As women undergo complex changes over the years, their bodies need a variety of nutrients. We explain what you need and when.
At every stage of women’s lives, nutrition and regular exercise are the cornerstones of good health and optimal energy. Problem is, it can be hard to figure out exactly what you should eat to ensure that you’re getting all of the good stuff. Everyone’s nutrient needs are not exactly the same. While most people benefit from the same vitamins and minerals, a woman’s needs can be a little different because her body goes through different things throughout life.
Having a balanced diet and physical activity plan can help keep you ready for class demands and activities on campus. To get the basics on nutritional needs, visit the websites listed below. Please note, every body has different nutrient needs. The major nutrients benefiting women’s health are listed on this page.
Folic acid is especially important for women of child-bearing age, but all women benefit from this vitamin. For women of child-bearing age it’s an important vitamin because it promotes healthy pregnancy. Lack of folic acid can result in neural tube defects that lead to cerebral palsy. In addition to taking a prenatal vitamin for folic acid, you can get folic acid from leafy green vegetables, avocado, and liver.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that many people don’t get enough of. If you want to know if you’re getting enough, you can ask your doctor to check your levels. Most people get vitamin D from the sun, but it’s not always as easy as that. A supplement is a good idea if you avoid the sun or live in a place that doesn’t get sun for months on end. Vitamin D is beneficial for mood, breast health, and the absorption of calcium, which is important for bones and teeth.
Calcium has many functions in the body, but is most well known for preventing osteoporosis and fractures in bones in older age. Bone density is used to measure risk for osteoporosis. Peak bone density occurs at age 25-30 in the average woman. For women, the time of menopause will bring about a large decline of bone mass.
There are two types of fiber-soluble and insoluble. Because both kinds are passed through the body rather than being absorbed into it, not all experts agree that fiber qualifies as a nutrient. But they do agree on its importance in the diet. Aim for 30 grams (g) of fiber per day divided into three segments: 10g at breakfast, 10g at lunch, and 10g at dinner. If you eat little fiber now, start slowly, with around 15g per day, working your way up to 30g over the course of a month; stocking up suddenly can lead to digestive problems, like cramping and constipation.
Iron is important for growth and development. Deficiency of iron can result in fatigue, insomnia, and lack of concentration. Iron stores and carries oxygen around the body. Women lose blood on a monthly basis during menstruation, which results in iron loss because iron travels through the blood. It’s important that women make sure they get enough iron during this time to replenish what is lost. Good sources of iron include red meat, broccoli, kidney, beans, and liver.
Should you take a supplement?
Women with heavy periods and those who don’t eat meat should consider supplementation. Iron supplements are available, but some forms such as ferrous sulphate may cause constipation and stomach upsets. Iron is toxic in excess and, although there is little risk of getting too much from food, you should consult your doctor before taking iron supplements. Iron is best absorbed when taken on an empty stomach but alongside meals or drinks rich in vitamin C to increase uptake.