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While certain nutritional needs can change, some nutrients remain particularly important throughout a woman’s life. By eating well, women can get much of what they need, such as protein and fiber, but many can benefit from taking supplements to ensure they get enough of certain essential vitamins and minerals that the diet doesn’t always provide in sufficient amounts, such as calcium, vitamin D, and zinc.
For starters, it’s a good idea for every woman to take a daily multivitamin to get a family of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C (200 to 1,000 mg per day) and the B-complex vitamins. The B vitamins that are part of this complex are thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin or niacinamide (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin, folic acid, and cobalamin (vitamin B12). Most multivitamins will also contain beneficial zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E for healthy skin and immune function, and to protect against a wide variety of diseases.
A woman’s bones need extra care to help preserve bone mass and avoid possible osteoporosis later in life. Body After Baby author and nutrition expert Jackie Keller says “Women need calcium at all stages of life, and we generally don’t get enough in our diets through food sources.” Look for a calcium supplement that, combined with diet and what you might get in a multivitamin, gives you around 1,000 mg per day, 1,200 if you’re over 51. To further protect bones, doctors also recommend supplementing with 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D per day when taking calcium.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for the body’s health. For women, they may protect against a wide range of conditions, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and depression. Food sources include cold-water fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and canola oil. Common supplement forms of omega-3s are fish oil capsules (1,000 to 4,000 mg per day) and ground flaxseed (1 tablespoon [15 ml] one or two times a day). You can easily grind your own flaxseeds in a small coffee bean grinder to guarantee freshness.