Top 5 Most Important Nutrients for Women
I don’t believe in counting calories and macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat). It takes too much time and makes eating way too stressful and more stress is last thing you need! Instead, I like to focus on making sure I’m getting in all my micronutrients. This usually comes naturally with eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods and good quality animal products.
There are way too many nutrients out there to worry about, so I like to pay more attention to my top 5 most important nutrients for women. These also happen to be some of the most common nutrient deficiencies among women. Let’s dive in!
Iron deficiency is super common among women, especially female runners. It’s responsible for carrying the oxygen in your blood to your cells and working muscles. When you’re iron is low, you’ll feel easily fatigued and low in energy which can significantly impact your training goals.
As women, we lose a lot of blood every month and anytime you lose blood you’re losing iron. We’re also putting extra oxygen demands on our bodies when we run or do aerobic exercise. This increasing need for more oxygen in the blood combined with the loss of blood dramatically increases the amount of iron you need to get in your diet.
My favorite sources of iron:
Fatty fish (salmon, sardines)
Leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach)
Check out my Soft Pumpkin Molasses Cookies for an iron-rich treat!
Calcium is well known for being crucial for bone health. It’s part of the matrix that keeps our bones strong. If you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, your body will pull it out of your bones and into your blood.
Athletes are more susceptible to low calcium because they lose a lot of minerals through their sweat. Make sure to replenish after a tough workout!
Other important functions of calcium include it’s role in skeletal muscle and heart function, allowing our muscles to contract.
My favorite sources of calcium:
Whole milk yogurt
This Chana Masala is a super calcium-rich, plant-based meal that comes together in a pinch!
Magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies in women, especially during the pre-menstrual period. Perhaps that’s why we all crave chocolate at that time of month, a magnesium-rich food!
Magnesium is important for proper muscle, heart and nerve function, among its many other roles in the body. It has a ‘relaxing’ effect on your blood vessels, muscle tissues, brain and even your digestive tract. This is why symptoms such as muscle cramps, premenstrual pain, constipation, and trouble sleeping could be the result of low magnesium.
Consider including more magnesium-rich foods in your diet for better sleep, muscle and brain function, and constipation relief!
My favorite sources of magnesium:
Whole grains (brown rice, farro, oats)
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is actually classified as a hormone rather than a vitamin. It’s better known role is for bone health because it encourages the absorption of calcium into your bones.
It’s lesser known but super important function for women is sex hormone production. A deficiency can cause low estrogen production, which can cause irregular or absent periods, vaginal dryness/painful sex, and mood swings. More importantly, having low estrogen for a long period of time can cause osteoporosis later in life.
While sunshine is the best and easiest way to get your vitamin D dose, here are a few of my favorite food sources.
My favorite sources of vitamin D:
Fatty fish (sardines, salmon, herring…)
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for preventing iron deficiency. Low vitamin B12 is correlated with low red blood cell counts and irregularly shaped blood cells. Similar to iron deficiency, having low vitamin B12 can really impact your energy levels and athletic performance.
Vitamin B12 also plays a big role in nerve function because it helps to produce a coating around your nerves called the myelin sheath, which is essential for healthy nerves.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, so if you are vegan or vegetarian it can be extremely hard to get enough through diet.
My favorite sources of B12:
Whole milk yogurt
This short list of nutrients is good to have in the back of your mind when you are meal planning or grocery shopping. Remember not to stress over numbers or counting anything. Focus on eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed/pasture-raised animal products and wild (not farmed) fish.
Need help? Contact me if you’re interested in personalized meal plans!