The best supplements for women can help you feel healthier, more energetic, and more balanced.
You eat healthy, live your most active life, and feel great.
Or you sneak in an unhealthy snack or two and occasionally have a few days when you feel under the weather.
Or maybe you have made up your mind to change your sedentary lifestyle and guilty eating habits, but haven’t quite gotten into the routine yet.
The one constant value in all of those scenarios is that you are a woman.
And, as a woman, you are, have, will, or might at some point in life be coming through certain experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant: periods, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, which all come with their pains and benefits.
They may also cause certain symptoms and conditions, which you might find detrimental to your mood, sleep, general wellbeing, energy levels, physical appearance, and athletic achievements.
So, whoever you are and whatever your goals (slimmer figure, shinier hair, better mood, or fuller energy tank), take a look at the supplements for women – to help yourself become a healthier, stronger, and jollier you.
What supplements should women take?
There are tons of options out there, and not all of them are great. In fact, some of them might even be harmful and dangerous.
To help you cut through all the confusion, we’ve put together a no-nonsense list of the best supplements and vitamins for women, which have shown real-life benefits both in scientific trials and in women taking them.
9 Key Supplements for Women
Here are our picks for the best women’s supplements to support your health in various ways:
1. Happy Stomach: Probiotics
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Probiotics are healthy gut bacteria, which are good for your digestive system. They are found in yogurt, fermented products (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup), and sourdough bread.
If you have healthy eating habits and no troubles with digestion, you can probably do well without probiotic supplements.
However, especially if you are traveling, and it is hard to keep track of the quality, quantity, and ingredients of food that you put in your mouth, probiotics are a good solution.
Probiotics are also often recommended by physicians when they prescribe antibiotics. Why?
Because your gut contains around 1000 species of bacteria: the bulk of them are “good” bacteria, which help protect your intestines from pathogens, repair damaged tissue, and stop “bad” bacteria from growing and causing disease.
Antibiotics change this healthy balance between the number of good and bad bacteria. Consequently, your immune system will get into fight mode and try to destroy the bad bacteria. In this process, it might break down the intestinal lining, which causes an unpleasant phenomenon: antibiotic-associated diarrhea. That’s when probiotics come in handy: they largely reduce the chance of getting this unwelcome side-effect of antibiotics.
Timing is important. When you take probiotics together with antibiotics, make sure to make at least an hour gap between the two. If you take them too close together, the beneficial bacteria may be killed by the antibiotic before they have reached your gut.
2. Pampered Hair and Nails: Biotin
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Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, cannot be synthesized by human cells. Food sources for biotin include beef liver, pork, eggs, salmon, avocados, sweet potatoes, seeds, and nuts.
Biotin deficiency can lead to hair loss, brittle nails, and skin problems.
Although scientific evidence of biotin supplements helping with hair loss is inconclusive, there is also no evidence that it is toxic to humans in any amounts: since it is water-soluble, excess amounts will leave your body with the urine.
3. Vegan Helper: Vitamin B12
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Vitamin B12 is found in foods of animal origin: fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
You need this vitamin for proper red blood cell (erythrocyte) formation, healthy neurological function, even DNA synthesis.
If you get vitamin B12 deficient, you may become anemic (that is, get a condition where you lack healthy red blood cells to transport adequate amounts of oxygen to your body’s tissues), experience fatigue, unhealthy weight loss, get constipated, lose appetite, feel soreness in your mouth or tongue. Besides, you may experience unpleasant and worrying neurological symptoms: numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, difficulty with balance, depression, or poor memory.
If you are vegan, you may well be vitamin B12 deficient, so it is a good idea to ask your doctor for a simple blood test – to check its levels. Vegan sources of vitamin B12 are foods fortified with B12 and B12 supplements.
4. Live(r) Forever: Omega-3
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Omega-3 fatty acids are tied to numerous benefits for heart and blood vessel health. They also reduce the production of substances linked to inflammation – and that is exactly what you want: the less inflammation in your body, the less unpleasant symptoms and long-term, serious health risks you are likely to experience.
Research also links higher omega-3 intake to decreased age-related cognitive decline and dementia, notably Alzheimer’s disease (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019002/).
For some people, omega-3s are also prescribed to lower the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, whose buildup on the walls of blood vessels increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other health problems.
Besides, a study published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry has shown that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid) had equal therapeutic effects to antidepressant drugs in major depressive disorder.
Don’t want to have those smelly “fish burps”? Seek out specially formulated fish oil supplements that can contain things like a natural lemon or apple scent to reduce this unpleasant side effect.
Also, since omega-3 oils are usually obtained from cod liver, which is notorious for high concentrations of heavy metals (e.g. mercury), choose fish oil supplements certified as low in heavy metals and contaminants.
5. Sunny Drops: Vitamin D
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If you spend a few hours outdoors from mid-spring to mid-autumn, you should be able to catch enough sunlight on your skin to get enough Vitamin D.
However, if you do not spend much time outside, wear long clothes at all times, or live in the north, where winters are long and sunny days are scarce and short, you may be vitamin D deficient. Why is that bad?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be made in our bodies when exposed to sunlight. It helps us absorb calcium from our food and supplements and plays a major role in the development and maintenance of strong, healthy bones.
Warning: Too much vitamin D over a long period of time can cause hypercalcemia: a dangerous condition when there is an excessive buildup of calcium in your body. In this case, the effect of calcium on your bones will be adverse: instead of strengthening, it might weaken them. Besides, hypercalcemia might cause kidney stones and heart problems.
Therefore, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D supplements is no more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU). Even better: consult your doctor, who will order a simple blood test – to figure out whether you are actually vitamin D deficient.
6. Keep the Cold Away: Vitamin C
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Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, required for proper immune function and resistance to infections.
Research shows that it is “able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections by enhancing various immune cell functions”. The same study states that vitamin C deficiency is relatively common in Western populations and the fourth leading nutrient deficiency in the United States.
Vitamin C is found in fruits, berries, and vegetables: citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, kale, broccoli, potatoes. So, if you are not consuming enough of these products, vitamin C supplements can be a good idea, especially before and during the flu season.
7. Diamond-Hard Bones: Calcium
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Calcium is an essential mineral, required by your body to build and maintain strong bones, and for your heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly.
As you get older, the factor of being a woman puts you at a disadvantage when we speak about osteoporosis: a condition weakening bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. Unfair? Yes. Can you do something about it? Also yes.
Our bodies do not produce calcium, so we need to get it from our food. Good calcium sources are dairy products, dark leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale), fish with edible bones (sardines, canned salmon), calcium-fortified foods, and beverages (cereal, juices).
If you do not consume enough of those products, you might consider taking a calcium supplement.
Important: To absorb calcium, your body will also need vitamin D (see above: Sunny Drops: Vitamin D).
Warning: Avoid calcium supplements if you have hypercalcemia (a condition causing excess calcium buildup in your bloodstream). Before you decide that you need to supplement with calcium, talk to your doctor, who will order a simple blood test – to figure out whether you are deficient, and to determine what dosage is right for you.
8. Muscle Builder: Protein Powder
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High protein intake promotes the feeling of satiety and helps you maintain lean muscle mass. If you are a physically active woman, who needs a lot of energy for her workouts, and good recovery for better strength, power, and muscle gains and results, proteins are particularly important.
If you are not able or eager to consume sufficient amounts of protein with your food, protein powder is an easy, tasty, and convenient solution.
Besides, if you are lactose intolerant, you can always choose a dairy-free, plant-based protein powder.
Check out our guide to the best protein powders for women to learn more.
9. Sleep Tight: Melatonin
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Good sleep is everything: not only does it make you feel good, it actually makes you healthier.
Getting insufficient or poor-quality sleep puts you at a risk of many health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular, metabolic and cognitive diseases, and may be detrimental to your recovery and athletic performance.
Sleeping meds often come with unpleasant side effects and may be addictive.
Meanwhile, melatonin, a so-called “hormone of darkness”, is naturally produced by our brain at night. Its main function is to regulate the sleep-wake cycles (circadian rhythms).
As we age, when we are under stress or heavily jet-lagged, our circadian system and melatonin production may get out of order. That is when melatonin supplements come to the rescue.
Warning: Although most research shows that melatonin has no short- or long-term adverse effects, some researchers, for example, Andrew D. Huberman – a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, – do not advise taking it without a doctor’s prescription.
Looking for more great supplements to help with your health? Make sure to check out our guide to the best pre-workout supplements for women as well!
Have any questions about choosing the best supplements for women? Comment below and we’ll help.