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Women vs. men: Different bodies, different vitamin requirements

Differences between the sexes go much deeper than how a woman or man does laundry, socializes with friends or chooses a movie. They go as deep as the vitamins working in their bodies to keep tissues healthy and strong.

Woman taking vitamin

All bodies need the right mix of the 13 essential vitamins, but some are more important than others when it comes to the sexes. Dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy Elizabeth Somer has tips on what vitamins we need most and why.

SheKnows: What vitamins do women need that aren’t so important for men?

Elizabeth Somer: All vitamins are essential, meaning our bodies can’t make them, so they must be obtained from the diet. That said, some vitamins are of particular importance for women — for example, folic acid, the B vitamin essential to prevent birth defects like spina bifida. Women need at least 400 mcg a day, but often don’t get enough. By the time the pregnancy test comes back positive and they ponder taking a supplement, it could be too late. Since one in two pregnancies are unplanned, according to the March of Dimes, it is essential that all women who are sexually active take a multi that contains folic acid.

How much liver do you eat?

SheKnows: Is folic acid difficult to get from food sources?

Elizabeth Somer: Folate in food is not as well absorbed as folic acid in supplements. Also, the main dietary sources of folate are dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and liver. Since most women do not get at least two servings of dark greens a day, seldom eat legumes and almost never eat liver, it is common for many women to be low in this vitamin.

SheKnows: On the other side, what vitamins do men need that aren’t of as much concern to women?

Elizabeth Somer: Almost everyone is lacking in colorful fruits and vegetables, but men do worse than women, which means their diets are often low in vitamins C, E, A and K.

A whole-food diet and supplements for your body’s best health

VitaminsSheKnows: Are supplements necessary for women?

Elizabeth Somer: Anyone worth their weight in nutrition credentials will tell you to go to food first. However, the reality is that 99 out of 100 Americans don’t meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet, FDA data says, let alone optimal. Everyone would benefit from a moderate-dose multi-vitamin and -mineral supplement to fill in the gaps on days when you don’t eat perfectly. Vitamin D is needed in extra amounts often not obtained from diet plus a multi alone. After that, some people at certain ages may benefit from extra amounts of certain vitamins. For example, people don’t absorb vitamin B12 as well as they age or if they are on acid-blocking medications, so this vitamin may be needed in extra amounts for those people.

SheKnows: Why all the press about D, the sunshine vitamin, for health, mood and energy?

Elizabeth Somer: Vitamin E was all over the research and press a few years ago because of its antioxidant capabilities, now vitamin D is coming into the limelight. That’s because for years we thought vitamin D was only important for bone development and maintenance. Once researchers recognized that every cell in the body has receptor sites for vitamin D, it became clear this vitamin was important for much more. I’ve not heard about “energy” but there is an accumulation of research showing links with vitamin D, mood, seasonal affective disorder, multiple sclerosis, certain cancers and muscle strength.

Eat unprocessed foods 75 percent of the time

SheKnows: Is our growing consumption of processed foods one of the problems in the fight to nourish our bodies properly?

Elizabeth Somer: Yes! Our bodies evolved over millions of years designed to eat real food that could be hunted or gathered. Those foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, protein and other essential nutrients. Man has never bettered Mother Nature. The more processed a food, the lower its content of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber, and the higher its calories, fat, sugar and/or salt. The fix? Eat “real” unprocessed foods at least 75 percent of the time … and supplement responsibly.

Watch: Superfood dinner

Today on the Daily Dish, chef at Province Restaurant at the Westin Phoenix Downtown, Rita French, shows you how to make a hearty Spanish chorizo, potato and kale soup.

More women’s nutrition tips

Get your daily dose of vitamin C
Top vitamins and minerals women need
The best foods for women’s health

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