Nutrients Every Woman Needs and the Superfoods that Provide Them
A balanced diet is essential for good health regardless of the parts in your pants. But women have some special
nutritional needs that can help us keep our energy levels up, prevent devastating diseases, and promote healthy, beautiful skin. Here are the most essential nutrients you need for the best possible health, along with the superfoods that contain them.
Calcium and Vitamin D
As we age, women are susceptible to bone loss, so getting plenty of calcium from an early age is ideal for building
strong bones. Calcium is also essential for helping our blood clot and our muscles contract, and it helps our nerves send messages. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take it from your bones. This leads
to bone loss and low bone density.
Women younger than 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Those over 50 need 1,200 mg daily. Food is the best source of
calcium, although supplements can help make up for low calcium intake.Foods rich in calcium include low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Kale, broccoli, and watercress are high in calcium, as are canned fish with bones, like sardines.
Women are particularly susceptible to anemia
, or low iron levels, largely due to menstruation. From puberty through menopause, iron is an essential part of a woman’s diet. Iron is crucial for good health and optimum energy levels, but nearly 10 percent of American women have an iron deficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Iron’s main duty is to help transport oxygen throughout the body. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 18 mg of iron each day. After menopause, that requirement drops to 8 mg each day.
Iron-rich superfoods include red meat, spinach, kale, beans, lentils, and fortified bread and cereals. Since vitamin C
helps your body absorb plant-based sources of iron more efficiently, adding oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, and other vitamin C-rich foods to your diet will help ensure optimum iron levels.
During the childbearing years, getting plenty of folate is essential for lowering the risk of certain birth defects.
Folate is a B-vitamin that’s needed to make DNA
, and it’s also needed for cell division. From age 14 on, women should consume 400 mcg of folate daily. Pregnant women need 600 mcg daily, and breastfeeding women need 500 mcg each day.
Superfoods for folate include asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. Oranges also contain folate, as do peanuts,
black-eyed peas, and kidney beans. Folic acid is a form of folate that’s used in fortified foods and dietary supplements. It’s added to a number of grain-based products like cereal, bread, pasta, and rice.
Vitamin B6 helps support adrenal function
, and it’s essential for a healthy nervous system. It aids in the production of brain chemicals, and it promotes optimum metabolism. For women, vitamin B6 can help reduce symptoms of PMS and, in some cases, arthritis and depression. Women between 19 and 50 years of age should get 1.3 mg per day, and those over 50 should get 2.5 mg per day. Pregnant women need 1.9 mg of vitamin B6, and breastfeeding women should aim for 2 mg each day. Superfoods high in vitamin B6 include wild-caught tuna, bananas, salmon, grass-fed beef, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
A Healthy Diet Provides the Nutrients You Need
If you eat a healthy diet that’s mostly plant-based and includes whole grains, lean proteins, and a variety of fruits
and vegetables, chances are, you’re getting the nutrients you need. For the best health possible, avoid sugar and overly-processed foods for the most part, and get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.