By: Deborah Moss, RD, CDN
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is promoting NATIONAL WOMEN’S HEALTH WEEK to encourage women to focus on their own health.
One of the most important things women can do for their health is to eat right. And while it’s important every day to take in a variety of healthy foods such a fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein, women also have special nutrient needs during each stage of a their life:
Calcium: During your 20s, you’re still in the bone building stages of your life when you can create the strongest and most dense bones. Our body’s uses calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Think of calcium as an investment in keeping your bones strong and healthy, not just during your younger years but also for later as we age.
Healthy women between the ages of 19 and 50 should aim for 1,000 mg per day; older women need 1200 mg because bones lose calcium as we age. You will find calcium in dairy foods such as milk and yogurt, in calcium-fortified orange juice, bread and cereal, and naturally in leafy green vegetables, nuts and beans. Almond and soy milk are good sources of calcium for those who are lactose intolerant.
Vitamin D: Also important to bone health, Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Healthy women ages 50 years or younger should aim for approximately 200 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, where older women should aim between 400-600 IU per day. You can get vitamin D from foods and from sunlight. Your body will naturally make vitamin D from sunlight, but often not enough. It can be found naturally in fish oil, fish, organ meats and eggs and in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and cereal.
Folic Acid: This is an important nutrient for women during childbearing age because it decreases the risk of birth defects. The recommendation is to take in 400 micrograms per day, 600 micrograms if pregnant. You can get folic acid from fortified foods such as cereal and breads, or from supplements. Citrus fruits, leafy greens and peas naturally contain folate.
Fiber: For women 40 and over to help protect against heart disease and some types of cancer, fiber is super important. A high fiber diet helps lower cholesterol, keeps food moving smoothly through your body, and tends to make you feel fuller sooner so you eat less. Good sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans. Women should aim for approximately 25 grams of fiber per day.
Balancing Calories: Women’s caloric needs often change during their 50s due to perimenopause and menopause. This is because of hormone fluctuations, which influence metabolism which can lead to weight gain. Women might need to decrease calorie intake and increase activity to maintain a healthy weight.
Protein and Vitamin B12: An important nutrient for women over age 60, protein is needed to maintain muscle, which we tend to lose as we age. The average woman needs approximately 5-6 ounces of protein foods each day. Good sources of protein include beef, chicken fish, pork, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts and low-fat dairy products such as milk and yogurt.
Vitamin B12, also found in protein foods, helping your body make red blood cells and keep the brain and nervous system healthy. As women age they can often have problems absorbing B12. It is important to assess your B12 levels with your doctor to determine if you might need a supplement.
For more information on eating right for life, visit http://www.eatright.org/
Deborah Moss is a registered dietitian and certified dietetic nutritionist. She is the owner of Natural Nutrition and Wellness, a private nutrition counseling practice that specializes in women’s health and wellness, specifically focusing on weight management and the integration of nutrition for disease prevention and management. Deborah graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition. She completed a dietetic internship program through LIU, CW Post. She has presented nutrition and wellness classes associated with diabetes, heart disease and weight management to numerous clients through corporate wellness programs. Deborah’s goal in counseling is in helping others achieve a healthier and more balanced life.
For any diet and nutrition questions, contact Deborah at nnwellness.com!