Nutrient deficiency remains a common occurrence despite the availability of food year-round. In a recent NHANES study, 41% of women aged 19-50 have nutritional deficiencies. This number rose to 47% in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Nutrient deficiencies can affect overall health and performance. For example, deficiencies in B vitamins, Iron, and folate can lead to anemia. Zinc deficiency has been associated with poor wound healing and immune function. Adequate Calcium and Vitamin D support bone health. As women age and go through reproductive years, to perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, nutritional needs change.
What Are Micronutrients
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals required and used by the body in small amounts. Micronutrients help with various body processes, including metabolism, energy production, immune function, cellular growth, and repair.
They can be broken down into four main categories: Water soluble vitamins, Fat-soluble vitamins, macrominerals, and trace minerals.
Water Soluble Vitamins
Water soluble vitamins are vitamins that are dissolved in water. They are absorbed by the body through the water in the body and are used by the body immediately. Excess water-soluble vitamins that are consumed are carried away by the urine. Because water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, they must be consumed regularly to maintain optimal levels.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Helps to turn the food you eat into energy for your body. It's vital for the cells in your body to function properly.
Vitamin B1 Food Sources: Fortified foods (bread, cereal, pasta, and rice), pork and fish, low-fat milk, legumes (black beans, soybeans), seeds, and nuts
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Is important for the growth and the function of cells in the body, helps with the metabolism of foods, drugs, and steroids, and helps reduce inflammation by helping to maintain normal homocysteine levels in the body.
Vitamin B2 Food Sources: eggs, organ meats (kidneys and liver), lean meats, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, fortified cereals, bread, and grains.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Helps turn the food you eat into energy and is important in supporting the antioxidant pathways of the body.
Vitamin B3 Food Sources: poultry, beef, fish, nuts, legumes, grains, and fortified grains, broccoli, apple, spinach
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Helps turn food into energy and helps with the making and metabolism of fats.
Vitamin B5 Food Sources: Beef, poultry, seafood, organ meats, egg, mild, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, avocados, peanuts, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, whole grains, brown rice, oats
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Required for over 100 enzyme reactions in normal metabolic function.
Vitamin B6 Food Sources: chickpeas, organ meats, fish, chicken, fortified grains
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Helps break down fats, sugars, and proteins in the food you eat into energy.
Vitamin B7 Food Sources: beef liver, eggs, salmon, pork, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, almonds
Vitamin B9 (folate)
Necessary for your body to make DNA and the cells divide.
Vitamin B9 Food Sources: Beef liver, crab, fish, black-eyed peas, rice, asparagus, dark leafy green vegetables, avocado, wheat germ, cantaloupe
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Helps keep the blood and nerve cells healthy and helps to make DNA
Vitamin B12 Food Sources: Beef liver, clams, nutritional yeast, fish, beef, fortified grains, milk, eggs, cheese, tempeh
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from free radical damage. It is also necessary for the body to make collagen and aids in wound healing.
Vitamin C Food Sources: peppers, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, cantaloupe
Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fats and oils—the body stores fat-soluble vitamins in the fatty tissues and the liver. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, it is possible to get too much in the body because it is stored for use.
Promotes healthy immune function, reproductive health, and normal vision.
Vitamin A Food Sources: fish, organ meats, dairy, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, peppers, mangos, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
Acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage from free radicals.
Vitamin E Food Sources: wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, hazelnuts, peanuts
Helps your body absorb calcium from the food you eat, promotes healthy immune system function, and is essential in the health of nerves and muscles.
Vitamin D Food Sources: Cod liver oil, cold water fish, mushrooms, milk, fortified foods
Helps the body with blood clotting and the health of bones
Vitamin K Food Sources: green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, blueberries, figs, meat, cheese, eggs, soybeans
Macrominerals are minerals that are needed in large amounts by the body.
Helps maintain strong bones.
Calcium Food Sources: dairy, sardines, salmon, fortified foods, leafy green vegetables, broccoli
Used by the cells to make energy, is a component of bones, teeth, and DNA.
Phosphorus Food Sources: Dairy, fatty fish, scallops, chicken, nuts, legumes, brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal, green peas
Essential for regulating muscle and nerve function, maintenance of blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA
Magnesium food Sources: legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, fortified grains, milk, yogurt
Helps maintain electrolyte balance in the body. Works closely with potassium in regulating water and electrolyte balance
Sodium Food Sources: processed foods, brined food, soy sauce, processed meats
Is required for almost all bodily functions, including kidney, heart, muscle, and nerve functions.
Potassium Food Sources: apricots, lentils, squash, prunes, raisins, potato, legumes, banana, milk, spinach, chicken, yogurt, orange juice
Maintains electrolyte balance in the body and helps regulate water balance and blood pressure.
Chloride Food Sources: processed foods, food sauces, processed meats, cheese, canned foods
Essential for protecting your cells and DNA, helps with the metabolism of food, and builds healthy skin, tendons, and ligaments.
Sulfur Food Sources: cruciferous vegetables, turkey, beef, egg, chicken, fish, allium vegetables
Trace Minerals are minerals that are needed in small amounts by the body. These are usually essential, meaning that the body cannot make them on its own and requires intake through food or water to obtain the necessary nutrients.
Is used to make hemoglobin in red blood cells that help carry oxygen to the body's tissues and help to make some hormones in the body.
Iron Food Sources: fortified foods, oysters, legumes, beef liver, tofu, dark chocolate, spinach
Used to make energy and protect cells from damage, used in building strong bone, reproduction, blood clotting, and immune function
Manganese Food Sources: mussels, oysters, clams, hazelnuts, pecans, chickpeas, spinach, pineapple, soybeans, oatmeal, bread
Helps the body make energy, grow new connective tissues and blood vessels, and is essential for nervous and immune system function
Copper Food Sources: beef liver, oysters, crab, dark chocolate, potatoes, mushrooms, nuts, tofu, chickpeas, fish
Required to make thyroid hormones and proper thyroid function
Iodine Food Sources: fortified grains, seafood (cod fish, oysters, seaweed, shrimp, tuna), dairy and dairy products, iodized table salt
Supports the immune system in keeping the body healthy and fighting off infection and is vital in wound healing.
Zinc Food Sources: seafood (oysters, crab, shrimp, sardines), beef, pumpkin seeds, pork, fortified foods
Helps keeps bones and teeth strong
Fluoride Food Sources: drinks made with fluoridated water, shrimp, raisins, oatmeal, grapefruit, potato, rice
Essential for reproduction health, thyroid function, DNA production, and antioxidant support
Selenium Food Sources: brazil nuts, seafood, organ meats
Micronutrients Needed for Women in 20-40
Women of reproductive age have different needs than older women. Key nutrients during this phase of life include Iron, folate, vitamin D, B6, and Iodine. Iron and folate help prevent anemia, which can occur during menstruation and pregnancy. Vitamin D is essential in overall hormone health and regulation. Iodine supports healthy pregnancy and fetal brain development. Iodine is also needed to make the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which assist with the creation of proteins and enzyme activity, as well as regulating normal metabolism
- Iron: 18 mg/day (27 mg during pregnancy, 9 mg during lactation)
- Folate: 400 mcg DFE / day (pregnancy: 600 mcg, lactation 500 mcg)
- Vitamin D: 15 mcg/day (600 IU)
- Vitamin B6: 1.3 mg /day (1.9 mg during pregnancy, 2.0 mg during lactation)
- Iodine: 150 mcg / day (220 mcg during pregnancy, 290 mcg during lactation)
Micronutrient Women 40-50
During peri-menopause and menopause, nutrient requirements change again. During this time, supporting vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and Iron become crucial in supporting hormonal changes that occur during this time. Calcium and vitamin D support bone health.
- Vitamin D: 15 mcg /day (600 IU)
- Calcium: 1000-1200 mg/day
- Zinc: 8 mg / day
- Magnesium: 320 mg / day
- Iron: 18 mg / day
Significant micronutrient deficiencies for postmenopausal women commonly are Vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, Iron, and zinc. Calcium and vitamin D support bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg / day
- Vitamin A: 700 mcg RAE / day
- Vitamin C: 75 mg/day; smokers require 35 mg/day more than nonsmokers
- Vitamin D: 15-20 mcg / day (600-800 IU)
- Calcium: 1200 mg / day
- Iron: 8 mg / day
- Zinc: 8 mg / day
Micronutrient testing is a simple and comprehensive test used to detect any nutrient deficiencies and optimize nutrient levels. Micronutrient testing is usually a blood spot or blood and urine test that can easily be done from home or a lab. Results can guide dietary and supplementation recommendations if needed.
Micronutrients are essential for optimal health and well-being, and deficiencies are prevalent in America. Women's needs change over their lifespan and vary depending on reproductive years through menopause and beyond. A micronutrient test is an easy at-home way to ensure optimal cellular function and health. Diet and supplement recommendations can then be tailored to specific needs.