We all know that vitamin C is important for a healthy diet, and calcium is vital for strong bones, particularly in later life. But there are some vitamins that are particularly crucial for female health, particularly as we get older. Some vitamins and minerals are believed to help reduce the risk from certain types of cancers, while others offer protection against Alzheimers and diabetes, to name just a few diseases. While multivitamins are a great idea, they may not offer high enough levels of certain nutrients. Here is a list of some of the vitamins and minerals most commonly lacking in our diets, and why they’re vital nutrients for women.

vitamins in bananaPotassium helps cut the risk of strokes and heart disease by lowering blood pressure, yet only 1% of women in the US consume enough of this mineral. The recommended daily value is 4,700mg per day, which may sound like a lot, but most fresh fruits and vegetables have 300 to 400mg of potassium per serving. Try swiss chard, lima beans, bananas, spinach or almonds. Also, get into the habit of adding a good pinch of dried herbs to your cooking. Just a couple of grams of dried coriander contains over 100mg of potassium!

Vitamin E is well known as an immune system booster, but new research suggests it may protect against something called white matter lesions. There are small clumps of dead cells that are linked with an increased risk of Alzheimers. so this vitamin can be considered a true brain food. The problem with vitamin is that it’s mostly found in high-fat foods, so if you’ve reduced your intake of all fats, you could be missing out. To get your daily 15mg, go for almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and pine nuts.

If I mention choline, some of you may be thinking “what?” Choline is a micronutrient that supports the liver’s natural detoxification process. Some research also suggests that an adequate supply (425mg daily) of this nutrient could reduce the risk of breast cancer. Try shrimp, whole eggs, collard greens and salmon as your best sources of choline.

More familiar is vitamin B12, which amongst other functions keeps your central nervous system in good working order, preventing anaemia and numbness of the extremities. As we get older though, we tend to have trouble absorbing this vitamin. Besides this, vegetarians and vegans are often deficient in B12 as its found mostly in animal-based foods. To get your 2.4µg per day, opt for clams, liver, yeast extract or fortified breakfast cereals.

Other nutrients that are particularly important for womens’ nutrition include magnesium, which helps stave off metabolic disorders, and vitamin D, which in conjunction with calcium reduces your chances of developing osteoporosis in later life.