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September 24, 2007

Vitamin Supplements

By Tara Fraser

With all the advice and studies released on a daily basis, it’s tough to really know what vitamin supplements women should be taking, if any at all.

But with a little work and some time, you can figure it all out without ripping your hair out. Luckily, I’ve managed to take most of the grunt work out of figuring out exactly what you might be deficient in and what you’re probably getting enough of.

Do you need much more calcium? Are you lacking vitamin E? Well, here’s your chance to find out which vitamin supplements you might want to stack up on.

Note: Please consult your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.

Calcium & Magnesium
Calcium is the best source for healthy bones and strong teeth, and can help decrease your risk of getting menstrual cramps menstrual cramps , arthritis, and colon and rectal cancer. When taking calcium, however, you need to team it up with magnesium in order to maximize calcium absorption.

Besides supplementing your calcium with magnesium, you would also do well to avoid salt, phosphorous (found in sodas) and caffeine, as these three tend to deplete the body of calcium and hinder its absorption. On the same note, sugar and alcohol tend to deplete the body of magnesium.

Calcium found in: Milk, cheese, yogurt, dark green vegetables, oysters, some beans, and wild salmon.

Magnesium found in: Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, grains, seafood, and green vegetables.

How much you need: Women between 19 and 50 years old require about 1,000 mg of calcium (a little over 3 cups of milk), and 280 mg of magnesium per day (about ½ cup of cooked spinach).

Omega-3 & Omega-6
When you throw the word “fat” into anything, it suddenly takes on a negative connotation. But the omega brothers are good friends of ours because, unlike chocolate and butter, they are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that work to keep us looking and feeling good.

Without killing you with technical terms, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to improve cell membranes, reduce inflammation, decrease blood clotting, and may help to prevent a host of diseases. Scientists have been fortifying eggs, milk, bread, and many other foodstuffs with omega-3 – most recently feeding omega-3 to pigs and cows.

Omega-6, however, can be bad for you. Bad omega-6 contains LA (Linoleic Acid), which can be found in most processed foods, and bad diets can lead to an overconsumption of the bad omega-6 and an underconsumption of the good omega-6 that contains GLA (Gamma-Linolenic Acid).

Omega-3 found in: Wild salmon, wild tuna, sardines, venison, buffalo, ground flaxseed, cod liver oil, and walnuts.

Omega-6 (with GLA) found in: Starflower oil (a.k.a. borage oil), black currant, evening primrose oil, soy, and corn.

How much you need: 4,000 mg of omega-3 (you can take vitamin supplements or eat 4 ounces of fish) and 2,500 mg of omega-6 per day.

Iron is necessary for carrying oxygen to the tissues and the brain, boosting the immune system, and metabolizing B vitamins.

Without enough iron, you may feel fatigued, short of breath, develop anemia, and be more susceptible to getting sick.

In order to maximize iron absorption, take it with vitamin C, and avoid tannin (which is found in teas), which hinders its absorption.

Iron found in: Wheat germ, liver, red meat, tofu, eggs, nuts, strawberries, spinach, and prune juice.

How much you need: 18 mg per day (2 cups prune juice or 8 ounces of liver).

Folic acid
Although you usually hear about pregnant women needing folic acid in order to keep the fetus from developing spina bifida (deficient development of the brain, spinal cord and their protective layers), this B-vitamin supplement is not only essential in helping women’s bodies manufacture DNA; it may prevent heart disease and some cancers.

Folic acid, a.k.a. folate, a.k.a. folacin, cannot be absorbed to its maximum capacity if you drink alcohol or are a sun worshipper. So be careful if you plan on getting pregnant anytime soon.

Keep in mind that many breads, cereals and even brands of milk are fortified with 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for folic acid – just another reason why you should be eating breakfast.

Folic acid found in: Bananas, oranges, peas, nuts, broccoli, and asparagus.

How much you need: 400 micrograms per day (less than 1 mg if you are taking a supplement).

Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps protects both vitamin A and EFAs from oxidation in the body and prevents your body’s tissues from breaking down.

It is quite difficult to create a vitamin E deficiency in the body, as the body is able to store it. But if you follow an extremely low-fat diet, vitamin E, as well as other vitamin supplements, would become deficient in the body, as the body needs fat in to absorb the vitamin supplements.

Vitamin E found in: Whole grains, chicken, nuts, seeds, and wheat germ.

How much you need: 8 mg per day (2 tablespoons of almonds or sunflower seeds -- but not if you’re lactating or preggers).

Essential vitamin supplements for women

The above list is not an exhaustive one, no doubt, but it provides the essentials that all women can benefit from. If you want to ensure maximum health, you need to nourish your body with the right minerals and vitamin supplements.

Always check with your doctor before you begin any supplementation to ensure that there are no conflicts, especially if you are taking any other prescribed medications.

Keep in mind that what might work well for Sally, may not be perfect for you, so the best move would always be to consult a professional.

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