By Jill Levy
While it’s possible to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need from careful food selection and a nutrient-dense diet, experts believe that many women still lack at least one type of essential nutrient.
There are 13 vitamins that all women require — all which are among the best vitamins for women to take — including vitamins C, A, D, E, K and the B vitamins (such as thiamine and vitamin B12). In addition to vitamins, there are a number of important trace minerals and fatty acids that women must obtain from their diets, too.
It’s estimated that around 30 percent of all women are deficient in one or more essential nutrients, and for many women, the risk of running low only increases with age.
With that in mind, what are the most important and best vitamins for women to take in supplement form? Let’s take a closer look below.
Best Vitamins for Women
Women’s nutrient intake is thought to be highly dependent on factors like their economic status, social and cultural environment, and personal habits.
Some factors that may women more likely to be lacking certain nutrients include:
- eating a highly processed diet (one low in things like fresh vegetables and fruit)
- being a vegetarian or vegan
- being underweight or consuming too little calories in general (“underweight” is generally considered below a body mass index of 18.5 for women)
- being of reproductive age (for women who are preparing to have children, proper nutritional status before, during and after pregnancy is an important element of overall reproductive health)
- being over the age of 65
- low socioeconomic status, a lack of education and poverty
- breastfeeding and being pregnant, which increase caloric and nutrient needs
Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s or 70s, there are a handful of vitamins that women should be sure to emphasize in their diets and/or to supplement with in order to get enough of.
Some of the best vitamins for women (along with other types of supplements, too) include:
1. Antioxidant Vitamins (Vitamins A, C and E)
These antioxidant vitamins help to fight free radical damage, which can take a toll on the health of the heart, eyes, skin and brain.
Vitamin C supplements and foods can help to support a healthy immune system, and are also supportive of healthy vision and skin health.
Like vitamin C, antioxidant vitamins including vitamins A and E work in similar ways to promote healthy immune system defense, healthy antioxidant activity and healthy neuron function. According to experts, diets that include adequate or high levels of these nutrients may support the overall health of eyes and the skin.
2. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 can be obtained from certain foods like eggs, some dairy products and certain mushrooms, but we get the overwhelming majority of our vitamin D from sun exposure.
Both men and women can experience low levels of vitamin D if they spend a large majority of their time indoors, as many adults do.
Vitamin D in general is important for bone/skeletal health, brain function, immune support, a positive outlook, cardiovascular function and more. Your best bet to make sure you get enough is to spend 15-20 minutes outside most days of the week without sunscreen on, which allows your body to synthesize vitamin D3. If this isn’t realistic for you, supplementing is a good back-up option.
3. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is important for building and maintaining strong bones, for normal blood clotting, and for supporting heart health. This vitamin plays a role in normal bone metabolism and helps to generally ensure that calcium gets to the right places in the body, such as the bones and teeth.
Many women fall short in this valuable nutrient, which is a shame considering it plays a major role in facilitating healthy cardiovascular functions and supporting arterial health.
There are two main types of vitamin K, both of which we acquire from our diets. Vitamin K1 is found in vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in things like dairy products.
The best way to get enough of both kinds is to eat plenty of different veggies, including green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, fish and eggs, along with aged cheeses. Additionally, supplementing with vitamin K2 can help to support strong bones and other functions if your diet tends to supply low amounts.
4. B Vitamins, Including Folate
B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folate, are important for a woman’s metabolism, supporting healthy energy levels, fighting fatigue and for supporting cognitive functions. They may help with cellular processes, growth and energy expenditure because they work with other vitamins like iron to make red blood cells and help turn the calories you eat into usable “fuel.”
Folate (which is called folic acid when it’s created synthetically) is critical for a healthy pregnancy and for healthy developing fetuses, since it helps build the baby’s brain and spinal cord.
That’s why getting enough folate is important for pregnant women and why prenatal supplements containing folate — which are formulated specifically for women in their childbearing years, pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and throughout lactation — are recommended. Ideally, stick to fermented folic acid/folate, which is metabolized by the body similarly to naturally occurring folate.
You can get plenty of B vitamins from animal products like cage-free eggs, fish, meat, milk and yogurt. Older women, those during child-bearing years, vegans and vegetarians should consult their healthcare professional to make sure they get enough B vitamins since they’re at the greatest risk for coming up short on B vitamins. Foods especially high in folate include spinach and leafy greens, asparagus, citrus fruits, melon and beans.
When taking a vitamin B complex supplement or a multi containing folate, be wary of synthetic folic acid. Instead, stick to fermented folic acid, which is metabolized by the body similarly to naturally occurring folate. High-quality multivitamins for women will also often feature optimal amounts of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, which can help support healthy energy levels.
Iron deficiency anemia is thought to be among the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in the world, especially among young women.
The body uses iron to produce hemoglobin, a type of protein that transports oxygen via blood from the lungs to other tissues throughout the body.
Adolescent girls are often at the highest risk for coming up short on iron, and women in general need to be careful to get enough since demand for iron increases during menstruation due to blood loss. Women with adequate stores of iron and vitamin B12 and are more likely to have optimal energy levels and more.
There are two different kinds of iron (heme and non-heme), and the most absorbable and easily utilized by the body is the kind found in animal proteins like eggs, meat, fish and poultry (leafy greens and beans are good plant-based options too).
If you avoid eating animal products or have been told by your healthcare professional that you’re low in iron, taking an iron supplement could help to support healthy fertility, prenatal and postpartum health, cognitive health, and healthy energy levels.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women between the ages of 20-39 have the lowest urine iodine levels compared to all other age groups.
Iodine intake is especially important for young women looking to become pregnant or who are pregnant because it plays a role in brain development of the growing fetus. It’s also crucial for making proper amounts of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland requires iodine to produce the hormones T3 and T4, which function to help control your metabolism.
Most people eating a Western diet consume a good deal of iodized salt found in packaged foods and refined grain products, which has iodine added purposefully to help ensure enough is consumed. But an even better way to get the iodine you need is from iodine-rich foods like sea veggies and seafood, the major natural dietary sources of this nutrient.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body, but also one of the most common minerals that people don’t get enough of. As an electrolyte, magnesium helps regulate calcium, potassium and sodium and is essential for over 300 different biochemical functions in the body. It supports bone health, a positive outlook and calmness, and healthy immune system function.
For older women, the risk of running low in magnesium might be even greater than in younger women. Older people are thought to eat fewer magnesium-rich foods to begin with, plus they’re often prone to experiencing reduced magnesium intestinal absorption, reduced magnesium bone stores and excess urinary loss.
Make sure to get enough by consuming magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green veggies, sea vegetables/algae, beans, nuts and seeds. A high-quality magnesium supplement, such as one that’s fermented and combined with vitamin D, can help to make up the gap in your diet if you suspect you could benefit from obtaining more.
8. Omega-3 Fish Oils
If you don’t consume seafood like salmon, mackerel, sardines, halibut or tuna regularly, chances are you can afford to take an omega-3 supplement to boost your intake.
Most people eating a “Western diet” consume plenty of omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in many packaged foods and vegetables oils, but not enough omega-3 fatty acids, which can have healthy inflammation-supporting effects.
These two fatty acids need to balance each other out in order for the heart, brain and immune systems to stay the healthiest they can. Eating wild-caught fish several times per week or taking a supplement equal to about 1,000 milligrams daily is the best way to get enough omega-3s.
Women can benefit from consuming adequate vitamin K, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium for bone health.
Getting enough calcium is important for bone strength, but it’s also crucial for regulating heart rhythms, aiding in muscle functions, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and many other functions related to nerve signaling, too. Calcium, when consumed when other key nutrients like vitamin D and magnesium, has even more beneficial effects.
This electrolyte, which is actually the body’s most abundant mineral, can be obtained from drinking raw milk, having yogurt or kefir, and from certain plant foods (especially organic types) like leafy green vegetables (such as collard greens and kale), broccoli, okra and beans.
Supplementing with calcium has pros and cons, so speak with your healthcare professional about it, and first try to get enough from foods if you can.
Consuming enough protein in general, including collagen protein, can help to support a healthy gut, skin, hair, nails and joints. Collagen holds the body together, helping to form joints, skin, ligaments, tendons and other tissues, promoting joint comfort and mobility, overall health of your gut, and other important bodily processes.
It’s not always easy to get collagen, the most abundant type of protein in the human body, from one’s diet alone, since it’s found mostly in things like real bone broth.
When a woman ages, her body’s natural production of collagen also declines, which means adding a Multi Collagen Protein supplement to her routine can help to boost her intake and support maintenance of healthy connective tissues.
Probiotics, the “good guy” bacteria that populate the gut, can actually help to support absorption of other vitamins and minerals, since they generally promote healthy digestive function and gastrointestinal health, while supporting a healthy inflammation response.
Not only this, but probiotics for women that also feature herbs, prebiotics and postbiotics can support healthy energy levels and reduce fatigue, help reduce the effects of stress and promote a positive mindset, help promote mental clarity and concentration, and aid in digestive function.
If you’re looking for a high-quality multivitamin, consider choosing a fermented option, as this form of “predigestion” helps make the nutrients bioavailable and absorbable for your digestive system.
You can also try multivitamins that are packed with additional superfood ingredients like spirulina, camu camu, chia seeds, apple cider vinegar and ashwagandha, which also support digestive function and gut health in general.
It’s important to remember that even if you take all or some of the best supplements for women, this still can’t replace eating a healthy diet.
- What are the best vitamins for women? The best vitamins for women include vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins.
- In addition to the best vitamins for women, other nutrients that are important include iron, iodine, magnesium, omega-3 fish oil and calcium.
- Some factors that make a women more likely to have low levels of certain vitamins or minerals include: eating a highly processed diet, being vegetarian or vegan, being underweight or consuming too little calories in general, being of reproductive age, being over the age of 65, and having a low socioeconomic status, a lack of education and living in poverty.
- While a well-rounded, whole foods diet is the No. 1 way to obtain essential nutrients, supplementing can help to fill in gaps in your diet and offer benefits like support for healthy immune system function, skin health, healthy energy levels, cardiovascular support, and more.
Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.