3 Unique Nutritional Needs for Women

In honor of both Women’s History Month and National Nutrition Month, we’re dedicating this week to women and their special nutritional needs!

While good nutrition is fundamental for everyone, there are a few areas where females have unique requirements or considerations for their health. Here are the main three. 

1. Calcium for Healthy, Strong Bones and Teeth

Calcium is necessary for building strong bones, proper blood clotting, muscle contraction and a regular heart rhythm. Around 99 percent of our body’s calcium is in our bones and teeth, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Because women have a greater risk of osteoporosis than men, their daily calcium requirement tends to be higher. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) is:

  • 1,000 mg for women below 50
  • 1,200 mg for women 51 and up

Most Americans, including women, don’t get enough calcium in their daily diets. Good food sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurts
  • Foods fortified with calcium (such as non-dairy milks with added calcium)
  • Collard greens, kale, broccoli and turnip greens
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Tofu or soybeans

Women who don’t or can’t get enough daily calcium from their diet may need to supplement.

2. Vitamin D

To absorb the higher amounts of calcium, women also need vitamin D.

The average requirement for females under 50 is 400-800 IU per day; for females 50 and older, it’s 800-1,000 IU per day. Vitamin D needs can vary per person, so speak with your doctor about the right amount for you.

One of the easiest sources of vitamin D is sunlight! Your body makes and stores vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. But some people living in areas with less sun year round or who work in offices all day may not get enough of this. Plus, our skin can generate less vitamin D over time.

In these cases, we might need additional vitamin D from foods or supplements.

There are only a few great sources of vitamin D, and they include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • A few foods fortified with vitamin D like dairy and non-dairy milks
3. Iron

Iron is a key mineral for good health. It is necessary for growth, development, hormone synthesis, oxygen transport and normal cell function.

Females in their childbearing years may need more due to blood loss from menstruation. The same goes for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as their iron stores are accounting for a second growing person!

The RDA for iron is:

  • 15 mg for females 14-18 years old
  • 18 mg for females 19-50 years old
  • 8 mg for females 51+ years old
  • 27 mg for pregnant females
  • 10 mg for lactating females 18 or younger
  • 9 mg for lactating females above 18

Because most people don’t eat enough iron in our diets, iron deficiency anemia is common—and even more so among women whose needs are higher.

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or having a headache
  • Lack of or poor appetite
  • Having cold feet and hands
  • Cravings for non-food substances like dirt or ice

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Meats like poultry, pork and seafoods
  • Leafy green vegetables: spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens and kale
  • Dried fruits like apricots and raisins

Poor diet, malabsorption of iron, or not being able to eat enough food sources of iron can lead to deficiencies, so supplementation might be needed. Iron is added to many multivitamins for women, and iron-only supplements are available, as well.

We hope you’ll share this information with the special females in your life. Remind them to care for themselves as well as they do those around them every day!

For women-specific nutritional needs and support, see our Women’s Health line of products.

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