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Employee Wellness: 3 Minerals Crucial for Women's Health

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

There is so much misinformation on what we should and shouldn't be doing for our health, especially for women. Fad diets, supplements, greens powders, and more are targeted toward women, but do we really need all of these products? Hopefully, this blog makes it a bit simpler to understand what is important when it comes to minerals and women's health. Remember, it is best to obtain vitamins and minerals from food first. If additional supplementation is needed, discuss with a Registered Dietitian or your doctor to decide what is best.

1. Iron

Iron has been shown to be one of the top minerals that women are most likely to be deficient in. This can be due to menstruation, where women lose blood every month. Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause these levels to drop. Having low iron levels can lead to fatigue, poor productivity, difficulty concentrating, reduced exercise performance, irritability, poor pregnancy outcomes, as well as heart issues and anemia. It is also important to consider those that are vegetarian and vegan, as plant sources of iron can be less bioavailable. This means the body has a harder time absorbing the iron from our food. In this case, we may need a greater intake of iron or help from vitamin C. Pairing vitamin C with iron during meals can increase its absorption.

Iron can be found in meat, poultry, fish, dark leafy greens, fortified cereals, beans, peas, lentils, and dried fruit. Vitamin C is found primarily in fruits and vegetables.

2. Calcium

Calcium is another mineral that is crucial to women's health specifically. Calcium levels remain constant in men, but they drop significantly in women as they age. On average, women lose approximately 1% of their bone mineral density per year after menopause. This increases risk for osteoporosis, poor dental health, blood clotting issues, muscle spasms, tingling sensations, and more unwanted outcomes. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 30% of postmenopausal women in the United States and Europe have osteoporosis, and at least 40% of postmenopausal women have suffered at least one fracture. Calcium is also effective in lowering blood pressure, treating migraines, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, as well as regulating hormones. You may also want to consider pairing calcium rich foods with both vitamin D and magnesium to promote absorption. Magnesium will convert vitamin D into its active form, which then promotes the absorption of calcium.

Calcium can be found in foods such as dairy, soybeans (tofu, soy milk, edamame), dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli), figs, canned sardines and salmon, white beans, chia seeds, almonds, and oranges/calcium-fortified orange juice.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium plays a role in the risk for osteoporosis, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular events, increased PMS, increased inflammation, as well as increased levels of stress. According to the Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproduction, hormonal contraceptives have been shown to increase the risk for magnesium deficiency. Whether you take hormonal contraceptives or not, as a woman you want to be aware of your intake of magnesium to lower the risk for these health complications. As mentioned above, bone density depletes as we age, so women should watch their magnesium intake, in conjunction with calcium and vitamin D, to ensure proper bone health. Pregnant women should also ensure they are reaching magnesium requirements to avoid complications with fetal development.

Magnesium is found in foods such as leafy greens, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish, and dark chocolate.

Other vitamins/minerals impacted by hormonal contraceptives: zinc, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

If you find you are not getting adequate amounts of these minerals through your diet, you may want to consider supplementation. Discuss with a Registered Dietitian or doctor before starting any new supplements.

Learn more about healthy eating and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written by Kylie McLoud, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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