Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is especially important for women.
These top nutrition tips for women show how the right food can support your mood, boost your energy, and help you maintain a healthy weight.
It can also be a huge support through the different stages of your life, helping to reduce PMS, boost fertility, make pregnancy and nursing easier, ease symptoms of menopause, and keep your bones strong.
While women require fewer calories than men, our requirements for certain vitamins and minerals are much higher.
Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, child-bearing, and menopause mean that women have a higher risk of anaemia, weakened bones and osteoporosis, requiring a higher intake of nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and folate.
Including these in our diets is also paramount to helping our bodies cope with daily stress, which has an enormous influence on our health.
Calcium is vital for supporting the skeletal frame and preventing osteoporosis. It is also important for muscle contractions.
The body can absorb 500 mg of calcium at a time, but no more than 1500 mg should be consumed each day.
Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, certain fish, oatmeal and other grains, tofu, cabbage, squash, green beans, garlic, sesame seeds and sea vegetables.
Magnesium, also referred to as the anti-stress mineral given its connections to the nervous system, increases calcium absorption from the blood into the bone.
In fact, your body can't utilise calcium without it. The recommended daily intake is 320–400 mg, with good sources of magnesium including leafy green vegetables, broccoli, cucumber, green beans, celery, and a variety of seeds and wholegrains.
It is also found in milk, fish, raisins, dried apricots, nuts, potatoes, peas, and citrus fruit such as lemons and grapefruit. Magnesium levels are depleted by diuretics and alcohol.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is crucial to the proper metabolism of calcium. 400–600 IU (international units) are recommended per day.
Vitamin D is found in foods like salmon, shellfish, vitamin-D fortified milk and egg yolk.
While Vitamin D can be synthesised from exposure to direct sunlight (roughly half an hour), dark-skinned and tanned individuals can have difficulty synthesising it this way and should therefore have their levels checked regularly.
Iron is essential for maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails and plays a key role in the body, helping to create haemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout your blood.
Due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women of childbearing age need more than twice the amount of iron that men need, and even more during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
An iron deficiency can result in anaemia which can deplete your energy, leaving you feeling weak, exhausted and out of breath after even minimal physical activity.
A lack of iron can also impact your mood, causing depression-like symptoms such as irritability and difficulty concentrating. Iron is found in meat, eggs, whole grain cereals, fish, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, nuts and legumes.
No more than 15 mg should be absorbed each day. A blood test is recommended to help you keep an eye on your iron levels.
Folate or vitamin B9 is another important nutrient that may be lacking in women's diets.
Folate can greatly reduce the chance of neurological birth defects when taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Folate can lower a woman's risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. During menopause, it can also help your body manufacture estrogen.
A lack of dietary folate can impact your mood, leaving you feeling irritable and fatigued, affecting your concentration, and making you more susceptible to depression and headaches.
Women and teen girls should consume 400 mcg (micrograms) of folate daily. Women who are pregnant should take 600 mcg, while those breastfeeding should take 500 mcg.
Good sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, fruit and green smoothies, nuts, beans and peas.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for everyone, but especially for the neurological and early visual development of your baby, and for making breast milk after birth.
Aim for two weekly servings of cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, or anchovies. Sardines are widely considered the safest and most sustainable fish to eat, while seaweed is a rich vegetarian source of Omega-3s.
The above dietary suggestions are by no means exhaustive. If you have ongoing chronic health concerns, make an appointment to see a nutritionist who can help tailor a nutritional plan for you.
Mogestri Pather is a nutritionist and accredited VLA (vitality, longevity and healthy ageing) practitioner at Elixr. She advises on weight loss, anti-ageing digestive imbalances and immune disorders, and offers anxiety support. For more information or to book a session, contact Mogestri on 0414 650 515 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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