For women, a well-balanced diet is a must. You should enjoy a variety of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein.
But women have special nutrient needs for each stage of life. Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to prevent disease.
Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women. You need 18 milligrams of iron per day. Low iron levels can be caused by women’s menstrual cycles. Iron-rich food sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, kale, spinach, beans, lentils and fortified breads and cereals.
Plant-based sources of iron are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten along with foods that are rich in Vitamin C, so eat iron-fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices or add tomatoes to lentil soup.
For healthy bones and teeth, women age 19-50 need to eat 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day from a variety of calcium-rich foods. An inadequate intake of calcium or calcium and vitamin D contributes to low peak bone mass, which has been identified as one of many risk factors in the development of osteoporosis—a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. Some high-calcium food choices are low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, tofu (if made with calcium sulfate) and calcium-fortified foods like juices and cereals.
When you reach childbearing age, you need to eat enough folic acid to decrease the risk of birth defects. The requirement is at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. Be sure to consume adequate amounts of folic acid daily from fortified foods or supplements, in addition to folic acid naturally found in certain foods.
Citrus fruits, avocados, some leafy greens, dry beans and peas are natural sources of folic acid. In addition, there are many folic-acid-fortified foods like cereals, rice, breads and pizza crust.
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