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 the 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 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 with 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 covert it 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 a mal-absorption 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 a vitamin deficiency.
Because it’s easy to get from your diet, Vitamin A deficiencies are quite rare, unless it’s as 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.