Essential Nutrients For Women At Every Age

Essential Nutrients For Women At Every Age

Nutritional needs of women are different from men because a woman’s body is a hub of billions of genetic material. Nutritional needs of women change at every stage of life. At every stage of women's lives, proper nutrition and regular exercise are the foundation of good health and optimum energy.

Nutritional needs for boys and girls in childhood are mostly the same.  As puberty begins, there is a drastic change in nutritional requirements for girls. In addition, the body's nutritional needs develop with age along with many other functional and physiological changes.

Today's woman is a multi-tasker, an extreme enthusiast, and an active player in the game of life. And in such a busy and tiring routine it can be difficult for any woman to maintain a healthy diet. But some vitamins and minerals are most important in particular stages of the life of a woman.

In this article, we tried to cover, which foods and supplements are needed for women at different stages of their lifespan, from youth to childbearing years and in senior years.

Nutritional Requirement Of Women In Childhood And Early Teens

For girls from childhood to early teenage need a diet ample in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean sources of protein to lay a solid foundation for their health in the future. Along with this, they should eat more natural foods rich in various nutrients. 

Girls should keep themselves active and reduce their intake of high-calorie foods. Two nutrients are mainly essential for this stage:

1. Calcium 

Though calcium is important at every stage of life, it is particularly needed in adolescence and early adulthood because, at this stage, bones are absorbing calcium. The more calcium girls get at this time, the stronger their bones will be. Along with bones, calcium also helps in healthy growth of teeth and normal blood clotting. Pairing with vitamin D3 can enhance calcium absorption in the body.

According to experts, 1,300 mg of calcium and 600 IU of Vitamin D in a day is required for girls aged 9 to 19 years. Low-fat dairy products are the smartest alternative to natural sources of calcium because they also contain vitamin D and protein, which are required for calcium absorption.

Sources: Dairy products (milk, paneer, cheese, curd), green vegetables, almonds, broccoli, fortified orange juice etc.

2. Iron

Iron is essential for women in every stage of life. As it is an important element for healthy blood cell. This becomes more important when the girls' menstruation begins. Every woman loses small amounts of iron with each period. Inadequate iron intake in the diet can cause anaemia and people suffering from anaemia feel weak, tired and lethargic. Symptoms of girls suffering from anaemia include fatigue and poor performance at school or work.

Normally girls need about 8 mg of iron a day before menstruation begins but by the age of 14 to 18 years, the recommended intake rises to 15 mg.

Sources: Legumes, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, beans, pumpkin seeds etc.

Nutritional Requirement Of Women During Childbearing Years 

By the age of 20, the body of women gets completely-developed and in this decade women settle into full-fledged adulthood. Women need more energy and power during adulthood as they are often overwhelmed between career and parenthood during this time. During this period, many nutrients are particularly important for women, especially when they are capable to become pregnant.

1. Folic Acid or Folate

Folate is known for its preventive properties and creates new cells in the body. It protects against neural tube damage (birth defects) which include spina bifida and anencephaly. Women who are pregnant want to become pregnant should increase their intake of folic acid. As neural tube damage begins to develop suitably before conception, a regular and high intake of folate is the best way to ensure that the body is protecting itself before pregnancy. It is mainly responsible for the formation of the baby's brain, spine and skull.

The recommended daily intake is 400 mcg for women of childbearing age, 600 mcg in pregnancy and about 500 mcg during lactation.

Sources: Leafy greens vegetables, folic acid supplements (recommended by Doctor), kale, avocados, beans, cereals etc. 

2. Omega 3s  

EPA and DHA, essential fatty acids of omega-3s, play many roles in the body. It is helpful in building healthy brain and nerve cells. It is not only important for the baby's heart and brain but also has a positive effect on the growth of the baby's visual and cognitive functions. Some studies suggest that the DHA present in omega-3s may help prevent preterm births. It may reduce the risk of allergies in infants. 

Women who do not plan to have children should ensure adequate amounts of omega-3s because it helps in relieving menstrual pain, protects against osteoporosis and also keeps the heart-healthy.
Recommended daily allowance of Omega 3s is 650 mg. 

Sources: Fish, walnut, broccoli, flax seeds, olive oil, Chia Seeds etc.

3. Vitamin B12 

Like folic acid, vitamin B12 also helps keep healthy nervous system development and function. Vegans or vegetarian pregnant women may lack in vitamin B12 because it is mostly found in animal protein and to some extent in dairy products. Vitamin B12 demand increases in the body during pregnancy, that's why B12 supplementation is recommended during pregnancy.

The average daily recommended amount of vitamin B12 for teenage and adult women is 2.4 mcg, for pregnant teens or women, the recommended dose is 2.6 mcg and for breastfeeding mother, suggestive daily intake should be 2.8 mcg.

Sources: Milk and dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soymilk, fortified tofu etc.

4. Choline 

Choline is an essential nutrient in the lifespan of women that supports important physical functions and overall health. It is also beneficial for the early development of the fetus during pregnancy. It is easily available in adequate quantity in your daily diet.

As per NIH (National Institutes of Health) teenage girls need 3 g per day, adults and pregnant women required 3.5 g per day. 

Sources: Eggs, peanuts, milk, soybeans, fish, potatoes, mushrooms etc.

5. Vitamin D

It is essential for bone health and also promotes the absorption of calcium in the stomach and intestines. It also helps in maintaining the normal functioning of nerves and muscles. Vitamin D during pregnancy helps to strengthen the child's immune system and helps build the baby's bones and teeth.

The recommended daily intake is 600 IU.

Sources: Cheese, orange juice, Tuna, mushrooms, eggs etc.

6. Calcium

Getting enough calcium in adulthood too is extremely important for women. Adult women in their childbearing years should target for 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg of calcium per day.

Sources: Milk, cheese, and other dairy foods, broccoli, cabbage, okra etc.

7. Iron

Blood volume almost doubles in pregnant women as compared to normal women. So definitely the demand for iron in the body of pregnant women rises. 

Generally, adult women ages 19 to 50 need 18 mg iron per day but this need should shoot for 27 mg a day during pregnancy. Post-delivery, the baby can absorb iron through breast milk. So, women should continue to take more iron-rich food and supplements until breastfeeding. 

Sources: Legumes, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, beans, pumpkin seeds etc.

Nutritional Requirement Of Women During The Senior Years

"As women get older, menopause nears." The body of women changes again. Estrogen levels in the body decrease. Calcium supplementation, regular exercise and some other nutritional requirements increase with a balanced diet at this stage of the age of women. It can also reduce menopause discomfort.

1. Calcium And Vitamin D 

Some bone loss is natural with increasing age as there is a deficiency of calcium in the body. Adequate calcium and vitamin D supplements can significantly slow down the bone loss process.  Women among the ages of 50 and 70 require 1200 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D.

Sources: Dairy products (milk, paneer, cheese, curd), green vegetables, almonds, broccoli, fortified orange juice etc.  Ask your doctor for supplements of calcium and vitamin D.

2. Vitamin B 12 

As women age, their body's ability to absorb this important vitamin also decreases. Actually the overall vitamin B Group helps in maintaining the normal function of skin, heart and nervous system. Diets may supply adequate amounts for elderly women, but some women may need to take supplements, so it is better to ask your doctor.

Sources: Milk and dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soymilk, fortified tofu etc.

3. Vitamin C, E

It is very important for women to have a balanced diet and needed supplements during the menopause period. Vitamin C and E having antioxidant effects not only stimulate the formation of collagen, but also make better the health of skin and blood cells, and make the skin healthy.

Sources: Citrus fruits, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts etc. 

4. More Fluids 

Kidneys become less efficient at removing toxins at this age so the body needs more fluids. The best solution for this is to drink a lot of water and other fluids help kidneys do their job

There are many physical and hormonal changes throughout the life of women. Every woman needs a significant change in her diet and nutrition at all stages, such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause.