It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that women have some different nutritional needs than men. Starting at puberty and continuing for the rest of their lives, the female body needs specific nutritional support to stay healthy.
While they typically need fewer calories than men, women require much higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. The hormonal and physical changes associated with menstruation, child-bearing, and menopause mean that women need to take in more iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and B-vitamins (especially folate) than men.
Many women take supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps in their diet. But supplements can’t replace the all-around benefits of healthy eating. It’s much better to cultivate a clean, healthy diet rich in foods that supply the nutrients that you need as a woman.
Lots of Leafy Greens
Dark green, leafy vegetables are your best friend when you’re trying to add essential nutrients to your diet. Leafy green vegetables contain calcium, folate, and iron. Toss spinach, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and some other greens together in a salad and you’re giving yourself a tasty helping of the best vitamins for women.
You’ll also find folate in asparagus, broccoli (also a good source of calcium and magnesium), and Brussels sprouts. And spinach is a great source of magnesium and iron. Just keep in mind that iron from plants is different than iron from animal sources. The body doesn’t absorb plant-based iron as well, so if you’re a vegetarian you might have to add iron-fortified foods to your diet to get all the iron you need.
Lean, Iron-Rich Meats
Blood loss from menstruation lowers women’s iron levels and makes it more likely that they’ll develop iron-deficiency anemia. Women in their child-bearing years need twice as much iron as men do, and even more if they’re pregnant. Low iron levels can leave you feeling tired, cranky, and short of breath when you exercise.
Red meat is the best natural source of iron. But you’ll want to make sure you’re getting lean, healthy cuts of meat from animals fed an organic diet. Being conscious of where you source your meet ensures you get healthier food and it’s also good for the environment. You can get iron from fish like salmon and sardines, too, though not nearly as much as red meat. These fish are also a good source of calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
All The Whole Grains
While eating whole grains is beneficial for everyone, studies have shown that they’re especially good for women. The link between whole grains and weight loss is strongest in women, and whole eating whole grains also reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains are a great source of magnesium. They also contain B vitamins, which support healthy metabolism and hormone production. And whole grains supply selenium as well, which helps keep your thyroid healthy.
A Variety of Nuts, Seeds, and Fruit
Adding nuts, seeds, and a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet will help round-out your diet and fill women’s nutritional requirements. For example, nuts like walnuts and cashews contain folate. Flax seeds supply a compound called lignans, which may help prevent and fight breast cancer. Summer squash gives you more calcium and magnesium. Fruit like papaya and camu camu provide natural vitamin C. Tomatoes supply vitamin A, which supports healthy skin.
The exact same diet won’t work equally well for all women. But there are certain nutrients that every woman needs to stay healthy. Experimenting with incorporating healthy sources of calcium, magnesium, iron, folate, and other nutrients into your diet will support your health as a woman and combat common issues like fatigue, reduce PMS, and strengthen your bones.