Women have unique nutritional needs which vary throughout their lifespan. For example, a woman may be dealing with losing nutrients through menstruation, fueling a new life through pregnancy and breast-feeding, or coping with changing hormones and their impact during menopause.
Women need the same nutrients as men, but they may need different quantities depending on their particular stages in life.
Women are physically smaller than men, so they generally need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Yet those calories need to deliver the same (or more in some instances) nutrients to meet women’s needs. Because of this, women need to pay special attention to eating nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods to balance a healthy weight with getting proper nourishment.
Women who are physically active will require more calories than those who are sedentary. Hormonal changes can also affect metabolism, and many women find that they gain weight during menopause even though they may be eating and exercising the same amount as before.
Women of childbearing age need to pay close attention to iron. For those menstruating, iron is important to replace blood that is lost during each monthly cycle. Women who are pregnant need extra iron for the additional blood volume associated with pregnancy. Once menopause hits and menstruation ceases, iron needs go down significantly.
Believe it or not, women do not need more calcium than men. Women are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis because they have smaller frames and carry less weight on their bones, which leaves them weaker—not because they have less calcium than men. Even though women don’t need more, they shouldn’t ignore calcium intake; most women simply don’t get enough in their diet. This can be remedied by drinking milk, eating cheese or yogurt, or looking for foods that are fortified with calcium. Calcium needs do go up after age 50, so eat and drink up!
Folate (folic acid)
All women of childbearing age should be conscious of getting enough folate in their diet or folic acid through a supplement form. Folate is necessary to properly develop the neural tube, and consuming enough before and during pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of birth defects of the spine and neural tube. Folate is an important B vitamin for women of all ages and may help with heart disease prevention in older women, too.
Women are often pulled in numerous directions and unfortunately all too often personal lifestyle is compromised by lack of sleep, little exercise, and poor nutritional choices.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in America. Cancer takes the second spot. Don’t want to be a statistic? Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and following a healthful diet are key to prevention of both diseases.