It’s no secret that men and women are different
yet for years and years nutritional advice has been targeted as a one size fits all recommendation to cover both. Today’s advanced level of scientific research has shown that women’s nutritional needs are indeed different than those of men. Not only are caloric needs different, but what women need to do to optimize nutritional intake is also different. Read on to find out the top things you need to do make sure you are getting the highest level of nutrition to meet your unique needs.
1. Don’t Fear Fat. Erroneous advice about fat intake presented decades ago has lingered today enough to make many women continue to fear eating foods with fat in them. The truth is that fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact we need fat for optimal brain function, healthy skin and nails, and feelings of satiety. Additionally, certain key vitamins and nutrients are fat soluble, meaning that our bodies need fat to properly absorb and utilize them. Continue to avoid unhealthy trans fats, but make healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts part of your everyday diet.
2. Get Enough Iron. It is especially important that women get adequate levels of iron through diet and/or supplement for several reasons. First, women’s lower caloric needs and tendency to not eat as much red meat means that iron intake is lower. Secondly, a great deal of iron is lost through the red blood cells that are shed during menstruation. Finally, aging makes it important for women to get sufficient levels of iron. It is easy to think that once menopause has begun iron intake levels may decrease since they are no longer losing blood each month. But it turns out that as we age our ability to absorb iron decreases making it just as important to continue to get plenty of iron through food or supplements throughout a woman’s life.
3. Consider Calcium and Vitamin D Essential…and Inseparable. As we age women are especially vulnerable to deteriorating bone density. For this reason it is of key importance to get enough of both calcium and vitamin D. We can get a certain amount of calcium through foods like dairy, dark leafy greens, and sardines. However, it can be difficult to meet all of our calcium needs through food alone, and to compound this problem many women find dairy hard to tolerate. To assure you are getting enough of this vital nutrient, many doctors and nutrition experts recommend taking a daily high quality calcium supplement.
Eating calcium rich foods and taking a calcium supplement solves part of the problem for bone health, but protecting bone health doesn’t end with calcium. In order for our bodies to properly absorb calcium we also need at least 1000 mg of vitamin D each day. Our bodies can synthesize vitamin D from the sun, but busy schedules, cloudy days, and skin cancer concerns are all roadblocks to make getting sufficient vitamin D from the sun a viable option. Instead, think of a vitamin D supplement as an inseparable partner with your calcium supplement to get the most benefit!
4. Know that Folate Needs Continue. Most women know that folate intake is essential during child bearing years because of the tremendous role it plays in preventing birth defects, but did you know it is important to continue to make sure you are getting enough folate throughout your lifespan? Folate is crucial in making red blood cells and preventing cases of anemia which plague so many women. Folate is found naturally in foods like broccoli, peanuts, papaya, and spinach, and is also available in supplement form.
5. Nutrients Don’t Act Alone. The final, and perhaps most important, thing for women to know about optimizing their nutritional intake is that no nutrient acts alone. All of the nutrients women need for optimal health and wellness act in tandem with other nutrients for both better absorption and utilization. For example, iron needs vitamin C, calcium, and copper to work as it should. As mentioned earlier, calcium and vitamin D work in tandem. Vitamins C and E function better together.
While it’s not necessary to memorize every nutrient combination needed for perfect synergy, it is vital for women to ensure they are getting a wide variety of nutrients each and every day. To achieve this goal, aim to eat a diet filled with colorful produce, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Because even the most health conscious woman can have a difficult time getting all nutrients in everyday, many experts recommend taking supplements to fill in the gaps.