Figuring out which supplements women over 35 need can be a dizzying undertaking. From the slew of options available at the local health food store to the multitude of influencers pushing one thing or another on social media, many women may be left scratching their heads while trying to figure out which pills they really need in their life.
And it’s an important question, especially considering that most Americans are not meeting the recommended intake of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables and fatty fish—and this results in critical gaps in their nutrition intake. Plus, as our bodies age and our hormone levels shift, our nutrition needs can change to the point that supplementation of certain nutrients is essential.
Women have unique nutrition needs, in part thanks to the menstrual cycle (and the inevitable stage of menopause). As such, there are some key nutrients that we need to focus on in our diets to stay ahead of “the changes” and to help our bodies stay healthy. And that is why there are certain supplements every woman over 35 needs to consider adding to her daily routine. Here are the top six.
1. Fish Oil
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, and the risk of developing this disease increases with age. Along with taking obvious steps—like limiting alcohol and getting regular exercise—taking fish oil supplements may reduce a woman’s risk of experiencing cardiovascular events and cut her risk of experiencing early death due to cardiovascular disease.
From eye health to heart health to even brain health, fish oil supports the ultimate trifecta when it comes to key aspects of your health. And if you aren’t eating the recommended two servings of fatty fish per week, it’s especially important to consider adding a fish oil supplement to your daily routine. Following a plant-based lifestyle? Algae-based DHA supplements are always an option, too.
2. Vitamin D3
Although vitamin D has the word vitamin in there, it’s actually a hormone that plays a pivotal role in many aspects of women’s health, including bones, the immune system, mental health and combating menopausal symptoms.
The body makes vitamin D when unprotected skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. But if you don’t spend much time outdoors without being covered from head to toe in sunscreen, your body is not getting the exposure it needs to make this key hormone on its own.
Approximately 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency and could benefit from introducing a vitamin D supplement into their life. Just don’t overdo it because this nutrient is fat-soluble, meaning that your body doesn’t get rid of excessive amounts. The best way to know whether you need supplemental vitamin D is to ask your health-care provider to check your level via a simple blood test and determine your dosage from there.
3. Vitamin K2
Bone health isn’t the sexiest thing to think about in your 30s, but as you age and your hormones change, your bones can change, too—and not for the better. As estrogen levels drop in your 40s and 50s, bone strength can weaken.
The secret to having healthy bones later in life is to take care of them early. Sure, calcium is the bone-building mineral that we all need, but supplementation isn’t always needed — especially if you are habitually eating three servings of dairy a day.
Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is a nutrient that is not common in a standard American diet and is one of the supplements every woman over 35 needs to know about. Found in foods like natto (fermented soybeans), Muenster cheese, and eel, this nutrient activates a protein that helps calcium bind to our bones. In fact, studies show that higher levels of vitamin K2 is linked to improved bone density.
The recommended dose to support bones varies, and some research suggests that people take as much as 180 milligrams per day. Ask your health-care provider what dose is right for you, but be sure to avoid this vitamin entirely if you’re on a blood-thinning medication.
4. Folic Acid
Even with the best of intentions, if you haven’t yet reached the menopausal stage of life, a pregnancy could happen. As such, experts recommend that women who are in their reproductive years take in 400 micrograms of supplemental folic acid—a nutrient that has been linked to reducing the risk of having a baby with birth defects. So, until your body stops ovulating, supplying yourself with this key nutrient “just in case” is a very smart idea to protect a future fetus.
If you haven’t heard of the nutrient choline yet, know that you are not alone. It doesn’t get nearly enough attention, which may be why approximately 90 percent of the American population is not eating enough choline.
Why is this concerning? Choline supports brain health and may even reduce Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Because women are at a higher risk of developing this disease when compared to men, it’s a good idea to stay ahead of it. Unless you eat a ton of foods that contain choline—like egg yolks, liver, chicken, and peanuts—it is one of the supplements that every woman over 35 needs in order to help keep her brain in tiptop shape. Women require a minimum of 400 milligrams of choline every day (even more if pregnant or lactating), so adjust your supplementation based on your diet.
6. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
As we age, our eye health becomes more of a concern. Surely, you have seen people of an older generation squinting trying to make out words on a sign or scrambling to find their “right” glasses before, haven’t you?
Along with the natural wear and tear that the aging process does to our eyes, we cause even more damage by staring at screens all day long. The blue light that comes from these screens can cause irreversible damage to our eyes and increase our risk of developing macular degeneration. Again, women get the short end of the stick because they make up two-thirds of the population who has this disease.
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin can act as a natural filter for your eyes, protecting them from potential damage from that harmful blue light. You can easily get these nutrients via your diet by eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. But if you are like the 1 in 10 Americans who are not eating the recommended amount of these foods every day, supplementation is a good Plan B to prevent irreversible damage.