Vitamins and minerals are essential to helping your body function efficiently. Most should be able to be gained through eating a well-balanced diet. However, some people -- like breastfeeding or pregnant women, post-menopausal women and vegetarians -- may also need to take some vitamin supplements.
Iron helps build up your red blood cell count and assists your body to transport oxygen through your bloodstream. Without enough iron, you may start to feel sluggish, look pale and feel weak. Iron is especially important for women's health because we lose red blood cells every time we menstruate. Those who are pregnant or experience heavy periods, have anaemia or who are vegetarians need to pay special attention to their iron intake. Boost your iron count by eating red meat, chicken, fish, spinach and beans.
Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant -- or those who are planning a pregnancy -- are in special need of folic acid, or folate. This B vitamin is believed to help reduce spinal cord defects in newborns. Increase your intake by filling up on dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, wholegrain breads, fortified cereals, and orange or grapefruit juice.
Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, and is believed to help prevent osteoporosis. It may also help ease PMS symptoms like bloating and moodiness. Chow down on dairy products like low-fat plain yoghurt and cheese, as well as sardines, lentils and legumes.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your body to absorb iron better and it also supports collagen-growth for bones, cartilage and muscle/blood vessels. Cut up a piece of citrus fruit, drink a glass of orange juice or nibble on a few chewable vitamin C supplement tablets alongside an iron-rich meal.
Vitamin D is also important for your bones and teeth, and is said to potentially help protect against breast cancer and osteoporosis. While the good old sunshine is a fantastic source of vitamin D, as we're heading into winter it's important to ensure you're still getting enough vitamin D from the foods you eat. Fill up the fridge with fish, eggs and fortified milk.
The antioxidant Vitamin E is great for your skin, so most women will want to ensure they're getting their quota to promote a healthy, smooth complexion that glows. Vitamin E also helps protect cells from damage, boosts your immune system and may prevent some chronic diseases. Sources include wheatgerm, nuts like almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach and avocado.
Zinc aids reproduction and development, which makes it another key mineral for women. Meat eaters can boost their intake of zinc by making sure they're incorporating enough meat into their diets, while vegetarians should focus on eating plenty of nuts, grains and dairy products.
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