While it is rare in the West today for a woman to be so deficient in vitamins and minerals as to come down with dangerous diseases like anemia, rickets, or scurvy, there are many stages of life for women where their need for dietary supplements increases. And while most women do take enough nutrition from their diet to stay healthy, still they may be deficient in one or more vitamins and minerals. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains is recommended for women and girls of all ages over age two.
Nutritional Needs of Teen Girls
Girls in their teens must ensure that they get enough iron, folate, calcium, and zinc. While young girls are discouraged from dieting, it is a good idea for young women to get into the habit of avoiding foods that are high in fats and sugars.
Special Needs During Pregnancy
Women who are or who could become pregnant should have a diet that contains sufficient iron-rich foods. In particular, foods high in heme iron (which is found in animal-based products) is important. This form of iron is found in meats, poultry, and fish. Adequate intake of vitamin C is important too, because vitamin C aids in absorption of iron. Women in their childbearing years should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, and at least 1,500 mg of calcium (preferably fortified with vitamin D) per day. Many physicians prescribe dietary supplements for pregnant women.
General Nutritional Needs for Women
Eating 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week is recommended for most women due to beneficial fish oils high in omega-3 fatty acids. However, women who are pregnant or nursing should eat no more than six ounces of tuna, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish per week because of the risk of ingesting too much mercury.
Nutritional Needs for Women over 50
Women over the age of 50 need adequate calcium and vitamin D to keep bones strong, but 90% of women over 50 consume only about half the recommended calcium each day. Women over 50 should consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day, and should include lots of vegetables, grains, and fruits in their diet. Foods high in antioxidants are beneficial too, both because they tend to be high in fiber and because they help the body defend itself against harmful free radicals. Women over 50 may want to take multi-vitamin and mineral dietary supplements to ensure their nutritional needs are met.