Best Supplements for Women, According to Dietitians
Life can get busy, and sometimes we simply don't have enough time in our week to get all the nutrients we need. Or in other cases, we may just be picky eaters or have food limitations that keep us from getting all of the recommended vitamins and nutrients that are naturally found in certain foods.
For those who are restricted by diet or time, we went ahead and talked to registered dietitians Amanda Sevilla, RDN, and Lauren Hoover, RD, to find some of the best supplements for women to take. And if you want more tips on which supplements to take this summer, check out the Best Supplements to Take Every Day, According to a Dietitian.
Omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid you can get from certain types of oily fish. According to Sevilla, omega-3 DHA is "very important for heart health, as well as brain health." There is a lot of research out there that supports this as well, especially when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease and delaying symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, omega-3 DHA not only helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it also lowers your risk of death if you have already been diagnosed with this type of disease. For pregnant women, taking omega-3 DHA supplements has also been known to improve fetal health.
For women, getting enough protein throughout the day is crucial for overall health. "Women often do not consume optimal protein for their needs," says Hoover, "and for some, it is difficult to achieve optimal protein intake purely from food sources. If we don't get enough protein in our daily diet, we may experience negative effects such as thinning hair, loss of muscle mass, and a weakened immune system.
Hoover recommends taking protein supplements if you think you may not be getting enough through your food. "Incorporating protein supplements, in the form of ready-to-drink shakes or powders, can be a convenient way to get extra protein in the diet," says Hoover.
If you haven't looked into taking folate supplements, you may want to give it a try. "Folate is a B vitamin that is often recommended for prenatal supplements," says Sevilla, "and folate adequacy is important for proper nervous system development for babies and neural tube development."
Not only that, but The National Institutes of Health says that folate is crucial for women at childbearing age, even if they're not pregnant. This supplement can help reduce inflammation, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, help delay symptoms of Alzheimer's, and even fight depression.
Magnesium can be found in oats, whole grains, and many different types of nuts and seeds. If you don't often consume magnesium-rich foods, it might be a good idea to try taking a supplement. According to Sevilla, magnesium helps our bodies with muscle contractions. "Magnesium is not just recommended for athletes, but also for pre-menopausal women because it can help with cramps," says Sevilla.
Research has also shown that along with physical health, magnesium can help with our mental health as well. A 2013 study in Pharmacological Reports revealed that magnesium can help patients diagnosed with depression, usually alongside a prescribed antidepressant.
Calcium is an important part of our diets, especially as we age. "I recommend [calcium] supplements for older women to help prevent age-related bone loss," says Hoover. Not only does calcium help maintain our bone health, but it also helps us keep healthy nerves and muscles.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women between the ages of 19-50 are encouraged to get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, with 1,200 milligrams for women over the age of 50. For women who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or just don't like dairy products, getting this much calcium in a day can be a challenge. If this is you, try taking a look at some different calcium supplements.
Speaking of bone health, vitamin D is another important supplement for the ladies. "Women are more at risk for bone fractures, especially post-menopause because estrogen is a vital part of bone health," says Sevilla, "and supplementing vitamin D can help strengthen our bones."
Research is still being done to learn even more benefits of taking vitamin D, but studies have already proven that it also helps with immune function, the prevention of some cancers, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Not only that, but vitamin D can be helpful for women who may be experiencing depression, especially seasonal depression during months with very little sunlight.
There aren't many reasons to overlook a trusty multivitamin, especially for women. "Look for multivitamins that include vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium," says Hoover, "and additionally look for essential micronutrients, like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, folate, selenium, beta-carotene, vitamin E, K and D.
Harvard Health recommends talking to your doctor before taking a multivitamin to determine which supplement combinations might be best for you. There are certain vitamins that you may personally need more than others, especially depending on what stage of life you may be in. For example, women before and after menopause may need different things. "If you are premenopausal, look for a multivitamin that contains higher amounts of iron," says Hoover.
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