.

Studies have shown that a diet high in folate-rich foods can help prevent serious health conditions including cancer, heart disease, birth defects, anemia and cognitive decline. As with all the B vitamins, a deficiency is fairly rare but people who are B9 deficient could experience poor immune function, chronic low energy, developmental problems during pregnancy, anemia, sores in the mouth, a swollen tongue, constipation, bloating, IBS, pale skin, changes in mood, premature hair graying and aging.

Pregnant women, women wanting to fall pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, excessive drinkers, anyone on dialysis, with liver disease, and those taking medication for diabetes face a higher risk of being folate deficient and should take care to ensure they’re getting enough from their natural diet. The best way to make sure you’re getting enough folate is to eat five or more servings of whole foods like fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. Green vegetables, leafy greens, orange juice, asparagus, melons, fortified grains, legumes, beans, eggs, and strawberries are the best food options for vitamin B9. It is also found in some animal products like liver and poultry.

6. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is crucial to the normal and healthy functioning of the brain and the nervous system. It’s also necessary for the formation of red blood cells and helps to create and regulate DNA. Our bodies produce millions of red blood cells every minute. Without vitamin B12 they can’t multiply properly. When B12 levels are low then the production of red blood cells drops, which can result in anemia. It is such an important vitamin that even slightly lower-than-normal levels can trigger deficiency signs, such as confusion, memory loss, fatigue, and depression.

Other signs that there is a vitamin B12 deficiency include loss of appetite, weight loss, and constipation. Because these symptoms can go undiagnosed there is a chance of them escalating and people may experience neurological changes like numbness, a tingling sensation in the hands and feet and difficulty maintaining their balance. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal proteins and not in plant-based foods unless they’re fortified. The body also absorbs the vitamin much better from animal sources over plant-based ones.

A woman’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases with age and research shows that 4 percent of women between the ages of 40-60 years old suffer from a B12 deficiency. Certain medications are also known to affect the way your body absorbs it. It is essential to make sure you’re getting enough to maintain a healthy body and mind. Symptoms of a B12 deficiency include weight loss, pale or yellowing skin, diarrhea, a sore tongue or mouth, and menstrual problems. People lacking this vitamin are also more susceptible to the effects of infections.

The best sources of Vitamin B12 are fish, meat, cheese, eggs, milk, yogurt and fortified cereals. Some of the best food sources for vitamin B12 are cheese, eggs, fish, meat, milk, yogurt and fortified breakfast cereals. Organ meats, like liver and kidneys, are high in Vitamin B12 as is shellfish.

7. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is water-soluble and plays a role in maintaining the health of the body’s connective tissue as well as acting as an antioxidant. Your body needs vitamin C on a daily basis to maintain the correct levels and for women, it has a lot of benefits including protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye diseases and wrinkly skin.

Your body doesn’t make vitamin C on its own and it doesn’t store it. This means you need to include fruit and vegetables in your diet on a daily basis. Vitamin C is also referred to as ascorbic acid. It helps heal wounds and boosts levels of the brain chemical called noradrenaline, which makes you feel more alert and amps up your concentration.

A severe deficiency can result in scurvy, a disease that results from the breakdown of collagen. It leaves you feeling lethargic and fatigued, affects muscle and bone strength and suppresses the immune system. Because only a very small amount of vitamin C is needed to prevent it, scurvy is rarely seen. Other symptoms that indicate you’re suffering from a vitamin C deficiency include easy bruising, swollen and bleeding gums, slow healing wounds, bad breath, dry hair, rough and dry skin, nosebleeds, a weakened immune system, swollen and painful joints.

If left untreated the symptoms can become far worse and lead to more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and gallbladder disease. To get the most vitamin C from your vegetables and fruit you need to eat foods that are raw, preferably uncooked, eat them as soon as possible after cutting them up and steam vegetables rather than boiling them. The best Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables include grapefruits, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, sprouts, tomatoes, broccoli, and strawberries.

8. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s stored in the fatty tissues and lover. It’s different from other vitamins because our body makes it on its own, instead of relying on food sources. Our bodies make vitamin D by converting sunshine into chemicals that are then used by the body. The cholesterol in our skin converts “previtamin D” and turns it into usable vitamin D3, which is also called provitamin D.

Previtamin D travels through the kidneys and liver in the bloodstream and is then converted into a biologically active and usable substance called calcitriol. It becomes a secosteroid hormone, a precursor to a steroid hormone.

It impacts our skeletal structure, as well as our blood pressure, immunity, mood, brain function and protects our body from cancer. It can also help reduce pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms and protect your eyesight. A deficiency of this vitamin may weaken your bones and contribute to osteoporosis.

Short daily exposure to sunlight can give your body the required dose of vitamin D. For most light-skinned people, an exposure of 10 to 15 minutes is sufficient to produce enough vitamin D for the body. In addition, you can eat foods that are rich in vitamin D like fatty fish, fortified milk, liver, and eggs.

9. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage to specific fats in the body that are critical for your health and naturally slows down aging. It’s an important fat-soluble vitamin that’s required for the proper functioning of a lot of our organs, enzymatic activities, and neurological processes.

Eating vitamin E-rich foods can treat and prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels like high blood pressure, blocked or hardened arteries, and chest pains. Vitamin E is found in plant foods, including certain oils, nuts, grains, fruits and wheat germ. It’s also available as a supplement. For women vitamin E is used as a way of preventing complications in late pregnancy, due to high blood pressure, premenstrual syndrome, painful periods, menopausal syndrome, hot flashes associated with breast cancer and breast cysts.

The most common signs and symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency include tingling and numbness in the hands, feet, and toes; it affects the retina of the eye, a weakened immune system and an inability to control bodily movements.

Vitamin E is also essential for healthy skin and hair, and it’s a popular ingredient in skin and hair care products. Foods rich in vitamin E include wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds, margarine, corn oil, peanut butter, safflower oil and sunflower seeds. Brocolli, spinach, kiwi, mangoes, and tomatoes are also good ways to get vitamin E into your body.

10. Vitamin K

Vitamin K has many health benefits including a reduced risk of blood clotting, prevention of osteoporosis, relief from menstrual pain, protection from internal bleeding, prevention of biliary obstruction and reduced menstrual flow. It is an essential vitamin as it provides a total balance of 80 nutrients the human body needs to function properly. This includes antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and other complementary co-factor ingredients.

It also enhances the functioning of the liver, helps maintain strong bones, especially in the elderly, maintains cardiac muscles, capillaries, and blood vessels, and increase blood circulation in tissues and peripheral bodies.

There’s a chance you’re low in vitamin K if you’ve been taking antibiotics for a long time, suffer from IBS or inflammatory bowel disease or if you take cholesterol-lowering medicine. A poor diet also contributes to a vitamin K deficiency. When the body is lacking vitamin K it goes into emergency mode, keeping up the most critical functions needed for survival.

What happens is other vital processes break down, leaving the body vulnerable to cancer development, weak bones, and heart problems. To make sure you’re getting the required amounts of vitamin K you should include chicken liver, kale, fish, leafy vegetables and eggs in your diet.