10 Essential Nutrients Many Women Are Missing (And How To Get Them)

Women Are Lacking in These 10 Essential Nutrients

It may shock you to find out that those “random” symptoms you’re experiencing are due to nutrient deficiencies. In this day and age, when every food and supplement is available to us at the click of a button, how could it be that we’re missing out on important vitamins and minerals?

Yet most women are deficient in specific nutrients. Whether you’re experiencing headaches, digestion issues, muscle cramps, fatigue, or something else entirely, it’s important to catch the signs early and talk to your doctor if you think you may be experiencing vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Most women are deficient in specific nutrients.

RELATED: Are You Getting All the Nutrients You Need?

The following vitamins and minerals are the most common ones missing from the average woman’s diet.

1. Vitamin B9 (Folate)

If you’re a young woman who is pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding, your doctor has probably asked you (more than once) if you’re taking folic acid supplements.

Folic acid is the synthetic version of a very important essential nutrient called folate, or vitamin B9. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for people to be deficient in this vitamin, even though it plays such a vital role in our bodies.

Folate is crucial for DNA production and for the development of red blood cells. Folate deficiency can lead to anemia, gray hair, tongue swelling, and worst of all, severe birth defects among babies born to folate-deficient women.

Recommended daily amount:

  • Teens and adults over the age of 13: 400 micrograms (mcg)
  • Adult women planning pregnancy: 400–800 mcg (1)

To get more folate, eat the following foods:

  • Dark leafy green vegetables: spinach, kale, beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, etc.
  • Soybeans
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils
  • Nuts
  • Avocado

2. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, jaundice, nerve damage, and mood changes.

Vitamin B12 and folate work closely together. Like folate, vitamin B12 helps in the formation of DNA and red blood cells and in the maintenance of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, jaundice, nerve damage, and mood changes.

Since vitamin B12 is only available in animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, people who are vegan or strict vegetarian may be missing out on this essential nutrient.

Recommended daily amount:

  • Teens and adults ages 14+: 2.4 mcg
  • Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
  • Breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg (2)

The best sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Shellfish, especially clams
  • Beef Liver
  • Fish: trout, salmon, tuna, haddock
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Beef
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Eggs

3. Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” helps to absorb calcium and build up bones. This is especially important for post-menopausal women, 25 percent of whom develop osteoporosis.

There are two forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is absorbed more efficiently than D2. Deficiency of vitamin D3 has been linked to poor bone health, mental problems, weakened immune system, autoimmune diseases, cancer, skin issues, and dementia.

The best way to get vitamin D3 is through exposure to sunlight, 15 minutes a day at least three times a week. It’s also available in very small amounts in specific animal foods. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU, or 15 mcg. (3)

Vitamin D3 is available in the following foods:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Fish: swordfish, salmon, tuna, sardines
  • Fortified foods: orange juice, milk, yogurt, cereal
  • Egg yolk

4. Vitamin E

There’s a good chance you’re not getting enough vitamin E. This essential nutrient is a powerful antioxidant. It defends the skin and soft tissue in the body against harmful free radicals caused by UV light and other damaging elements.

Vitamin E also assists in the absorption of other nutrients, so vitamin E deficiency can lead to other nutrient deficiencies as well.

Recommended daily amount:

  • Teens and adults ages 14+: 15 mg
  • Breastfeeding women: 19 mg (4)

The best sources of vitamin E include the following foods:

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Broccoli

5. Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 plays a crucial role in many different processes in the body. One of its main functions is to activate and regulate proteins, allowing them to bind to calcium, and deciding where they end up in the body.

Vitamin K2 has been shown to help prevent heart disease, improve bone health, and fight cancer.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin K is:

  • Teens ages 14–18: 75 mcg
  • Adult males: 120 mcg
  • Adult females: 90 mcg (5)

The best sources of vitamin K2 include:

  • Grass-fed organic animal products: eggs, butter, dairy
  • Fermented foods: natto, kimchi, sauerkraut
  • Raw dairy products: brie cheese, gouda cheese, kefir
  • Goose liver pâté

6. Potassium

Potatoes are an excellent source of the essential nutrient Potassium.

Potassium is an essential mineral that plays many important roles in the body. It is found in every cell, and it works to regulate blood pressure, muscle contractions, and nerve function. It’s also an electrolyte, meaning that it helps to maintain the balance of fluids in the body.

Potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia, can cause symptoms of weakness, fatigue, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, tingling and numbness, mood changes, and problems with digestion.

Healthy adults should consume 3,500–4,700 mg of potassium each day.

The following foods are excellent sources of potassium:

  • Winter squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Potato
  • White beans
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Salmon
  • Dried apricots
  • Beets

7. Calcium

We push calcium-rich foods on young children because it helps to build strong bones. So what about bone density maintenance?

Now that we know that a quarter of all post-menopausal women develop osteoporosis, it should come as no surprise that many adults are lacking in this bone-building mineral.

Recommended daily amount:

  • Children and teens ages 9–18: 1,300 mg
  • Adults ages 19–50: 1,000 mg
  • Women ages 51+: 1,200 mg
  • Men ages 71+: 1,200 (6)

The best food sources of calcium include:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Cheese: mozzarella, cheddar, etc.
  • Sardines
  • Milk
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Seafood
  • Legumes

8. Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. It is needed for healthy muscle, nerve, and immune function and for regulation of blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and heartbeat.

Deficiency in this essential mineral can result in muscle twitches and cramps, mental disorders, headache disorder, osteoporosis, fatigue, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, depression, and many other disorders.

Recommended daily amount:

  • Males ages 14+: 400–420 mg
  • Females ages 14+: 310–360 mg
  • Pregnant women: 350–400 mg (7)

The best food sources of magnesium include:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Dark chocolate
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Black beans
  • Soybeans
  • Avocado
  • Potato
  • Brown rice

RELATED: 9 Reasons Why You Need to Supplement With Magnesium

9. Iron

Beef Liver: Iron is an essential nutrient for many functions in the body.

Iron is absolutely essential to many functions in the body, including blood production, muscle function, metabolic energy, production of enzymes, immune function, and more.

Iron deficiency has serious consequences; it can lead to anemia, which includes symptoms of fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, pale skin, and heart palpitations.

Iron is especially important for pregnant women, who have 150 percent higher blood volume than they do when they are not pregnant.  

Recommended daily amount:

  • Females ages 14–18: 11 mg
  • Males ages 14–18: 15 mg
  • Females ages 19–50: 18 mg
  • Females ages 51+: 8 mg
  • Males ages 19+: 8 mg
  • Pregnant women: 27 mg (8)

The best food sources of iron include:

  • Beef Liver
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Oysters
  • Legumes
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Dark leafy green vegetables

10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their crucial role in neurological development and healthy brain function. During pregnancy and lactation, they promote brain health of the baby. Research shows that omega-3s help to reduce inflammation and prevent all types of conditions, including ADHD, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. They also promote healthy heart function.

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are most abundant in fatty fish. ALA is found in plants. However, in order for the body to effectively use ALA, it first needs to be converted into EPA and DHA, and only about 10% of the ALA we consume is converted by the body. The best way to get enough omega-3s is to eat fatty fish or to take fish oil supplements.

Although there is no recommended standard dose, a person should be getting 250–500 milligrams of EPA or DHA, or 1.1–1.6 grams of ALA daily.

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:


  • Fish (EPA and DHA): mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, anchovies, cod liver oil
  • Oysters


  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Natto

RELATED: 15 Ways Omega-3 Fats Are Good For You and How to Get Them

In Closing

You can avoid nutrient deficiencies by eating a variety of healthy foods every day. If you are at risk of nutrient deficiency because you are vegan or vegetarian or because of an underlying health condition, you may want to consider taking supplements.



  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-folate/art-20364625
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
  5. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/
  6. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
  7. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
  8. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

Other sources:

  • https://www.brit.co/essential-nutrients-women-need-and-how-to-get-them/
  • https://www.livescience.com/36625-key-nutrients-women-health.html
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-deficiency-in-women#folate
  • https://www.prevention.com/mind-body/natural-remedies/nutrients-women-miss
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-potassium-per-day

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