Women's Vitamin Requirements

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Spoonful of vitamins

Getting the right nutrients daily maximizes the way you look and feel but knowing how much of each nutrient you need can be overwhelming for many women. Vitamin requirements for women vary based on age and which life stage you're in. That's why having the resources you need is the first step in nourishing your body properly, whether you're a young woman in your 20s, are pregnant or nursing, or are post menopausal.

Women's Vitamin and Mineral Requirements

Using the chart below is a quick and easy way to know how many vitamins and minerals your body requires daily. It's adapted from the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board; amounts vary based on age and life stage. For example, pregnant and nursing women often have higher needs than non-pregnant ladies.

Vitamin and Mineral Chart

You'll see the following abbreviations and notations on the chart below, which is specifically for women.

Ages 19 to 30

Ages 31 to 50

Ages 51 to 70

Over 70 years

Pregnancy

Breastfeeding

Vitamins

Vitamin A (μg/day)

700

700

700

700

770

1,300

Vitamin C (mg/day)

75

75

75

75

85

120

Vitamin D (μg/day)

15

15

15

20

15

15

Vitamin E (mg/day)

15

15

15

15

15

19

Vitamin K (μg/day)

90*

90*

90*

90*

90*

90*

Thiamin (mg/day)

1.1

1.1

1.1

1.1

1.4

1.4

Riboflavin (mg/day)

1.1

1.1

1.1

1.1

1.4

1.6

Niacin (mg/day)

14

14

14

14

18

17

Vitamin B6 (mg/day)

1.3

1.3

1.5

1.5

1.9

2.0

Folate (μg/day)

400

400

400

400

600

500

Vitamin B12 (μg/day)

2.4

2.4

2.4

2.4

2.6

2.8

Pantothenic acid (mg/day)

5*

5*

5*

5*

6*

7*

Biotin (μg/day)

30*

30*

30*

30*

30*

35*

Choline (mg/day)

425*

425*

425*

425*

450*

550*

Minerals

Calcium (mg/day)

1,000

1,000

1,200

1,200

1,000

1,000

Chromium (μg/day)

25*

25*

20*

20*

30*

45*

Copper (μg/day)

900

900

900

900

1,000

1,300

Fluoride (mg/day)

3*

3*

3*

3*

3*

3*

Iodine (μg/day)

150

150

150

150

220

290

Iron (mg/day)

18

18

8

8

27

9

Magnesium (mg/day)

310

320

320

320

350-360

310-320

Manganese (mg/day)

1.8*

1.8*

1.8*

1.8*

2*

2.6*

Molybdenum (μg/day)

45

45

45

45

50

50

Phosphorous (mg/day)

700

700

700

700

700

700

Selenium (μg/day)

55

55

55

55

60

70

Zinc (mg/day)

8

8

8

8

11

12

Potassium (g/day)

4.7*

4.7*

4.7*

4.7*

4.7*

5.1*

Sodium (g/day)

1.5*

1.5*

1.3*

1.2*

1.5*

1.5*

Chloride (g/day)

2.3*

2.3*

2*

1.8*

2.3*

2.3*

Requirements Change With Age

Vitamin and mineral requirements for women sometimes (but not always) change with age. For example, younger women (of childbearing age) require additional iron because iron is lost in blood during menstruation. Older women (over age 50) have higher calcium requirements because calcium helps prevent osteoporosis -- a condition where bones become weak and brittle -- and osteoporosis risks increase with age as estrogen levels decline during and after menopause.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnant and nursing women's vitamin and mineral requirements are often higher than non-pregnant, non-nursing women simply because women's bodies require extra nutrients to nourish developing babies. Nursing women have some of the highest nutrient needs, as vitamins and minerals are transferred from mom to baby via breast milk. The chart above demonstrates these increased nutritional requirements during pregnancy and lactation.

What About Smokers?

While you won't see separate RDAs and AIs for smokers in the Institute of Medicine's DRI table, smokers likely need addition vitamin C compared to non-smokers. The University of Maryland Medical Center says smokers should aim to get an additional 35 milligrams of vitamin C daily because smoking lowers vitamin C levels in the body. Winchester Hospital notes other vitamins and minerals (in addition to vitamin C) smokers tend to be deficient in include vitamin E, beta-carotene (forms vitamin A in the body), folate, calcium, and zinc, but that poor dietary habits may be the culprit.

Importance of Vitamins

Vitamins (and minerals) are important for nearly every part and function of women's bodies. For that reason, knowing the right amount of vitamins and minerals your body requires daily (based on your age and life stage) is a must. Ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement in addition to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, especially if you're pregnant or nursing.

Women's Vitamin Requirements