The field of women’s nutrition isn’t as old as you might think. Women require different nutrients than men, but seldom do they obtain those essential vitamins and minerals via their diet. Because most Americans don’t fulfill their recommended daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, many of them resort to taking various supplements.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that more than half of American adults take one or more dietary supplements. The majority of these adults take a multivitamin to “cover the bases,” so to speak. People forget, however, that dietary supplements are intended to supplement a diet. They are not meant to take the place of healthy foods that should be consumed every day.
Continued research shows that there are specific nutrients that can have a positive impact on female health. Whether you are trying to improve your health for the short or long-term, ladies, these are the five essential nutrients that you need.
As the most abundant mineral in the human body, calcium is necessary for healthy bones and teeth, but it is also required for healthy muscles and nerves. Women need to focus on building bone density in their 20s and 30s because it is common for women to lose bone density around menopause. Their ability to generate new bone cells decreases with age, which is why women should aim to consume about 1,000mg of calcium per day. Great calcium rich foods include raw almonds, kale, broccoli, oranges, butternut squash, okra, and spinach.
Women who consume diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids statistically have a decreased risk of heart disease. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that work to reduce plaque build-up in arteries and lower triglyceride levels. Women who are over the age of 50 are recommended to eat foods rich in omega-3s because they reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers. Consume foods like avocados, hemp seeds, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds to obtain omega-3s.
Because women need calcium, it is essential for them to also obtain vitamin D. If you didn’t know, vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium, which is why most packaged calcium-rich foods are often fortified with vitamin D. Several studies have indicated that women with higher vitamin D levels may have a reduced risk of breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. Try to avoid fortified foods and get about 15 minutes of sun exposure every day. If you live in a place where the sun doesn’t shine a lot, try to eat a variety of mushrooms, which are some of the best dietary sources of vitamin D.
Most people say that women need folic acid, but it is better to opt for then non-synthetic, naturally occurring version that is folate. This B-complex vitamin is needed for red blood cell production, and women who consume more folate-rich foods reportedly have a reduced risk of high blood pressure. If a woman is planning on becoming pregnant or is pregnant, consuming foods with folate encourages healthy fetal development. Folate-rich foods include dark leafy greens, avocados, asparagus, citrus fruit, legumes, and sprouted grains.
Magnesium is often a forgotten mineral, but it is necessary for everyone. Women over 40 require magnesium because it helps to build strong bones and reduce their risk of osteoporosis. In addition to aiding the regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar levels, magnesium also is beneficial for cognitive development and a healthy pregnancy. Click here to see the best magnesium-rich foods.