It’s common knowledge that if you want to be physically and mentally healthy, certain lifestyle practices are a must. That encompasses eating a balanced diet, regular physical activity, sleep, and the like.

But there’s one thing many women forget—or don’t think they need—to take: a multivitamin. Sometimes eating a clean diet isn’t always enough.

Be it low nutrient density or extra stress; there are big factors that interfere with nutrient levels, which means getting them from elsewhere is a must. And because women have different needs than men throughout their life, a good ol’ multi off the store shelf isn’t going to cut it.

Ready for a deep dive into the top women-specific nutrients? We’ll cover what they are, why you need them, and the best places to find them.

Five Causes Of Nutrient Deficiencies And Why A Multivitamin Can Help

You’ll hear from many experts that a multivitamin isn’t necessary. While it may not be in some situations, the reality is that most people don’t get what they need from food—for various reasons, some of which are listed below.

1. Insufficient intake or excessive loss

Have you ever had a week where you ate clean and hit your macronutrient goals, and you tanked the next week? Falling off track happens to the best of us, but when your diet may not fulfill your nutrient requirements, a multivitamin has your back.

And because women have different nutritional requirements than men, a tailored multivitamin helps to ensure that what the body needs is there when it needs it.

For example, monthly menses increase the need for heme iron to replace what’s lost during bleeding, whereas women going through menopause require increased calcium levels for bone health.

A 2016 NHANES survey found that most adult women don’t meet the requirements of daily intake of the essential nutrients, which can have long-lasting impacts on overall health and well-being. So, rather than gambling with your health, having a quality multivitamin keeps you covered and compliments a healthy diet.

2. Absorption inhibitors

Anti-nutrients can be slightly problematic for anyone who eats a primarily plant-based diet. Although most people don’t talk about nutrients, they’re compounds inherently present in plant foods that inhibit the absorption of essential minerals. While there are several types of anti-nutrients, the main ones we concern ourselves with are:

  • Lectins
  • Phytates (phytic acid)
  • Gluten
  • Oxalates (oxalic acid)

They’re present in everything from fruits and vegetables to grains, beans, legumes, and nuts. And if not appropriately prepared during the cooking process, they can prevent nutrient absorption and lead to health concerns like kidney stones, leaky gut, and inflammation. The main nutrients they interfere with are calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron.

3. Stress

Stress happens, whether we want it to or not. And while acute stress is beneficial for strengthening the body’s responses, chronic stress does the opposite. When stress becomes chronic, your body enters a constant state of fight-or-flight, which means hormones are running high.

Elevated cortisol, the primary stress hormone, can lead to several adverse outcomes, including elevated inflammatory markers, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, thyroid imbalances, sex hormone dysfunction, and nutrient deficiencies 2.

The nutrients taking the biggest hit from stress are magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and the B vitamins, but proteins and fatty acids are also impacted 2; these are essential for enzyme activity, energy production, immune function, hormone synthesis, tissue growth and repair, and several other biological processes.

And to top it all off, stress shunts energy away from the “non-essential” functions like digestion, which means even if you’re consuming the nutrients, you’re probably not absorbing them effectively. If you want to maximize nutrient absorption and utilization, get your stress under control.

4. Exercise

We all know how vital nutrition is if you’re looking to get results in the gym, but many people don’t know that protein and carbs aren’t the only things you need to replace after training—you need to replace micronutrients, too.

Exercise is a stress on the body, albeit a good one, but puts stress on several metabolic pathways that depend on thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and vitamin B6 to function, which means the requirements for these nutrients increases 3.

It’s suggested that exercise depleted nutrient stores due to a combination of several factors, including 3:

  • Decreased absorption
  • Increased turnover, metabolism, or loss of nutrients
  • Biochemical adaptations associated with physical activity
  • Increased concentrations of mitochondrial enzymes with nutrient-specific cofactors
  • Nutrients required for tissue maintenance and repair

On top of the B vitamins, exercise also causes loss of electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium) and increases the need for antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, and glutathione, as high-intensity prolonged activity increases the production of free radicals.

5. Diet

Is it enough to load your plate with lean meats, complex carbs, healthy fats, and vegetables? Ideally, yes, but realistically, no. Theoretically, every nutrient you need can come from diet, but most people aren’t eating enough of the ultra nutrient-dense foods, which means nutrients are getting bypassed.

Sure, loading up on leafy greens is a great way to increase your intake of B vitamins, magnesium, and other nutrients, but most foods don’t contain everything your body needs to thrive.

And when you eliminate foods or entire food groups due to dietary restrictions, you’re further complicating the problem, as certain nutrients are relegated to certain foods.

Eating clean is great, but throwing in a multi as the cherry on top never hurts.

Top 8 Must-Have Nutrients For Women

Vitamin D

  • What it is: Vitamin D isn’t just for women—it’s one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, with an estimated 1 billion people not having sufficient levels 4. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin with hormone properties known for regulating calcium, magnesium, and phosphate metabolism, among other functions. It’s widely available in food sources, but the best source is the sun, hence the name ‘the sunshine vitamin.’
  • Why you need it: Many women know vitamin D’s role in immune function, but it has much more to offer. Virtually every cell in the human body has a receptor for vitamin D, which means it plays a significant role throughout every body system. Although it’s essential for immune health, mood, and pregnancy, one of its most important roles for women is bone health 5. It plays a critical role in calcium and phosphorus homeostasis and bone mineralization and thus prevents the onset of osteomalacia and osteoporosis. On top of that, once women reach menopause (50 years+), estrogen levels drop; estrogen plays an essential role in promoting the activity of bone-building osteoblasts. The drop in estrogen accompanying menopause decreases bone production and maintenance efficacy.

Magnesium

  • What it is: Magnesium is an essential mineral that serves as a cofactor for over 600 enzymatic reactions ranging from energy production and protein formation to muscle function, neurotransmitter release, and DNA synthesis 6. Simply put, your body cannot function without magnesium.
  • Why you need it: While there seems like no end to the list of benefits associated with magnesium, there are a few key ones for women 7-13: required for DNA synthesis and fetal growth and development during pregnancy; blood pressure regulation; bone integrity and mitigating the risk of osteoporosis; reducing symptoms of PMS; blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity, especially among people with type 2 diabetes; improved recovery from physical activity; and lower levels of inflammation. There is no shortage of places where you can find magnesium, but most people still aren’t getting enough—and it’s essential for proper physiological function.

Iron

  • What it is: Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body and plays a vital role in growth and development and red blood cell production. You’ll find iron in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron; the former is found in animal foods and has higher bioavailability, whereas the latter is found in plant foods and can be difficult to absorb without help from other compounds like vitamin C 14.
  • Why you need it: Most people don’t think twice about iron, but it’s essential for optimal function—especially for women of reproductive age. It’s estimated that for every one day of menstrual bleeding, women lose roughly 1 to 1.6mg of iron, and if you’re experiencing heavy bleeding, those losses are even higher 15. Although iron stores don’t drop excessively fast, low levels can be detrimental to red blood cell formation and heme synthesis; heme is a protein that’s responsible for transporting oxygen, and a deficiency of iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a condition whereby red blood cell count is low, and oxygen transport decreases, leading to weakness and fatigue.

Vitamin B12

  • What it is: Vitamin V12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential B vitamin involved in red blood cell production, DNA and RNA synthesis, energy metabolism, and nervous system function. It’s water-soluble and therefore must be replenished daily. Insufficient levels can lead to B12-deficiency anemia, characterized by low levels of healthy red blood cells and inadequate tissue oxygenation.
  • Why you need it: Vitamin B12 is one of the tricky nutrients to get if you’re following a plant-based diet and one of the more difficult ones to absorb if you struggle with intestinal issues. Vitamin B12 is essential for the health and function of the nervous system, where it’s involved in the development and myelination of the central nervous system and regulating neurotransmitter synthesis 16. It also works with folate (B9) to regulate homocysteine metabolism, which is part of maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. And for women looking to have children, B12 plays a critical role in perinatal health, as it’s involved in DNA formation, bone health, and mood regulation 17. Requirements for B12 increase during pregnancy, too.

Vitamin K2

  • What it is: Vitamin K2 isn’t a nutrient you hear much about, but it’s no less important than any other. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin known for its role in blood clotting due to its role as a coenzyme. But it’s also required for bone metabolism, making it an essential nutrient for women’s health.
  • Why you need it: Vitamin K2 is an underdog in the nutrient world. It serves as a coenzyme for vitamin K-dependent carboxylase, an enzyme required to form proteins involved in hemostasis (blood clotting) 18. It also benefits bone turnover through its role in stimulating osteoblast differentiation, upregulating transcription of specific genes in osteoblasts, and activating vitamin K-dependent proteins that support extracellular bone matrix mineralization 19. Studies find that postmenopausal taking vitamin K2 supplements had a much slower decrease in age-related bone mineral density than those not supplementing 20.

Folate

  • What it is: Vitamin B9, more commonly known as folate (the natural form) or folic acid (the synthetic form), is a water-soluble vitamin involved in DNA synthesis and cell growth and development. Low folate levels are linked to high homocysteine, congenital disabilities in babies, and increased cancer risk.
  • Why you need it: Folate is essential for women of all ages, but it has become increasingly more important for pregnant women, as it’s required for proper DNA synthesis, normal growth and development of the fetus, and prevention of neural tube defects 21, 22. It’s also necessary to convert homocysteine to methionine, which, when levels become elevated, can lead to cellular toxicity and an increased risk of cardiovascular complications 23. And in conjunction with B12, folate helps produce red blood cells and tissue oxygenation.

Zinc

  • What it is: Zinc is the second most abundant mineral in the human body after iron and functions as is needed for the activity of hundreds of enzymes involved in metabolism, digestion, nerve function, immunity, thyroid, and much more.
  • Why you need it: Zinc and the immune system go hand in hand because it’s required for producing immune cells and wound healing, but it also plays several other roles. It’s necessary for more than 300 enzymes to carry out chemical reactions and is a significant player in DNA synthesis, cell growth and development, protein synthesis, neurotransmitter activity, collagen synthesis, hormone production, and fertility 24.

Iodine

  • What it is: You’ve likely heard about iodine, but most women know very little about it. It’s a trace element that the body needs in small quantities for proper thyroid function. It’s also essential during pregnancy and may help prevent certain health conditions later in life.
  • Why you need it: Iodine is perhaps one of the most important nutrients required for thyroid health, and the thyroid is the master regulator of several critical processes. It produces three hormones—triiodothyronine (T3), tetraiodothyronine (T4), and calcitonin—that are required for growth and development, metabolism, temperature, calcium and bone metabolism, and more 25. While the body needs only tiny amounts of iodine, even small changes to thyroid levels can seriously affect thyroid function.

Final Thoughts

That concludes our complete guide to the top vegan vitamins for women! If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get your daily dose of the above, Performance Lab NutriGenesis for Women is the way to go.

It can be hard to get all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet, but now there is an easy way with 17+ daily essential vitamins and minerals in one convenient supplement.

Get your hands on NutriGenesis Multi today!

References

  1. Akande KE, Doma UD, Agu HO, Adamu HM. Major Antinutrients Found in Plant Protein Sources: Their Effect on Nutrition. Pak J Nutr. 2010; 9(8): 827-832.
  2. Lopresti AL. The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2020;11(1):103-112.
  3. Manore MM. Effect of physical activity on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 requirements. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(2 Suppl):598S-606S.
  4. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-126.
  5. Turner AG, Anderson PH, Morris HA. Vitamin D and bone health. Scand J Clin Lab Invest Suppl. 2012;243:65-72.
  6. de Baaij JH, Hoenderop JG, Bindels RJ. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2015;95(1):1-46.
  7. Makrides M, Crosby DD, Bain E, Crowther CA. Magnesium supplementation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;2014(4):CD000937.
  8. Houston M. The role of magnesium in hypertension and cardiovascular disease. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2011;13(11):843-847.
  9. Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, Maier JA. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients. 2013;5(8):3022-3033.
  10. Fathizadeh N, Ebrahimi E, Valiani M, Tavakoli N, Yar MH. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010;15(Suppl 1):401-405.
  11. ELDerawi WA, Naser IA, Taleb MH, Abutair AS. The Effects of Oral Magnesium Supplementation on Glycemic Response among Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Nutrients. 2018;11(1):44.
  12. Steward CJ, Zhou Y, Keane G, Cook MD, Liu Y, Cullen T. One week of magnesium supplementation lowers IL-6, muscle soreness and increases post-exercise blood glucose in response to downhill running. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(11-12):2617-2627.
  13. Mazidi M, Rezaie P, Banach M. Effect of magnesium supplements on serum C-reactive protein: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Med Sci. 2018;14(4):707-716.
  14. Hooda J, Shah A, Zhang L. Heme, an essential nutrient from dietary proteins, critically impacts diverse physiological and pathological processes. Nutrients. 2014;6(3):1080-1102.
  15. Ofojekwu MJ, Nnanna OU, Okolie CE, Odewumi LA, Isiguzoro IOU, Lugos MD. Hemoglobin and Serum Iron Concentrations in Menstruating Nulliparous Women in Jos, Nigeria. Laboratory Medicine. 2013 May; 44(2): 121–124.
  16. Stabler SP. Vitamin B12 deficiency.N Engl J Med. 2013;368(21):2041-2042.
  17. Allen LH. Vitamin B12 metabolism and status during pregnancy, lactation and infancy. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1994;352:173-186.
  18. Suttie JW. Warfarin and vitamin K. Clin Cardiol. 1990;13(4 Suppl 6):VI16-VI18.
  19. Akbari S, Rasouli-Ghahroudi AA. Vitamin K and Bone Metabolism: A Review of the Latest Evidence in Preclinical Studies. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:4629383.
  20. Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, Theuwissen E. Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2013;24(9):2499-2507.
  21. Crider KS, Yang TP, Berry RJ, Bailey LB. Folate and DNA methylation: a review of molecular mechanisms and the evidence for folate’s role. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(1):21-38.
  22. Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Guan Y, Yu YH. Folic Acid supplementation and pregnancy: more than just neural tube defect prevention. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2011;4(2):52-59.
  23. Blom HJ, Smulders Y. Overview of homocysteine and folate metabolism. With special references to cardiovascular disease and neural tube defects. J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011;34(1):75-81.
  24. Zastrow ML, Pecoraro VL. Designing hydrolytic zinc metalloenzymes. Biochemistry. 2014;53(6):957-978.
  25. Chung HR. Iodine and thyroid function. Ann Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2014;19(1):8-12.