Four Important Nutrients for Women's Health

Pictures I am a huge proponent of simply including a variety of foods in one's diet to ensure a wide range of nutrients are being taken in. Keeping it simple by focusing on including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other lean protein sources, nuts and seeds, and calcium rich foods daily is typically all you need to do to be certain you are giving your body all it needs to be healthy. Typically...

While all nutrients are important and eating an assortment of foods is a great way to cover your bases, as women there are some nutrients we are just more likely to be deficient in or need in higher amounts.

Calcium

We have been told ad nauseam the importance of getting enough calcium to build strong bones. But not many of us heed the advice and while we may not have broken any bones yet the importance of enough calcium cannot be overstated.

Calcium is vital for the health of our blood vessels, muscles, and keeping our hormones balanced in addition to bone integrity.

Calcium Sources

  • Dairy and dairy substitutes fortified with calcium
  • Canned fish with bones like salmon and sardines
  • Calcium set tofu (look for calcium sulfate in the ingredient list)
  • Collard, mustard, beet, and turnip greens, spinach, and kale
  • Edamame

Vitamin D

You can think of vitamin D and calcium as the Wonder Twins. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and they work together to keep our bones strong well into our twilight years. But just like calcium, vitamin D is important to more than just bone strength. It has anti-inflammatory properties and may be helpful in treating many women's health issues such as endometriosis and PCOS, both of which  negatively affect fertility. It is notoriously hard to get enough vitamin D from food and sunlight alone, so ask your health provider to check if you would benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D Sources:

  • Sunshine!
  • Fish such as halibut, carp, trout, and salmon
  • Cod liver oil
  • Vitamin D fortified dairy and dairy substitutes

Folic Acid

Folic acid is one of many B vitamins. It is important to cell development and is especially important if you are planning to get pregnant. Too little folic acid before and during pregnancy can lead to spinal and brain birth defects.

Folic Acid Sources

  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Enriched grains and grain products
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach

Iron

This mineral is an integral part of our blood cell that shuttles oxygen around our bodies. Our bodies absorb it best with vitamin C. Try pairing foods high in iron and vitamin C to get the most bang for your buck.

Iron Sources:

  • Red meat, poultry, and fish
  • Beans and nuts
  • Iron fortified grains and grain products
  • Spinach and swiss chard

Vitamin C Sources:

  • Citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, and guava
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli

Suggested pairings:

  • Beef and broccoli
  • Hot cereal with nuts, dried fruit, and strawberries
  • Bean burrito made with beans, meat, and peppers
  • Smoothies made with fruit and green vegetables

The above are by no means the only sources of calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, iron, and vitamin C but consider adding them to get more of these vitamins and minerals in your diet.