8 Micronutrient Superpowers to Boost Female Health
When it comes to maintaining optimum female health, nutrition, and regular exercise are the key factors. However, at certain stages in a woman’s life, some micronutrients are particularly vital and it helps to know which ones may be needed more than others.
Micronutrients, which are often referred to as vitamins and minerals, are crucial for healthy development, prevention of disease as well as maintenance of wellbeing, especially for female health. Except for Vitamin D, micronutrients have to be necessarily obtained from a healthy and balanced diet as they are not produced endogenously1. Micronutrient deficiency may lead to serious health consequences especially in women. The top eight vital micronutrients for optimum female health include:
The most abundant body mineral, calcium is essential for several bodily functions, like:
- Development of strong bones and teeth
- Muscle contraction and movement
- A co-factor in many enzymatic reactions
- In cardiovascular health; aids the blood clotting process and also maintains the pumping action of cardiac muscles
- Decreases the risk of osteoporosis and low bone density which comes with aging
- Calcium supplementation during pregnancy may reduce preeclampsia and low birth weight risks during pregnancy1.
What’s the recommended calcium intake for females?
- 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily for girls aged 9 to 18 years.
- 1,000 mg of calcium daily for adult premenopausal females.
- 1,200 mg of calcium daily for elderly postmenopausal women.2
Sources of food rich in Calcium include yogurt, cheese, and milk, foods with added calcium such as some soy beverages, tofu, canned salmon, nuts and nut butter, fortified cereals, beans, lentils, and dark green leafy vegetables 2.
- An essential mineral in many body functions, some of the roles played by Iron in the body include:
- Essential for building healthy blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body
- Enhances the functioning of the reproductive organs 3.
- Improves motor and cognitive functions.
- Assists in the production of the red blood cells and wound healing 2
- Boosts metabolism and enhances growth and development 3
What are the dangers of not taking iron supplements during your pregnancy?
Females are at an increased risk of Iron deficiency anaemia due to repeated Iron losses during menstruation, pregnancy, and birth.
Anaemia during pregnancy can increase the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight (LBW)1.
Adequate iron levels are therefore essential during pregnancy for the developing fetus, and iron supplementation helps to reduce maternal mortality2.
What’s the recommended daily intake of iron for females?
- Ages 19 to 50: 18 mg
- During pregnancy: 27 mg
- Lactating mother: 9mg
- Ages 51 and older: 8 mg
What foods are good sources of iron?
The following foods are packed with iron and can easily be incorporated with any meal to maintain healthy iron levels:
- Fortified Cereals
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is essential during the reproductive years of women. The terms folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably however folates occur naturally whereas folic acid is a synthetic form of folate3.
Folate helps to maintain optimum health in the following ways:
- Lowers the risk of neural tube defects (NTD) in the growing fetus
- Involved in the production of red blood cells
- Essential for DNA synthesis
- Aids in protein digestion
What’s the recommended folate intake for women?
- Women aged 18 years and older who are not pregnant: 400mcg
- Pregnant women: 600mcg
- Lactating women: 500mcg3
What can I eat to incorporate folate into my diet?
- Dark Leafy Vegetables
- Fortified Cereals4.
Why is vitamin D so important for a woman’s health?
Vitamin D is the bodies fighter against a number of dangerous health issues, it –
- Helps in reducing inflammation in the body cells
- Helps in building strong bones and preventing osteomalacia.
- Enhances immune system functioning 2
- Reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancers9
- Is vital to enhance fetal bone development during pregnancy 9.
How much Vitamin D should I take for my age?
- Women aged 14 to 70 years: 600 international units (IU) daily5
- Women aged 71 years and above: 800 IU daily
- Good sources of vitamin D include fish like tuna and salmon, fortified cereals, and fortified foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.2
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that plays the following roles in the body:
- Mops up free radicals and reduces oxidative stress4
- Boosts immunity against infectious diseases
- Aids in cell protection and regulation
- Serves as an anti-inflammatory and anti-degenerative agent which prevents premature wrinkles and dry skin8
- Aids in building strong muscles, healthy tissues, and nerves
- Enhances cognitive development especially amongst the elderly6
What foods contain the most Vitamin C?
Adding these foods to your daily diet can go a long way in boosting your Vitamin C levels;
- Red And Green Peppers
Sometimes referred to as the “energy vitamin”, vitamin B12 is essential for female health. Some of its important functions include:
Needed for red blood cell production
- Maintains healthy nerve functioning
- Aids in protein metabolism
- Helps support the immune system
It’s also shown some strong potential to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative brain disease especially among the elderly.
How much Vitamin B6 should I take as a woman over 50?
Women aged 50 years and above should take 1.3 mg to 1.5 mg
Lots of rich food sources contain Vitamin B6 so make sure you include these in your diet as regularly as possible;
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified soy milk
- and nutritional yeast4.
Due to the high presence of Vitamin B12 in most meat products, vegans and vegetarians need to be extra careful to include it in their diet and as a supplement. It’s really important for any breastfeeding woman with a purely vegan diet to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure you get an adequate B12 intake for you and your growing baby’s health.7.
Iodine, also known as iodide, is a mineral that is crucial for the general health and wellbeing of women, but especially vital in pregnancy for the proper development of fetal neural tissues. Some of its functions include:
- Growth and development of the fetus
- Healthy development of the fetal brain3.
- Offers some protection against the development of fibrocystic breast disease 10
- Needed for the production of thyroid hormone which is an essential hormone that regulates the metabolism4.
What’s the recommended daily iodine intake for women?
- Women between 18 to 39 years:150 mcg
- Pregnant women: 220mg
- Breastfeeding women: 290mg3.
Good sources of Iodine include iodized salt, fish, milk, yoghurt, cheese, and grains4.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in the following functions:
- promoting healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Improved bone health
- Enhanced energy production
- Stress relief and relaxation
- Regulation of muscle and nerve function
- Protein and DNA synthesis
Magnesium deficiency in pregnancy is linked to problems like gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, and low birth weight. Some women may worry about the excess intake of magnesium and the harm it could do to a baby but Magnesium toxicity is rare because the body removes any excesses consumed5.
How much Magnesium is the recommended daily dose for women?
- Women aged 19 to 30 need 310 mg daily
- Women aged 31 to 50 need 320 mg daily 5.
There are loads of good sources of magnesium to include in your daily diet: spinach and other leafy greens as well as peas are inexpensive and easy to add to all sorts of cooked meals, salads and sandwiches.
Whole grains, beans, and nuts, soy products, oats, wheat, barley, and dairy products are also easy healthy snack options that you can have as staples in your pantry cupboard and fridge to stay healthy with a good dose of magnesium5
Make smart food choices
To achieve and maintain optimum health, micronutrients mustn’t be overlooked when making food choices. These vitamins and minerals are best obtained from a healthy and balanced diet but when necessary, can be gotten from supplements.
Meat and vegetables are often thought to be expensive, but they don’t have to be. While it’s convenient to pop down to the local supermarket, this can be a pricey way to shop. Rather, wander or drive down to any fresh produce markets nearby and do some research into where you can source straight from any farmers in your area. You may be surprised at the healthy and fresh food available on your doorstep. stay healthy and support your community. It’s a win-win!
Remember that it’s always best when any dietary adjustments or micronutrient supplementation, to chat to your doctor for expert, personal advice.