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The five best nutrients for women

Woman slicing gourd in a modern kitchen

Women are of course very different from men and that means their nutritional needs vary. Clearly balancing female hormones is key to their overall wellbeing.

Magnesium

Magnesium is often low in women and does need to be in good balance with calcium. Magnesium also works as a triad with vitamin B6 and zinc (see below) but is essential in its own right for hormone balance, a healthy nervous system and bone health, plus much more.  And stress burns up more magnesium so many women tend to be playing ‘catch-up’ with it.

Magnesium is rich in green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli, but also in whole grains (oats are a great source), brown rice and whole wheat foods.  Magnesium is also very relaxing and calming so can help if sleep is a problem.  Eating about six almonds before bedtime (rich in magnesium) can help overcome sleep issues.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is super-important for women because it’s an essential co-factor in many metabolic pathways, especially relating to hormone production.  Additionally, it’s needed to process key neurotransmitters essential for balanced mood and motivation, which are closely affected by hormonal fluctuations.

Vitamin B6 is needed for production of progesterone (a key female hormone), plus to aid detoxification processes of the liver in order to excrete ‘old’ hormones.  Vitamin B6 is water-soluble so needs to be eaten regularly, but is readily available in poultry, fish, bananas, soya produce, oats and wheatgerm, so there’s plenty of choice.

Biotin

Often referred to as the ‘beauty vitamin’, biotin is essential for protein synthesis, key for building hormones and keeping the skin fresh and healthy. Biotin also helps to stimulate production of keratin which is the key protein in hair.  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for women to have thinning hair (we generally only think men suffer), so having additional biotin in the diet and via supplementation can often be very successful in rectifying the problem.

Foods rich in biotin include eggs (poached egg on whole grain toast makes a great start to the day), organ meats, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, red meat and fish.

Zinc

Zinc is probably the busiest mineral of all because it’s involved in over 200 different enzyme reactions within the body.  Whatever the body is doing, zinc will be needed somewhere.  However, for women, it’s very important for fertility and reproduction because it’s needed to synthesis their key sex hormones.  Additionally, zinc is a powerful antioxidant so helps to produce healthy eggs but is also essential for cell division, a key part of the conception process.

Zinc has been found often deficient in women, especially teenagers and those of child-bearing age, who are responsible for bringing the next generation into the world.  Red meat is a great source, hence a possible reason for deficiency, but other great sources are beans, nuts, whole grains, seafood (especially oysters) and most cereals.

Chromium

Whilst chromium is widely available in many foods (although it tends to be in whole grain sources), it’s essential for blood sugar balance which affects all other hormones.  Interestingly, women with some of the more difficult hormone issues generally have problems balancing blood sugar levels, making mood swings more of an issue too.

Additionally, in research, chromium has been shown to help women with polycystic ovaries, the most common hormonal disorder affecting those of reproductive age.  These ladies generally have issues with blood sugar control, which chromium can help to improve. As well as whole grains, chromium is rich in green vegetables, poultry, many fruits and dairy products.

Five of the best!

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