A better approach to supplementation is to focus on the outcome desired, such as:
- Preventing anaemia and improving energy levels
- Balancing hormone levels
- Preventing hypothyroidism and boosting the metabolism
- Faster fat loss
- Muscle Gain
The Best Multivitamin For Women To Overcome Common Deficiencies
The most common deficiencies in women are:
- Iron – An Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia which is characterised by constant fatigue and easy bruising.
- Iodine – Low iodine levels can lead to impaired thyroid function and a sluggish metabolism, this typically results in extreme fatigue and unwanted weight gain.
- Vitamin D – Being low in Vitamin D can result in an underperforming immune system, poor skin quality and low energy levels.
- Calcium – Low calcium levels can lead to poor bone health and osteoporosis and if levels get too low, even abnormal heart rhythms.
- Magnesium – Magnesium deficiency can cause cramps, insomnia and anxiety. Women who exercise regularly or experience PMS are more at risk of developing a magnesium deficiency.
- Folate – Folate deficiency can lead to the inability to produce enough red blood cells which, when combined with an iron deficiency can lead to severe fatigue. For pregnant women, a folate deficiency can dramatically increase the risk of birth defects.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Iron is arguably the most important nutrient for you to focus on as a woman, due to the regular loss of blood via menstruation, this means your iron levels tend to fluctuate quite a lot.
Around two thirds of your body’s iron stores are found in Hemoglobin. This little molecule helps to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body, so if you’re low in iron you may feel out of breath when performing simple tasks like walking up a set of stairs.
Vitamin B12 is very important for the production of red blood cells, so a deficiency can increase your chances of developing anaemia.
Vitamin B12 helps to lower homocysteine levels in the blood, an inflammatory protein which, when elevated for too long, can increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and mood disorders like depression.
Magnesium plays many roles in the body and can help you improve your sleep quality, and reduce the severity of PMS symptoms and period pain.
Magnesium can also help to prevent osteoporosis by improving the absorption of calcium.
Iodine’s most important role is in maintaining healthy thyroid function and therefore a healthy metabolism and consistent energy levels.
When it comes to pregnancy, adequate iodine levels in the body are needed for proper development of a baby’s brain cells.
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is very important when it comes to immune health, healthy hair, skin and nails, and also for improving mood and preventing depression.
Ever noticed how you tend to be happier in the summer rather than the winter? This has a lot to do with your Vitamin D levels.
You probably know calcium is important for strong bones and teeth and for preventing osteoporosis, but there are other benefits to maintaining adequate calcium levels too.
Calcium works with vitamin K to maintain healthy blood clotting in the body. It also helps to convert cholesterol into sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
And calcium also aids vitamin B12 absorption, a very important vitamin we discussed earlier.
Folate, otherwise known as vitamin B9, is mostly known for its importance when it comes to the development of a healthy baby.
It can also help with lowering homocysteine levels just like our friend Vitamin B12.
Folate may help with preventing mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Food vs. The Best Multivitamin For Women
There’s no doubt that food is a superior source of nutrition, but as mentioned above, there are a number of factors that can make it difficult to get enough of certain vitamins and minerals in the diet.
So what are the foods you should focus on?
Most kinds of meat contain vitamin B12 and iron, but red meat in particular is your absolute best source for these. For bonus points like extra omega-3 fats, try to go grass-fed.
Many nuts contain a variety of important vitamins and minerals but should be eaten in moderation due to their high calorie content and the presence of some “anti-nutrients” which in high doses may actually prevent you from absorbing some of these nutrients.
Almonds are a great source of magnesium, calcium and iron and taste great!
Hazelnuts also do well when it comes to their magnesium, calcium and iron content and are not too far behind almonds.
Cashews may not have much calcium but when it comes to iron and magnesium, they contain quite a lot, with even more magnesium per serve than both almonds and hazelnuts.
Eggs are one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D out there. Eggs also contain saturated fat and cholesterol which are important in the formation of sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Leafy greens, particularly the darker types like spinach and kale, contain good amounts of magnesium, vitamin B12, folate and iron.
Having said that, these plants also contain a lot of “anti-nutrients” which can interfere with the absorption of the nutrients you need.
So it’s best to consume them lightly cooked, by throwing them into a fry pan for a few minutes or quickly steaming or blanching them.
I like tossing a few big handfuls of baby spinach into the pan as I’m finishing up my grass fed beef. This way it wilts to a smaller size while also absorbing some of the delicious flavour from the meat. It’s an easy and tasty way to dramatically increase your leafy green intake.
Sea vegetables like Dulse and Kombu are primarily sought out for their iodine content, but are also a good source of magnesium, calcium and iron.
How Specific Diets Impact Your Vitamin Needs
There are many different types of diets these days. People may choose a particular restrictive diet to achieve sporting goals, or for health reasons, or just to experiment. We’ll cover a few of the most popular here.
Vegan And Vegetarian Diets
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you have a higher risk of becoming deficient in iron, zinc, and vitamins B12, D and K, than your meat eating counterparts.
Another important nutrient often overlooked by many people following these diet protocols is saturated fat, which provides your body with the cholesterol needed to produce sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.
As a vegetarian you can get a good dose of saturated fat by eating eggs and other fatty animal products such as cheese.
If you’re a vegan however, your options are much more limited. But don’t despair, both coconut oil and palm oil (farmed sustainably of course) are great sources of saturated fat that are vegan friendly.
Keto And Paleo Diets
The highest risk phase for those on a strict ketogenic diet is the first few transition weeks.
As you make the switch from burning carbs to primarily burning fats for fuel, you’re at risk of developing a deficiency in certain minerals due to the loss of stored glucose (glycogen) and the water attached to it.
These include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
The same risk applies to the paleo diet. Particularly if you’re not consuming enough carbohydrates via paleo approved carb sources such as root vegetables like potato and sweet potato.
As the paleo diet focuses on real, fresh foods, there is also an increased risk of developing low sodium levels.
You can counteract this simply by adding more salt and natural sauces to your foods.
A pinch of sea salt or himalayan salt with your first glass of water for the day is also a good option, as is coconut water or slightly salted water after a big sweaty workout.
Choosing The Best Multivitamin For Women
By now you may be considering taking a nutritional supplement to help you cover all your bases and prevent the issues that come with the deficiencies described above.
This begs an important question: Which supplement should you take?
With so many options on the market and thousands of new supplements released each year, the choice can be confusing and overwhelming.
For a long time, multivitamin tablets have been the dominant choice for most people who want to cover their bases and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Before grabbing the nearest multivitamin, think about this…
Most multivitamin supplements contain synthetic, hard to absorb versions of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Add to this the fact that they are in the form of a hard to digest, compressed tablet, and it is very unlikely that you will be able to absorb many of the nutrients contained within.