Article from eatingright.org
A well-balanced diet is a cornerstone of health. Women, like men, should enjoy a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein. But women also have special nutrient needs and during each stage of a women’s life, these needs change.
Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to prevent disease. A healthy daily diet includes:
At least three 1-ounce servings of whole grains such as whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats.
3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese. 5 to 6 ounces of protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, beans, lentils or peas.
2 cups of fruit such as apples, blueberries, melon, oranges, bananas and pears.
2 ½ cups of vegetables such as leafy greens, pumpkin, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms and carrots.
Iron is one of the keys to good health and energy levels in women. Low iron levels can be caused by a women’s menstrual cycle or a problem with iron absorption. 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 with vitamin C-rich foods. So eat fortified cereal with strawberries on top, spinach salad with mandarin orange slices or add tomatoes to lentil soup.
Folic Acid During the Reproductive Years
When women reach childbearing age, you need to eat enough folic acid to decrease 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 food forms of folate from a varied diet. Citrus fruits, leafy greens, dry beans and peas naturally contain folate. In addition, there are many folic acid fortified foods like cereals, rice, breads and pizza crust.
Daily Calcium Requirements
For healthy bones and teeth, women need to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. Calcium keeps bones strong and prevents osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. Some high calcium foods include low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, tofu (if made with calcium sulfate) and calcium-fortified foods like juices and cereals.
Foods to Limit
To keep weight in check at any age, women should avoid a lot of excess calories from added sugars, fat and alcohol.
Limit regular soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, baked goods and fried foods.
Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day.
Opt for low-fat dairy and meat products instead of their full-fat counterparts.
Saturated fat – the kind found in meat, cheese and full-fat dairy products –is a culprit in heart disease. Watch how much saturated fat you eat, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women.
Balancing Calories with Activity
Since women typically have less muscle, more fat and are smaller than men, you need fewer calories to maintain a healthy body weight and activity level. Moderately active women need 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day. Women who are more physically active may require more calories. Exercise is an important part of a women’s health. Regular daily activity helps with weight control, muscle strength and stress management.