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9 Best Supplements for Women Per Science

Hannah Cooper

Supplements can help supply our bodies with additional nutrients to cover what we used up in the course of a busy day.

That said, it may be tempting to head to your local health store and stock up on all supplements in sight, however, you may not need all of them, and some may be downright harmful.

See the science behind the best supplements for women, what they do, and how to take them.

Comprehensive Guide to the Best Supplements for Women

There’s a vast range of supplements advertised for women, but below, we list the best:

Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are specialized fats that our bodies can’t produce.

This oil consists of the fat or oil extracted from the fish tissue. It usually comes from fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. Sometimes, it’s removed from the liver of other fish, for instance, cod liver oil.

What Does It Do?

Approximately 30 percent of fish oil consists of omega-3 fatty acids, while the other 70 percent comprises other healthy fats. It generally also contains vitamins, such as vitamin A and D.

Benefits from consuming fish oil include:

  • It may minimize some of the risks connected to cardiovascular disease [1].
  • Omega-3s could improve the symptoms of specific psychiatric disorders.
  • Fish oil may aid weight loss, especially reducing waist circumference when combined with diet or exercise.
  • Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, it could reduce symptoms of inflammatory diseases.
  • Omega-3s could aid pregnancy and the infant’s early growth and development.

Consuming higher amounts of omega-3 significantly reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death

How to Take It

For most women, the recommended daily amount is about 1 to 1.4 grams of EPA and DHA, even during pregnancy [2]. However, if you have elevated triglycerides or is otherwise under your doctor’s guidance, you might consider 2 to 3 grams of fish oil.

Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for women, which we get through dairy products such as milk and yogurt, and other fortified foods.

There are several risks of not consuming enough calcium, like low bone mass, which could lead to osteoporosis. For women, typically, about 1 percent of their body weight is calcium, which goes to show just how important this mineral is [3].

What Does It Do?

Getting enough calcium will promote bone health. Additionally, your muscles, nerves, and heart also need calcium to function properly.

Some studies also suggest that it could protect against cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes [4]. However, studies aren’t definitive, and more research is needed for a conclusion.

With that said, you should always consult your health care provider before taking calcium supplements because they aren’t for everyone.

If you have certain health conditions that cause excess calcium in the bloodstream, such as hypercalcemia, it’s best to avoid calcium supplements. Other studies, though not definitive, show a possible link between high-dose calcium supplements and heart disease [5].

How to Take It

Women aged 50 years and younger may consider taking a daily calcium supplement containing at least 500 milligrams. Supplement this by consuming calcium-rich foods, including cheeses, milk, yogurt, and fortified foods.

For women ages, 50 years and up, aim for a daily supplement of 800 to 1,000 mg and consume a calcium-rich diet. If you take a supplement containing 1,000 mg daily, it’s best to split the dosage for better absorption, consume half after breakfast and the other half after dinner.

If you don’t have a lot of stomach acid, talk to your doctor about taking calcium citrate.

Iron

Iron is an especially important mineral; it helps the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein in charge of transporting oxygen in the blood. Besides this, iron plays a crucial role in a variety of other essential processes in the body.

If you don’t get enough iron in the blood, it can lead to various serious health issues, including iron deficiency anemia. Women are especially at risk of low iron levels during their menstrual cycles, but it’s also crucial during pregnancy [6].

What Does It Do?

Iron helps to preserve various vital functions in the body. This includes focus and general energy, gastrointestinal processes, body temperature regulation, and the immune system.

For instance, during pregnancy, blood volume and the production of red blood cells increase significantly to supply the growing baby with nutrients and oxygen. Thus, the body requires more iron to compensate, and your physician will often prescribe an iron supplement.

Additionally, getting enough iron can also improve your athletic performance. Young female athletes are particularly prone to iron deficiency, weakening the immune system and decreasing their performance during physical exertion [7].

How to Take It

Women require different amounts of iron depending on age and whether they’re breastfeeding or not.

Between the ages of 14 to 18, the recommended daily amount is 15 mg, and from age 19 to 50, you should look at 18 mg. During pregnancy, you need 27 mg, and while breastfeeding, between 9 to 10 mg.

You can get iron through foods, such as vegetables, including leafy greens, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning we only need small amounts to stay healthy. However, because of this, zinc is also often overlooked, and this can quickly lead to a zinc deficiency.

This trace mineral is crucial for women throughout their lives, but especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

What Does It Do?

Zinc has several benefits to the female body. For starters, it helps support immune function by fighting foreign substances and toxins.

Additionally, it helps keep your blood sugar levels stable by playing a role in the synthesis, storage, and insulin release through the pancreas [8]. Zinc can also aid your weight loss journey by supporting your metabolism—it helps metabolize carbs, fat, and protein, increasing your energy levels and reduces sluggishness.

Zinc supplements have significant health benefits on diabetic individuals

How to Take It

Women aged 19 years and up need at least 8 mg of zinc daily. Pregnant women require up to 11 mg, and while breastfeeding, you need 12 mg.

Probiotic

Probiotics are live microorganisms we find in fermented foods and supplements. They help balance the bacteria in the digestive system, which could prevent certain diseases and aid your overall health.

What Does It Do?

Because probiotics are live microorganisms, they’re considered good bacteria that can help promote a healthy balance in your stomach.

Taking probiotics may aid the protection of your heart by minimizing “bad” LDL cholesterol. It might also help to modestly lower your blood pressure [9].

Some studies show that taking probiotic supplements can help better symptoms of mental health disorders, such as stress, anxiety, memory, and depression.

How to Take It

Besides fermented foods, probiotics are available as powders, capsules, and tablets that contain a dry form of live microorganisms. They’re available online on sites like Amazon.

However, note that stomach acid can damage or destroy some probiotics before reaching the gut, meaning you won’t get the intended benefits.

When taking probiotics, look to consume 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units per day, equivalent to one capsule. They may cause loose stools during the first week, but this should go away as your body adjusts to the supplement.

Collagen

You may have heard of collagen in skincare and beauty products, but collagen is actually an abundant protein found in the body. It’s a significant component of connective tissues, making up several body parts, such as ligaments, skin, tendons, and muscles.

What Does It Do?

Collagen supplements provide a broad range of health benefits, both internally and externally. Supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of the skin, reducing the occurrence of wrinkles—although, more research is needed.

Taking extra collagen may also reduce inflammation while stimulating collagen synthesis in the body. In turn, this could promote pain relief in joint disorders such as osteoarthritis. It could even reduce the risk of bone disorders, like osteoporosis, by increasing BMD and lower the levels of bone-breaking proteins in the blood [10].

How to Take It

There are three common forms of collagen supplements, and how much to take depends on which type you consume:

  • Hydrolyzed collagen: This type comes from animal sources and is then broken down into smaller, easy-to-absorb peptide particles. With this form, you can take anywhere from 2.5 mg to 15 mg daily, depending on the benefits you’re looking for. To increase bone health, a higher dose is recommended.
  • Gelatin: Also derived from animal sources, gelatin is cooked collagen. You can add gelatin to foods, such as soups and desserts. Consult the label to assess how much it contains.
  • Undenatured collagen: This is a raw form of collagen taken from chicken cartilage. To improve joint health, look to consume between 10 mg to 40 mg daily.

 

B Vitamins

The vitamin B complex is crucial for overall health, and it contains some of the best vitamins for women. B vitamins account for nutrients such as folic acid and pantothenic acid. Each vitamin B serves several benefits for bodily functions.

Though vitamin B is crucial for optimal health, deficiencies are common, especially vitamin B12

What Does It Do?

The vitamin B complex is essential in maintaining good physical and mental health, and they’re especially important for women. They serve as building blocks for a healthy life and directly impact cell function, energy levels, and brain function [11].

Among many, they help promote:

  • Red blood cell growth
  • Energy levels
  • Eyesight
  • Good digestion
  • Healthy appetite
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Muscle tone
  • Cholesterol and hormone production

B vitamins are especially crucial for women’s health during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. They aid in fetal brain development and reduce the risk of congenital disabilities [12]. During pregnancy, B vitamins, such as vitamins B6 and vitamin B12, may ease nausea, boost energy levels, and lower the risk of preeclampsia.

How to Take It

The recommended daily amount depends on the specific B vitamin:

  • Of B1 and B2, women need 1.1 mg
  • With B3, 14 mg is recommended
  • B5, 5 mg
  • Of B6, 1.3 mg
  • Vitamin B12, 2.4 mg
  • Biotin, 30 micrograms (mcg)
  • Folic acid, 400 mcg

Elder women, pregnant, or breastfeeding may need more. Consult your physician to ensure you get enough, especially B6 and B12. You can also get nutrients through food sources, like whole grains and fruits.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the essential vitamins for the body and one of the best vitamins for women. It’s abundant in foods such as fruits and vegetables, and it aids in several biological functions, including healing wounds and the synthesis of collagen.

Additionally, this vitamin is an antioxidant capable of neutralizing free radicals that are damaging cells. This vitamin also has a long history, and today it’s widely used as a natural defense against the common cold, though not a cure.

What Does It Do?

Taking vitamin C supplements has several benefits. For starters, it can prevent a deficiency, which could otherwise lead to scurvy, characterized by bleeding gums, fatigue, weakness, bruising, and rash [13].

Besides this, vitamin C can help prevent or treat several diseases, such as asthma, colds, cancer, bronchitis, chronic pain, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. However, though studies show promising results, experts need to conduct more research.

How to Take It

The recommended dosage varies depending on age, health goals, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Still, women aged 19 years and up should aim for 75 mg daily. Pregnant women should consume 80 to 85 mg per day, and if you’re breastfeeding, 115 to 120 mg is recommended.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the best vitamins. It’s important for various reasons, such as maintaining healthy teeth and bones. The body can make vitamin D from sun exposure, although vitamin D-rich foods and supplements are needed.

What Does It Do?

Taking a vitamin D supplement can help your health in many ways. For instance, it helps to support your immune and nervous system, as well as the brain. It can regulate insulin levels, aiding in diabetes management [13].

Furthermore, vitamin D may support cardiovascular health, lung function and influence the expression of genes in cancer development.

How to Take It

Again, the recommended dosage of vitamin D depends on your age and fertility status. Women aged 70 and under require 15 mcg daily, and women over 70 years should aim for 20 mcg. During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, women need 15 mcg.

Sensible sun exposure for about five to 10 minutes, two to three times weekly, can allow you to make sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Always wear sunscreen to protect your skin.

FAQ

We’ve included a few frequently asked questions to help further your understanding of supplements for women:

Multivitamins comprise various minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin A and C, and sometimes, other ingredients. Because there’s no standard for what makes a multivitamin, their composition varies by brand.

In the past, multivitamins were significantly hyped up to be essential for a healthy lifestyle. However, recent studies have found that they have little to no effect on heart health, among others. In most cases, it’s best to adjust your diet.

More women, aged 20 and over, are found to consume dietary supplements than men

Another thing to consider is that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements, meaning that products can contain other ingredients or none of the stated ingredients.

If you choose to take a multivitamin, make sure it’s from a reputable brand that does third-party testing.

No, not all women need supplements, although there are minimal side effects to taking a supplement. Most women get enough nutrients through food sources found in a balanced diet, like whole grains, protein, and greens. If you’re in doubt, consult your physician.

Some supplements are safe during pregnancy, such as folic acid, iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. However, it’s crucial to ask your doctor before taking anything.

Generally, a mineral supplement, such as calcium, iron, and copper, is safe while breastfeeding. Some studies suggest that water-soluble supplements like vitamin C can increase breast milk levels [14]. But of course, always consult your physician.

Generally, a mineral or vitamin supplement doesn’t interact with birth control. However, herbal supplements can affect your contraceptive and are best avoided. You might also consider choosing a supplement that’s been tested by a third party to ensure there are no adverse effects.

Some of the best options for women include B vitamins, as well as vitamin C, A, and D.

Conclusion

Women often require more nutrients during their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. Taking a supplement can help give you a boost of essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. The best supplements for women include fish oil, calcium, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and collagen.

Always consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement or multivitamin to ensure your body has a need for it.

References

1. NCCIH. “Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3-supplements-in-depth.

2. Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). “Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/.

3. Cormick, Gabriela, and Jose M Belizán. “Calcium Intake and Health.” Nutrients, MDPI, 15 July 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683260/.

4. Cancer.gov. “Calcium and Cancer Prevention.” National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/calcium-fact-sheet#:~:text=Individuals%20who%20had%20a%20calcium,mg%20or%20less%20per%20day.

5. Reid, Ian R, et al. “Calcium and Cardiovascular Disease.” Endocrinology and Metabolism (Seoul, Korea), Korean Endocrine Society, Sept. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5620030/.

6. Moschonis, George, et al. “Association of Iron Depletion with Menstruation and Dietary Intake Indices in Pubertal Girls: the Healthy Growth Study.” BioMed Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885188/.

7. Alaunyte, Ieva, et al. “Iron and the Female Athlete: a Review of Dietary Treatment Methods for Improving Iron Status and Exercise Performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 6 Oct. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4596414/.

8. Ranasinghe, Priyanga, et al. “Zinc and Diabetes Mellitus: Understanding Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Implications.” Daru : Journal of Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, BioMed Central, 17 Sept. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4573932/.

9. Saini, Rajiv, et al. “Potential of Probiotics in Controlling Cardiovascular Diseases.” Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research, Medknow Publications, Oct. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023901/.

10. SP;, Robins. “Collagen Turnover in Bone Diseases.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12496682/.

11. Kennedy, David O. “B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review.” Nutrients, MDPI, 27 Jan. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/.

12. Finkelstein, Julia L, et al. “Vitamin B-12 and Perinatal Health.” Advances in Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), American Society for Nutrition, 15 Sept. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4561829/.

13. Maxfield, Luke. “Vitamin C Deficiency.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 July 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493187/.

14. “Vitamin C.” Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20 July 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544628/#:~:text=The%20recommended%20vitamin%20C%20intake,a%20reason%20to%20discontinue%20breastfeeding.

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