Getting Ahead of the Game
Five Essential Supplements for Women in Their 20s
The attitude of the young is generally that they can get away with burning the candle at both ends and eating and drinking whatever they like without ramification. However, it’s never too early to begin preparing for a lifetime of good health and well-being, even if you are in your 20s and a picture of health. While eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep should be the goal for every young woman, hitting all of those marks is not always possible. Consider supplementing with these five vitamins and minerals to keep your 20s roaring.
Many 20-somethings tend to have a poor diet that is usually carb-dense and nutrient poor, but even those who eat a healthy, balanced diet can fall short of hitting the recommended daily intake of all vitamins and minerals. In both cases, adding a multivitamin can help fill the gaps. For some perspective, the CDC recommends adults eat at least two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables per day, which equals at least five whole cups of rainbow-colored foods that do not include Skittles. Obviously, adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet should be your ultimate goal so you can take advantage of the phytonutrients and fiber they contain, but taking a multivitamin is a good place to start. However, while a multivitamin is a good step towards better nutrition, many do not contain the full recommended daily amounts of all vitamins and minerals, so some extras may be necessary.
Throughout our lives, our bodies make new bone and break down old bone on a regular basis. But between the ages of 25 and 30, we reach our peak bone mass. After that, old bone begins to break down slightly faster than new bone can form. For this reason, building up your “bone bank” while you’re young is critical, and to do that, you need calcium. Women need it even more than men, because women are more susceptible to osteoporosis, or a loss of bone density. Maintaining adequate amounts of calcium cannot increase bone mass after we reach our peak, but it can help replace what we lose each day. It is also important to start calcium supplementation during child-bearing years because pregnancy can weaken the bones. The recommended daily intake of calcium for women aged 19 to 30 is 1,000 mg. Calcium is found in dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese, and in dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. But if you’ve sworn off dairy or the idea of downing four cups of cooked collard greens doesn’t tickle your fancy, a supplement might be right for you.
The B Vitamins
The B Vitamins – specifically B6, B9 and B12 - are the basis of energy. They support cognitive function, nerve health and mood. B vitamins are also essential during pregnancy; Vitamin B9, or folate, is especially important because it facilitates DNA replication and brain development and protects babies from spinal cord defects and premature birth. But, if you wait until after you conceive to boost your folate levels, it can be too late, as long before a positive pregnancy test, neurological cells are already reproducing to build your baby’s brain and spine. Women who someday plan to become pregnant should aim for 400 to 800 milligrams of folate per day. Folate is found in dark, leafy greens, beans, nuts, oranges and bananas. Vitamins B6 and B12 are found in highest concentration in animal proteins, so if you’re a vegetarian, supplementing is even more important.
Vitamin C plays a huge role in strengthening our immune systems at any age, affecting the production of immune cells, white blood cells and antibodies that help ward off infection. It also helps cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage from free radicals. But aside from warding off common colds and flu, vitamin C can also stave off free radical damage to skin cells that can cause a loss of firmness, wrinkles and fine lines. It is also essential for the synthesis of collagen, which helps maintain skin elasticity and prevents premature aging. The RDI for vitamin C for adult women is 75 mg, but as with most RDIs, this is the bare minimum needed to prevent disease. Vitamin C is also water soluble, which means that if you consume more than your body needs, it is simply excreted in your urine. Nutritionists recommend 500 to 1000 milligrams per day, split between morning and evening for best absorption.