Vitamins make up a vital part of proper nutrition and that is especially important for women because they pass through various stages in their life. In the early stages the requirement is of one type which prepares the girl to go to womanhood.
Then comes the child-bearing age when there is maximum requirement of good nutrition and finally, the old age when the requirement again changes to make the remainder of the life healthy. But what are these vital constituents? What are vitamins.
Vitamins are chemicals that are very essential for proper functioning of the various physical processes. Each vitamin is essential for various vital functions that take place at the cellular level.
But our body cannot produce them except for one, vitamin D. Thus, we need to take different types of foods to fulfill our quota of the required vitamins. Unfortunately, some food may provide most of the vitamins but none can supply all of them.
Normally a healthy person can utilize the vitamins contained in food. However, in some cases, when the deficiency of these essential elements becomes worrying, vitamin supplements may be prescribed by the doctors.
This is something that every woman should be very alert about. The body constituency of a female changes as she grows and the required amount of different vitamins changes also.
Though it is a common belief that five servings of fruits and vegetables per day are enough for supplying the essential vitamins, it may not always be true in each and every case. Moreover, the size and composition of each serving may vary also.
Now, let us get into the details of the vitamins that are absolutely necessary for a woman to remain healthy all through her life.
‘A’ is for antioxidant. Vitamin A, along with vitamins C and E are also known as antioxidant vitamins. These vitamins are protectors of the cells of the bodies and in that way they are very essential for keeping you fit and healthy.
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The human body often generates many free radicals that can cause various problems by destroying the cell structure especially the cell membrane. These antioxidant vitamins help to neutralize these free radicals and dilute their destructive effects.
These vitamins may also be termed ‘anti-aging vitamins’ as they can delay the aging process by retaining the cell health. One may not find naturally occurring vitamin A. It is generally found as Beta-Carotene in foods like carrots, apricots, pumpkin, etc. and only becomes vitamin A after it enters the body.
The vitamin is very important for building of mucous membranes, soft tissues, skin and to some extent the bones. Foods like spinach, broccoli, papaya, etc. are also good sources of vitamin A.
All B-vitamins are very important for a woman. But among them, the most important ones are vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Vitamin B6 plays an important part in general metabolism and is required for brain function.
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Vitamin B12, apart from its role in metabolism, is required for protein synthesis and normal cell division. Folic acid is a very essential vitamin as it is the most important chemical required for development of the CNS (Central Nervous System) and synthesis of RNA and DNA.
During pregnancy, regular intake of folic acid can keep the mother-to-be from safe from various neural tube defects like spina bifida. Deficiency of folate may also lead to anemia.
Folic acid levels in a woman may fall due to various reasons like smoking, use of oral contraceptives and alcohol habit and even poor food habit. Deficiency of the B-vitamins can result in depression, confusion and irritability.
For a good supply of these essential vitamins one should include the foods containing a good supply of them. The food sources are fruits like avocado, banana, strawberries and citrus fruits; Yeast, eggs, fish and organ meats; milk, cheese and yogurt; and legumes and beans.
This vitamin is another of the antioxidant vitamins. It is found in the form of ascorbic acid and is very essential for formation of red blood cells. It also acts as a booster for the neurotransmitter, noradrenalin which is responsible for improving alertness and concentration.
Generally, the body suffers a fall in the level of ascorbic acid when it goes through great stress. The food sources of vitamin C are grapefruit, whole or juice; broccoli, potato, pepper, tomato and strawberry.
This is the final of the three antioxidant vitamins. It plays a very important role in protecting the cell membrane and production of the red blood cells. Popularly, this vitamin is also used as an anti-aging agent as it has properties of slowing the aging process.
Sometimes people suffering regularly from intestinal disorders may become deficient in vitamin E. Sunflower, corn and cod-liver oils; wheat germ, hazel nuts, margarine, etc. are good sources of this essential vitamin.
Though vitamin D is categorized as a vitamin, it actually plays the part of a hormone. It is essential for activating the release of calcium and phosphorus from the food sources into the bloodstream.
These two are the most important elements that the body needs to make the bones strong. Any deficiency of vitamin D will result in the body taking its regular supply of calcium and phosphorus from the bones making them weak and fragile.
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Thus vitamin D deficiency may ultimately lead to osteoporosis. Food source for this vitamin is fish. But the best source is sunshine.
This vitamin is not taken into consideration when defining the essential vitamins. However, it has its own role in maintaining the strength of the bones as well as help in normal blood clotting in the adults.
Fish oil, alfalfa, soybean oil and green leafy vegetables are good sources of this vitamin. Whole foods are always the best sources of vitamins rather than the supplements. There is a tendency of people going for mega-supplements.
But these should be normally avoided and if at all it is needed, it must be taken under supervision of the physicians. Over ingestion of some vitamins may have their own sets of side-effects.