Nutrient needs vary significantly by age. However, there are some guidelines for what every women needs, regardless of her decade. The following includes our suggestions for the top 10 vitamins (and minerals) recommended for every woman, including alternate names, recommended daily intake, general benefits, and the best ways to consume them naturally.
There are some risks with certain vitamins, and recommendations for daily allowance for daily intake may vary by age and other factors. These are just general guidelines based on research listed at the bottom of this article.
- Commonly referred to as fish oil, but can also be obtained from algae sources.
- Recommended daily intake: 1,000 mg
- Benefits: Assists in proper brain operation; is important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function; helps reduce high blood pressure; calms inflammation. May lower risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and macular degeneration.
- Best natural sources: ish—particularly fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel—and plants and nut oils. Check out Skinny Mom’s Seafood Recipe Index for skinny, sensational seafood recipes that are packed full of omega-3s.
- Recommended daily intake: 1,000 mg – pre-menopausal women under 50 | 1,200 mg – post-menopausal or over 50
- Benefits: Helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones; assists in muscle and blood vessel function (helps them contract and expand); secretes hormones; sends messages through the nervous system; aids in iron absorption. Decreases risk of bone loss and osteoporosis. Best defense against bone density loss, which starts occurring in women in their twenties.
- Best natural sources: Dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt; and dark-green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale.
- Recommended daily intake: 8.1 mg
- Benefits: Carries oxygen in the body; aids in the production of red blood cells; supports immune function and cognitive development; is essential for proper cell growth; helps maintain/regulate body temperature; and prevents susceptibility to infection.
- Best natural sources: Lean red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, cereals, beans, whole grains, and dark-green leafy vegetables.
4. Vitamin D
- Recommended daily intake: 600 IU (800 if you’re over 71)
- Benefits: Aids in calcium absorption; prevents osteomalacia (bone softening); may help prevent a variety of health problems, including diabetes, some cancers, depression and heart disease.
- Best natural sources: Sunshine! Our bodies make it naturally with sun exposure, but with increased use of sunblock for skin cancer prevention, many people are not making enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, and fish liver oils, with small amounts in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks; but these are not believed to provide sufficient quantities. Some milks and orange juices are fortified with Vitamin D.
5. B Vitamins
- Includes several essential vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (panthothenic acid), B6 (pyroxidine), B7 (biotin), and B12); B6, B12 are the most essential for women
- Recommended daily intake: Varies for each one; but a good B complex vitamin will generally have the appropriate amounts of each.
- Benefits: All play a key role in brain function, red blood cell formation, and building DNA, as well as boosting energy, and strengthening immune and nervous systems. Some also support metabolism, protein synthesis, and improve health of hair, skin, and nails.
- Best natural sources: Varies by vitamin, but sources include B6: avocado, banana, beans, cereal, meats, oatmeal, poultry, seeds; B12: cheese, eggs, fish, meat, milk, and yogurt.
6. Folic Acid
- Commonly referred to as Folate; also a B vitamin – B9 – but important enough to warrant its own category.
- Recommended daily intake: 400 mcg (800 mcg for pregnant women, or women trying to conceive)
- Benefits: Essential in the development of the central nervous system; helps make DNA and RNA, and building of red blood cells; reduces some effects of aging, including preventing memory loss and improving brain function; prevents some types of cancers; may help prevent heart disease and stroke; improves appearance of skin, hair, and nails; and is a natural antidepressant. Also prevents up to 70% of certain types of birth defects, and plays a role in preventing many others (should be taken at least 3 months prior to conception).
- Best natural sources: Spinach and leafy greens, asparagus, citrus fruits, melons, strawberries, fortified grains, legumes, beans (especially chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans), eggs, and liver.
7. Vitamin A
- Recommended daily intake: 700 IU
- Benefits: Promotes proper development and functioning of eyes, immune system, and skin (including reducing acne), and many other parts of our bodies. May prevent some types of cancer, aid in growth and development, and reduce the mortality rate from measles.
- Best natural sources: Leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, most fruits, dairy products, liver, and fish. Beta-carotene, found in apricots, broccoli, red peppers, and other fruits and vegetables, is converted to vitamin A in the body.
8. Vitamin E
- Recommended daily intake: 12 IU
- Benefits: Plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells and in the maintenance of cell membranes; slows age-related changes, and may help prevent some intestinal disorders.
- Best natural sources: Hazelnuts, peanut butter, corn oil, cod-liver oil, safflower oil, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
9. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Recommended daily intake: 75 mg
- Benefits: Aids in wound healing and plays a role in the formation of red blood cells. Boosts immune system, as well as certain brain functions, such as alertness and concentration. May improve condition of skin and hair, and reduce some physical signs of aging.
- Best natural sources: All fruits and vegetables, especially broccoli, citrus (oranges, grapefruit and grapefruit juice, lemon), kiwi, red pepper, potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.
- Recommended daily intake: 320 mg
- Benefits: Necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body! Maintains normal muscle and nerve function; helps regulate heart rhythm; supports immune system; boosts energy; helps regulate blood sugar levels; promotes normal blood pressure; and may help prevent hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
- Best natural sources: Green vegetables, some beans, nuts, seeds, and unrefined whole grains.