Vitamins For Women

Women have different nutritional needs throughout their lives, making vitamins crucial for their overall health and well-being. This article explores the essential vitamins for women, their functions, and food sources.

Specific nutritional needs of women

Women’s nutritional needs change at various stages of their life. During menstruation, women may need to increase their iron intake to replenish lost blood and prevent anaemia. Pregnant women need additional folic acid to support foetal development and reduce the risk of birth defects. As women age, they may require higher calcium and vitamin D intake to maintain bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Also, women going through menopause may benefit from phytoestrogen-rich foods to help manage hormonal changes.

Getting an adequate intake of essential vitamins like B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and antioxidants is crucial across various stages, for supporting hormone balance, immune function, and overall vitality.

Importance of a balanced diet

A balanced diet is the best way to meet the nutritional needs of women and maintain their overall health. A diverse and well-rounded diet should include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Each food group contributes essential vitamins and minerals, ensuring women receive a comprehensive range of nutrients. By focusing on a balanced diet, the body is better equipped to carry out vital functions.

The role of supplements

While a balanced diet is an ideal way to obtain essential vitamins, supplements can be supportive, especially when dietary intake falls short of meeting daily requirements. Supplements can be beneficial for women with specific dietary restrictions, medical conditions, or during certain life stages. However, healthcare professionals can provide personalised recommendations based on individual health needs, ensuring that women take the right supplements in appropriate doses without risking adverse effects.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining healthy vision. It helps form a protein called rhodopsin, which is found in the retina of the eye and is essential for mediating vision in dim lighting. 

Adequate vitamin A intake reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common eye condition that can lead to vision loss in older adults. In addition, vitamin A helps to maintain skin health. It is used in various skincare products for its ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Harvard T.H Chan mentions some of the benefits of vitamin A; such as “stimulating the production and activity of white blood cells, takes part in remodelling bone, helps maintain healthy endothelial cells (those lining the body’s interior surfaces), and regulates cell growth and division such as needed for reproduction.”

Food sources rich in vitamin A

  • Liver (Very rich in Vitamin A and should be taken with caution)
  • Fish oil
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, and butter in moderation)
  • Eggs
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc)
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli

Vitamin C

As an antioxidant, vitamin C helps protect the body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage. By neutralising these free radicals, vitamin C helps reduce oxidative stress, which is linked to various chronic diseases and ageing processes.

One of the critical roles of vitamin C is supporting the production and function of white blood cells, particularly lymphocytes and phagocytes. Vitamin C also enhances the activity of natural killer cells, which play a critical role in identifying and destroying infected cells and cancer cells.

Vitamin C also aids in collagen production, a protein that helps maintain the integrity of the skin and other tissues. This aids wound healing and reduces the risk of skin infections.

Food sources rich in vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes)
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • Kiwi
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Guava

Vitamin D

Without adequate vitamin D levels, the body cannot absorb sufficient calcium, which can lead to weakened bones and an increased risk of conditions like osteoporosis, especially in women as they age. Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by brittle and fragile bones, making individuals more susceptible to fractures and injuries.

Vitamin D also regulates calcium levels in the blood. If these levels drop too low, vitamin D signals the body to release calcium from the bones, ensuring there is enough calcium circulating in the blood for various physiological functions. While sunlight is a significant source of vitamin D, it's not always sufficient to meet daily requirements, especially in regions with limited sun exposure.

Dietary sources of vitamin D

  • Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.)
  • Egg yolks and fortified dairy products like milk and yoghurt
  • Red meat
  • Some breakfast cereals
  • Liver

Vitamin E

One of the primary functions of vitamin E is its powerful antioxidant properties. It neutralizes and prevents free radicals from damaging cells and causing oxidative stress. This is important for skin health, as the skin is continually exposed to environmental stressors like UV radiation, pollution, and other factors that can lead to premature ageing and skin damage.

Healthy cells are better equipped to carry out their roles effectively, leading to improved overall health and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Food sources rich in vitamin E

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts)
  • Plant oils (sunflower oil, safflower oil, wheat germ oil, olive oil)
  • Spinach and other leafy greens
  • Avocado
  • Wheatgerm (found in some cereals)
  • Plant-based milk alternatives

Vitamin K

When there is an injury or damage to a blood vessel, blood clotting prevents excessive bleeding. Vitamin K helps activate proteins in the blood that are responsible for clot formation, ensuring the body can effectively stop bleeding and facilitate wound healing.  

Vitamin K also supports the proper utilisation of calcium in bones. This is vital for maintaining bone density and reducing the risk of fractures, especially as women age and become more susceptible to bone-related issues like osteoporosis.

Food sources rich in Vitamin K

  • Leafy Greens (spinach, kale, collard greens and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin K1)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Parsley
  • Fermented foods
  • Cheese (certain cheeses, such as gouda, brie, and cheddar, contain small amounts of vitamin K2)

Biotin (B7)

Biotin (B7) provides metabolism support (converting food into energy), which can be helpful during menopause, a time when the body is more likely to retain and gain weight. B7 can increase energy levels to help with daily activities, indirectly helping to manage weight. It also supports cognitive function and mood. Biotin can also help with nail and hair growth.

B7 supports foetal development during pregnancy, aiding the healthy growth of the baby

Food sources rich in biotin

  • Egg yolks
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, and peas)
  • Whole grains (oats, brown rice, barley)
  • Organ meats (liver or kidney in moderation)
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt)

Folate (B9)

Folate (B9) is another vitamin that is important for foetal development. It also helps the production of red blood cells and in doing so reduces the risk of anaemia, lowers homocysteine levels and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, besides helping with cognitive function and mood.

Food sources rich in Folate

  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens)
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans)
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits)
  • Avocado
  • Fortified cereals and grains
  • A small amount of liver

B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is essential for the synthesis of DNA and the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. These are the cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to various tissues and organs. Adequate vitamin B12 prevents megaloblastic anaemia, a condition where red blood cells become large and do not mature, leading to reduced oxygen-carrying capacity and fatigue.

Food sources rich in Vitamin B12

  • Meat and poultry (beef, liver, lamb, chicken, turkey)
  • Fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, trout)
  • Dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs - particularly in the yolk)
  • Fortified foods (some breakfast cereals and plant-based milk alternatives)

Vitamin B6

By supporting the production of neurotransmitters, vitamin B6 helps maintain a balanced mood and may play a role in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also contributes to stress management, as adequate levels of neurotransmitters can help the body cope with stress more effectively.

Vitamin B6 is involved in hormone regulation. It is essential for the metabolism of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. These play significant roles in the menstrual cycle and overall reproductive health. Maintaining hormonal balance is crucial for women as fluctuations in hormone levels can impact various aspects of their health, including mood, energy levels, and menstrual cycles.

Food sources rich in vitamin B6

  • Poultry (chicken and turkey, especially breast meat)
  • Fish (salmon, tuna, cod)
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, black beans)
  • Bananas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach
  • Fortified cereals


What else do women need to consider in their diet?

Iron - Losing blood and, consequently, iron, on a monthly basis makes women more susceptible to developing iron-deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and impaired cognitive function. It can also lead to reduced exercise tolerance and a compromised immune system.

Iron rich food sources and absorption enhancers

  • Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Fish and shellfish (such as salmon, tuna, clams)
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans)
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Fortified cereals and bread
  • Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds
  • Quinoa and amaranth
  • Spinach and other leafy greens


Calcium is vital for bone health and increases in importance during menopause. This is when a significant decline in oestrogen levels can lead to bone loss and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Adequate calcium intake can support bone density and reduce the risk of fractures and other bone-related issues in menopausal women.

Calcium rich food sources

  • Cow's milk is a well-known and easily accessible source of calcium.
  • Unsweetened plain yoghurt also has added probiotic benefits for gut health
  • Certain types of cheese, such as cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss, contain substantial amounts of calcium
  • Kale is rich in calcium but also provides other essential nutrients
  • Broccoli is packed with other vitamins and minerals
  • Some plant-based milk alternatives, like almond, soy, and oat milk, are fortified with calcium
  • Certain breakfast cereals and orange juice are also fortified with calcium
  • Canned fish with bones, such as salmon and sardines, are excellent sources of calcium
  • Almonds, sesame seeds, etc


Magnesium contributes to overall well-being. supporting energy production, regulating blood sugar levels, and aiding the metabolism of other essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

It plays a part in promoting healthy sleep patterns and relaxation, which is particularly beneficial for women dealing with stress and tension during their menstrual cycle or menopause. Proper sleep and relaxation are crucial for managing stress and maintaining overall physical and mental health.

Food sources rich in magnesium

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy greens
  • Legumes
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate

Which vitamins do I need for pregnancy and prenatal?

Adequate nutrition will ensure the baby receives all the essential nutrients required for healthy growth, while also maintaining the mother's health and well-being.

Several vitamins and minerals play a critical role during pregnancy, supporting various aspects of foetal development and maternal health

  • Folic acid is crucial for early fetal development, particularly during the first trimester.
  • Iron has several benefits during pregnancy
  • Calcium helps maintain the mother's bone health during pregnancy
  • Vitamin D plays a role in the immune system and overall health of both the mother and the baby.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids aid the development of the baby's brain and eyes
  • Vitamin C supports the immune system, aids iron absorption, and contributes to healthy skin and tissues
  • Vitamin B12 supports the production of red blood cells, proper nerve function, and the baby's brain development
  • Prenatal vitamin supplements are sometimes needed in addition. Although a well-balanced diet should be the primary source of nutrients during pregnancy, prenatal nutritional gaps can be filled by supplements to ensure that both the mother and baby receive adequate nutrients

Before taking any prenatal vitamin supplements, pregnant women should consult their healthcare provider. Each woman's nutritional needs during pregnancy can vary based on individual factors and medical history. A healthcare provider can offer personalised guidance and recommendations to ensure that the mother and baby receive the best possible nutrition throughout their pregnancy journey.

Ranging from Vitamin A's benefits for vision and immune function to Vitamin D's importance for calcium absorption and bone health, vitamins can be vital for women's overall well-being. Incorporating a balanced diet with vitamin-rich foods and, when necessary, supplements can empower women to lead healthy, vibrant lives and address specific health concerns, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, pregnancy support, and menopause-related issues. However, it is best to take supplements and consume vitamin food sources with care, and when in doubt, consult your doctor. While uncommon, excess vitamins can also lead to unwanted side effects. 


Women have varying nutritional needs at different life stages, from menstruation to menopause. Essential vitamins such as A, C, D, E, K, and various B vitamins play crucial roles in overall health, from maintaining vision to supporting hormonal balance and bone health. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is the best way to obtain these vitamins. However, supplements can be beneficial in specific situations, especially during pregnancy or when dietary intake isn't sufficient. Food sources like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, and dairy products are rich in these essential vitamins. Before opting for supplements, consulting with healthcare professionals is vital to ensure the right intake without any adverse effects. Remember, whether through diet or supplementation, maintaining an adequate vitamin intake can help women lead healthier and more vibrant lives.


  1. Avenue, 677 Huntington, et al. ‘Vitamin A’. The Nutrition Source, 18 Sept. 2012,
  2. The Immune System of the Human Body in Defence against Disease - Communicable Diseases - AQA - GCSE Biology (Single Science) Revision - AQA’. BBC Bitesize, Accessed 27 July 2023.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amanda Nicholson

Bachelor's Degree, Open degree, The Open University, UK

Amanda Nicholson is a UK-based writer. She has several years of experience writing content on behalf of US-based universities, related to their healthcare courses. This includes topics such as working in mental health, data science and its use in healthcare, and the links between physical and mental health.

She has recently completed her Level 3 Certificate in Understanding Mental Health, and this is a topic she has several by-lines for. Besides this, she writes about her own experiences of dealing with Chronic Pain.

Some of her work has been published by Happiful Magazine, Ability Superstore, Wellbeing (Australia), and Included Mag.

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