In honor of National Women’s History Month, I came up with my quick and dirty guide to the top 5 nutrients women should pay special attention to.
Vitamin D and calcium go hand-in-hand. Vitamin D is vital for proper calcium absorption and calcification of bone. In other words, if you want to actually lay down the calcium you are eating, you need vitamin D to go with it. We get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure, as UV radiation hits the skin and triggers vitamin D synthesis. Both the vitamin D we get from sun exposure and the vitamin D we consume in food are inert and need to first be processed (twice!) in the body before they can be used. Besides bone development and maintenance, vitamin D is important for cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that isn’t naturally present in many foods. It’s added to some commercially prepared foods, and it is available as a supplement. Adult men and women actually require the same daily intake of 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D, but getting an adequate amount is hard. Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, and many women tend to avoid the foods that contain it due to a media-perpetuated perceived “unhealthiness” of certain foods. Dairy is the best sources of vitamin D, with two glasses of cow’s milk per day meeting your needs. Other sources include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish liver oils. Beef liver, cheese, and eggs also provide small amounts.
A vitamin D supplement isn’t a bad idea, and many calcium+vitamin D supplements are available on the market. If you’re not sure what you need, meet with your registered dietitian.