Women of every age, height, weight, and activity level have at least one thing in common: We need certain nutrients that our bodies don’t make, but require to function properly. Most experts agree the best source of essential nutrients is whole food: “We get a wide variety of nutrients from eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, often in perfect proportions,” says Women’s Health Nutrition Expert and Registered Dietitian Keri Glassman. “We rarely over or under do it.”
That being said, it’s difficult to know with 100 percent certainty that we’re getting precisely enough nutrients to fend off symptoms of deficiency and related illnesses. Stage cue, supplements! Taking specific supplements is like insurance for those instances when you accidentally consume your weight’s-worth of sweets and call it dinner. (We know—it was just that one Halloween…) And if you have or are at risk for a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency, as may be the case for pregnant women or vegetarians, then your doctor may need to intervene by recommending a supplement.
Your choice to take a supplement depends on your diet and doctor’s recommendation. “When considering supplements, women need to think bones, babies, and bellies,” says Glassman. “Sufficient bone density is needed to prevent osteoporosis, an adequate store of folate is essential for fertility and fetal development, and a healthy waistline lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Women must also load up on the nutrients that are essential to prevent chronic diseases in the future.”
With these guidelines, we bring you the best supplements for women. Bring the list to your doc to determine which supplements are right for you.
What it does
Carries oxygen in the body; aids in the production of red blood cells; supports immune function, cognitive development, and temperature regulation; is essential for proper cell growth.
Why you need it
Slacking on your iron intake causes your body to reduce the production of red blood cells, causing anemia. This can lead to unrelenting fatigue and shortness of breath while doing activities that aren’t very strenuous, as well as difficulty maintaining body temperature and decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection. What’s more, blood loss during your period depletes your body’s iron stores, so it’s particularly important for women with heavy periods to eat iron-rich foods or take supplements, says Carol Haggans, R.D., a consultant for the National Institutes of Health.
Where to find it
Lean red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, cereals, beans, whole grains, and dark-green leafy vegetables. (If you’re not eating enough of these foods, talk to your doc about trying a ferrous sulfate supplement since it’s most easily absorbed, says nutrition expert Cynthia Sass, R.D. And don’t forget to sneak in foods rich in Vitamin C since they enhance your body’s iron absorption.
Read more: Women’s Health