Nutritional requirements for females vary from males, as females are more prone to particular kinds of deficiencies. There are clear recommendations on what you should eat and how much, but this can vary based on your age and health.

The decisions you make at mealtime are important for your future health. Filling your plate with nutrient-rich foods will help keep your body in top shape and reduce the risk of age-related health issues.

For females, eating well between their childhood and older adulthood is especially important for a variety of reasons.

Here are some key nutrients that young adult females need to pay attention to.

[the terms “male” and “female”]

In this article, we use “male and female” to refer to someone’s sex as determined by their chromosomes and “men and women” when referring to their gender (unless quoting from sources using nonspecific language).

Sex is determined by chromosomes, and gender is a social construct that can vary between time periods and cultures. Both of these aspects are acknowledged to exist on a spectrum both historically and by modern scientific consensus.

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On average, you should be eating about 2,000 calories daily if you’re looking to maintain your weight and 1,500 if you want to lose 1 pound per week.

Generally, compared to males, females particularly need to include the following in their diets: iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, folate, choline, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and iodine.

That said, the amount of calories you need to eat and the amounts of each nutrient your body needs can differ depending on your age, health, and how often you exercise.

Nutrition recommendations for females by age

The following daily nutritional requirement charts are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To understand the amounts, please follow the provided chart on measurement units.

Measurement unitshortenedExplanation
1 g = 1,000 mg
micrograms of retinol activity equivalents

milligrams of alpha-tocopherol
mcg RAE

mg at
For some vitamins, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is expressed this way to account for different absorption rates.
international unitIUThis unit expresses how much of a vitamin is needed to have an impact on your body.
mcgmicrograms1 mg = 1,000 mcg
DFEdietary folate equivalentsThis measurement accounts for the higher absorption of folic acid from fortified foods and supplements compared to natural folate sources, meaning less is needed to meet the recommended intake.

Macronutrients and minerals

Type0–2 years4–89–1314–1819–3031–5051+PregnantLactatingFoods
Protein (g)131934464646467171high protein foods
Carb (g)130130130130130130130175210healthy carb foods
Fiber (g)1417222528252225–3431high fiber foods
Added sugar (kcal)<10<10<10<10<10<10<10<10<10high sugar foods to limit
Fat (kcal)30–4025–3525–3525–3520–3520–3520–3520–3520–35foods with healthy fats
Calcium (mg)7001,0001,3001,3001,0001,0001,2001,0001,000–1,300calcium-rich foods
Iron (mg)71081518188279–10iron-rich foods
Magnesium (mg)80130240360310320130360–400310–360magnesium-rich foods
Phosphorus (mg)4605001,2501,250700700500700–1,250700–1,250phosphorus-rich foods
Potassium (mg)2,0002,3002,3002,3002,6002,6002,6002,600–2,9002,500–2,800potassium-rich foods
Zinc (mg)358988811–1212–13high zinc foods
Sodium (mg)1,2001,2001,8002,3002,3002,3002,3002,3002,300high sodium foods to limit
Riboflavin (mg) of riboflavin
Niacin (mg)6812141414141817sources of niacin
Iodine (mcg)90–11090120150150150150220290sources of iodine


Type0–2 years4–89–1314–1819–3031–5051+PregnantLactatingFoods
Vitamin A (mcg rae)300400600700700700700750–7701,200–1,300sources of vitamin A
Vitamin E (mg at)6711151515151519sources of vitamin E
Vitamin C (mg)1525456575757580–85115–120sources of vitamin C
Vitamin D (IU)600600600600600600600600600sources of vitamin D
Thiamin (mg) of thiamin
Riboflavin (mg) of riboflavin
vitamin B3 or niacin (mg)6812141414141817sources of niacin
Vitamin B6 (mg) of vitamin B6
Vitamin B12 (mcg) of vitamin B12
Choline (mg)200250375400425425425450550sources of choline
Vitamin K (mcg)3055607590909075–9075–90sources of vitamin K
Folate (mcg DFE)150200300400400400400600500sources of folic acid

It can be helpful to look at the food label of any item you eat to ensure you’re eating enough of various nutrients or not too much.

That said, you don’t necessarily need to count each macronutrient, as that can be quite cumbersome. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet.

Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins in your diet. Here’s an article that goes into greater detail on eating a balanced diet.

Speak with your doctor if you’re pregnant or nursing or if you have any health conditions that might affect your diet. Learn more about nutrition during pregnancy, lactation, and dieting postpartum.

Portion sizes

Be mindful of how much you eat at a time, as well as the combinations of foods on your plate.

A portion is how much you might eat in a given meal, whereas a serving is the amount of a specific food you should in one meal. This amount is usually indicated on the nutrition label.

Generally, try to ensure that about half of your plate is composed of vegetables and fruit. Split the rest of the plate between whole grains and proteins.


There are some diets you can follow that naturally incorporate most healthy foods. These include:

That said, speak with your doctor or a registered dietician before you try to follow any of these nutrition plans, as some might work for some people but not for others.


In some cases, you may need to take some supplements, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing. Speak with your doctor about whether you need supplements and which ones you should take.

Learn about 10 supplements for females.


Probiotics aren’t nutrients, per se. They’re beneficial bacteria found in foods and supplements that offer a range of health benefits. Research suggests that including probiotics in your diet, whether through foods or supplements, might help with the absorption of vitamin B12, folate, calcium, zinc, iron, and potentially other nutrients.

You’ll find probiotics in fermented foods like these:

  • yogurt
  • kimchi
  • kombucha
  • sauerkraut
  • miso
  • unpasteurized apple cider vinegar

Certain types of probiotics can also help to maintain normal bacterial balance in the vaginal and urinary tracts. Consult with a doctor before buying to make sure you get the probiotics that best fit your needs.

Certain other periods in a female’s life, as well as various health conditions, can affect the amount of nutrients you need.

  • Puberty: During adolescence, eating protein is especially important for proper growth and development. That said, eating a variety of healthy food is still important, as is taking special care to avoid disordered eating, which young females are more susceptible to.
  • Menopause: At this time, females have a higher chance of bone problems like osteoporosis, so taking more calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium can help reduce this risk. Learn
  • Older age: In older age, females should aim to eat more protein, which also helps prevent muscle loss. Learn more about eating as an older female.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Some people may not have enough of certain nutrients, which affects the foods they should eat and may require taking supplements. For example, women have a higher chance of vitamin D deficiency. Research also shows most pregnant females are low in magnesium, and many young women, especially vegetarians, don’t get enough of choline from their diet.

In addition, the following common conditions can also affect how you need to eat. You may need to adjust your diet or take supplements. Speak with your doctor to get the right dietary guidelines for you.

Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, lean protein, and dairy, will help ensure you get the recommended amount of each essential nutrient.

If you have dietary restrictions or a condition that makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients, talk with your healthcare professional about how to ensure you get all you need, such as by taking a vitamin supplement.