Most Important Nutrients for Women

Several nutrients stand out when supporting the intricate female body. Learn the vital nutrients for women and how to add them to your diet.

  • Published: 4/26/2022
  • 5 min. read

A variety of whole foods are a cornerstone of human health, but several nutrients stand out when it comes to supporting the intricate and amazing female body. Learn the most important nutrients for women, how these change during different stages of life, how to incorporate them into your daily diet.

Healthy eating for women  

All humans require healthy foods from all the food groups to prevent disease and function optimally, including a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. At all stages of life, it's crucial to eat well and exercise while limiting processed fatty, salty, sugary foods and alcohol (1).

Women require extra nutrients during different phases of life. Low dietary iron is a concern during childbearing years; additional iron may be needed to replace losses from menstruation. Pregnancy calls for a focus on folate to support a healthy baby. Midlife and menopausal ages require increased needs for calcium to prevent bone loss and heart disease (1). 

Nutritional needs for women

Iron

Iron is a mineral that is a part of hemoglobin, a red blood cell, which brings oxygen from our lungs to our body tissues. It’s also needed to make muscle, support growth, brain development, cell function, and help to create some hormones (2). 

When we don’t get enough iron in our diet, we may be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include feeling tired, short of breath, pale skill, and noticeable heartbeats (3). Women are typically at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia than men. This is because iron is lost via menstruation; it’s also required in greater amounts during pregnancy (4). 

Iron comes in two forms depending on whether it's from plant or animal foods. Plant sources (leafy greens, legumes) are not absorbed as well as animal sources (red meat, poultry). However, eating plant iron with vitamin C (citrus fruit or red bell peppers) can increase absorption!

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) iron for women:

  • 14-18 years old: 15 mg 
  • 19-50 years: 18 mg 
  • 51+ years: 8 mg
  • Pregnant: 27 mg
  • Lactating: 9-10 mg (5). 

Good sources of iron: 

  • Lean red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish.
  • Leafy greens: kale and spinach
  • Legumes (beans and lentils) and nuts
  • Iron-fortified foods: cereals (6).

Folate

Folate is a B-vitamin (vitamin B9) that’s needed to help tissues and cells grow. It also helps make red blood cells which are important for carrying oxygen through the body (7). It's important during childbearing years because it helps prevent a dangerous fetal condition called spina bifida. Taking more folate during the first trimester can also lower the risk of miscarriage (7). 

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) folate for women:

  • 14-18 years old: 400 mcg 
  • 19-50 years: 400 mcg
  • Pregnant: 600 mcg
  • Lactating: 500 mcg (8). 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends women of reproductive age take 400 mcg of folic acid each day, in addition to consuming foods rich in folate (9). 

Good sources of folate:

  • Green vegetables: spinach, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli.
  • Legumes: chickpeas, kidney beans. 
  • Citrus fruits: lime, lemon, oranges.
  • Breakfast cereals and bread fortified with folic acid (7). 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which helps our body absorb calcium. Calcium and vitamin D support strong bones. At the time of menopause, our bone loss usually increases. This puts us at risk for a condition called osteoporosis, a bone disease in which bones become very weak or frail (10). 

Vitamin D also helps reduce inflammation, promote cell growth, improve brain and immune function, and balance blood sugar (10). People with lower levels of vitamin D have a greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes later in life. For pregnant women, vitamin D can help prevent gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (high blood pressure) (11).

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) vitamin D for women:

  • 14-70 years old: 15 mcg (600 IU)
  • 70+ years old: 20 mcg (800 IU)
  • Pregnancy and lactating: 15 mcg (10). 

Good sources of vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel.
  • Egg yolks
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese. 
  • Mushrooms: some have been treated with UV light which increases levels of vitamin D.
  • Fortified foods: milk, plant milk alternatives. 
  • Sun: vitamin D is also produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight.

Healthy recipe for women

This tasty salmon omelet makes for a bangin’ brunch (or lunch or dinner!), rich in nutrients that support women in being the strongest versions of themselves. The eggs and salmon are full of vitamin D, the broccoli has a healthy supply of iron and folate, and the cherry tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, which helps increase the absorption of plant-based iron. 

20 minutes, 1 serving, 520 calories

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs (160g)
  • 180g broccoli
  • 60g salmon fillet
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 100g cherry tomatoes

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Whisk the eggs adding salt and pepper and optional spices, like dill and lemon zest.
  • Cut the salmon into smaller pieces, add oil to a frying pan and fry the broccoli for a few minutes.
  • Add the salmon and pour the egg batter on top and fry on low heat until it´s the texture you prefer.
  • Serve with tomatoes, and if you feel like it, well, you just go ahead and add some fresh herbs to it, too!
  • Eat it cold or warm, and remember to make it x 2 and bring your dinner as lunch tomorrow!

Want more tasty and nourishing meal ideas for women (and all genders!)? Download the Lifesum app today.  

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

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