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What Vitamins Should Women Take?

The amount of vitamins you need depends on your age, health and lifestyle. For example, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for children is often lower than that for adults. Older people, those with specific medical conditions, pregnant women, and people on special diets may need to increase their intake of certain vitamins and minerals.

The Department of Health recommends taking supplements in respect of only three vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin D and folic acid.

1. Pregnant women

Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day up to the twelfth week of pregnancy. This is over and above the 200 micrograms assumed to be obtained from their diet. Remember, it is best to avoid taking any vitamin A supplements during pregnancy, as this may damage the development of your baby. For the same reason, liver, which is rich in vitamin A, should also be avoided.

2. Children

Children between the age of 6 months and 5 years may need vitamins A, C and D. Supplements may not be needed if your child is a good eater and has a varied diet. Ask your health visitor or GP for further advice.

Children whose bodies are continuously covered due to their cultural dress are at potential risk of rickets caused by a lack of vitamin D that we get from sunlight.

3. Women

Women have special nutritional needs that may not be met by their diets. In today's world of fast food and meals on the go, it is important that women assess their nutritional status and make up for any deficiencies by taking either a multi-vitamin or the vitamins that they are lacking.

Premenopausal women have been found often to consume low amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

4. People on special diets

Vegetarians or vegans can sometimes miss out on vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron and zinc which are mainly found in meat and dairy products. You don't need to take supplements if you eat a balanced diet. Iron and zinc are found in eggs, whole-grain cereals, pulses, green leafy vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals. For calcium, vitamins B2 and B12, try to eat two servings of low-fat dairy products a day. If you don't eat dairy products, try soya milk, fortified orange juice, dark leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini, tofu, or almonds.

As animal products provide the best source of vitamins B2 and B12, vegans who avoid animal products altogether may benefit from taking supplements.

It's important that your body gets enough vitamins and minerals every day in order to keep you fit and healthy. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly. Vitamins affect every part of your body, including:

1. the way your hair, nails and muscles develop and grow,

2. your sight,

3. the way you digest food,

4. your heart and your nervous system.

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