As well as needing fewer calories than men, women's nutrition have some different requirements than men. The following vitamins and minerals are particularly important to include:
When women reach childbearing age, blood loss through menstruation can lead to iron deficiency or anaemia, (anaemia occurs when your blood is unable to carry enough oxygen around the body to function properly) and for this reason women will usually require more iron than men.
Iron can be found in a range of foods, including meat, fish and poultry and non-animal products such as spinach, lentils and fortified grains. Vitamin C will help your body to absorb more iron, so you should also look to include foods that are rich in this vitamin like broccoli, tomatoes and citrus fruits.
Another key mineral to consider is calcium. Both men and women (over the age of 19 and not breastfeeding) are recommended to consume around 700mg of calcium. This should be easily acquired from your diet. Although the recommendation is the same for men and women, as women consume fewer calories, the proportion is larger. Women start to lose bone density from 35-years-old onwards and are thought to be more prone to developing conditions such as osteoporosis because of this. This is especially the case for when a women is past the menopause as calcium requirements typically increase.
Foods that contain calcium include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, soya beans and fish where you eat the bones (i.e. sardines).
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Vitamin D comes in 2 forms, and we will all be able to acquire Vitamin D from the sun. As well as Vitamin D rich foods include oily fish, eggs, dairy and foods fortified with the vitamin.
Folic acid works together with B12 to form healthy red blood cells, (or folate, Folic acids natural form) is essential for both women and men, however it becomes especially important for women when they become pregnant. This is because folic acid helps to reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies.
If you are not consuming enough folic acid, you may develop folate deficiency anaemia, which can make you feel unwell.
Experts recommend adults to consume 0.2mg of folic acid per day. If you are trying to get pregnant (or during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) this should be increased by a further 0.4mg via a supplement. If you are unsure however, seek advice. If you have a family history of spina bifida, you should speak to your GP as they may advise you to take a different dose of folic acid supplement.
Good sources of folic acid include broccoli, liver, asparagus, chic-peas, brown rice, eggs, spinach and Brussels sprouts.
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