Written by Nourished Not Deprived Practitioners

Nutrition for Women’s Health

Nutrition plays a KEY ROLE in the health of all and most of the time specifically outlining certain nutrients is not necessary for general wellbeing. Attempting to include more wholegrains, fruits & veg, legumes and nuts & seeds can do wonders, but sometimes specifics are necessary depending on where you are currently sitting medically.

What is the importance of nutrition in women’s health?
Nutrition plays a KEY ROLE in the health of all, however women do require considerable attention to certain nutrients that men do not necessarily require, depending on what stage of life cycle they are in. 

Concurrently females experience various ailments (diseases, illnesses and syndromes) that males do not. Such health complications or occurrences include PCOS, Endometriosis, Ovarian and Cervical cancers, Menopause, Turner syndrome, Rett syndrome and menstruation irregularities- all of which nutrition can play a vital role in managing, preventing and/or treating.

Depending on where a woman is within her life cycle will indicate which nutrients are of most importance to look at  and what nutrients our Dietitians will specifically concentrate on during an appointment. This is why personalized nutrition advice is so important. Not only can gender play a role in how we advise certain nutrition strategies and provision, as can age.

What nutrients are important for a woman?
All nutrients are important to consider, regardless of gender. However, as discussed, certain nutrients and the amount necessary to consume can increase and decrease depending on where a woman is within her life cycle and her medical state at that time.

IRON
Iron is an important nutrient to focus on with women due to their menstruation and the loss of iron during ovulation.

Iron is a mineral that is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. Without sufficient amounts of iron in the blood  a woman (or man) leaves themselves open to increasing risk of illness, infection, poor concentration and fatigue.

If you have ever been told by your doctor ‘’you have low iron’’ or ‘’you have anemia’’ there are nutrition interventions that we can implement to make sure that your iron stores are increased in the blood. Such interventions include pairing your iron rich food sources (red meat for example) with a Vitamin C rich food source (lemon for example). This increases the bioavailability of the iron in the body, which essentially allows your body to absorb the iron better.

Your GP or Dietitian may also advise that you take a supplement to increase your iron stores however this is something to specifically discuss with your individual healthcare provider.

CALCIUM
Calcium is an essential mineral necessary to maintain your bone and teeth health

Calcium is essential for all stages of a woman’s life cycle. However it is specifically important to focus on before the ages of 25-30, during pregnancy and peri-post menopausal.

Skeletal bone mass reaches its peak at around age 25-30, so it is important that we aim to increase bone mass before this time period, which can be done via consuming adequate amounts of calcium (around 1000-1200mg per day), resistance training, consuming adequate phosphorus in the diet and receiving enough Vitamin D.

Epidemiologic studies have shown that a 10% increase in peak bone mass (PBM) at the population level reduces the risk of fractures later in life by 50%. (1) As age-related fragility fractures are a big public health problem it is essential we hone in on this mineral early on and better any poor nutrition habits.

Calcium is also an important mineral to address during pregnancy, specifically during the third trimester of pregnancy where maternal calcium absorption increases. This is where the foetus accumulates about two-thirds of the total bone mass.  (2)

Perimenopause is associated with a fall in calcium absorption, which is why adequate calcium intake (in the presence of adequate vitamin D intake) is important for preventing bone loss and reducing fracture risk in peri- and postmenopausal women. (3)Although the most definitive role for calcium in peri- and postmenopausal women is in bone health, it is clear that adequate calcium intake has implications that encompass a woman’s overall health. 

FOLATE (known as B6)
Folate is worth a mention here as it is necessary not only for a female’s health but it is an essential nutrient to consider pre- conception and during pregnancy.
Folate is required for cell development and for metabolism of specific reactions in the body, but is importantly essential for prevention of neural tube defects.(4) 
Before conception folic acid supplementation is essential and it is recommended to consume 400mcgs 12 weeks prior to conception as well as 12 weeks post conception.

Creating general well being through implementing more wholegrains, fruits and veg, legumes, nuts & seeds is ALWAYS a great place to start when trying to elicit better health outcomes as a woman. There are certainly specific nutrients that need to be considered depending on where you are in life, but if you have been following along with Nourished Not Deprived for a while you would understand that I am a big advocate for not overcomplicating things, because it isn’t YOUR JOB (unless you are a Dietitian) to try to figure out what nutrients specifically need focusing for your overall well being. Sometimes it can be as simple as saying ‘’eat more fruit’’ or ‘’stop cutting out all of your yummy foods’’ but sometimes it can be more complicated than that and that is where a Dietitian comes in!

If you’ve enjoyed this read feel free to share it with anyone who you think would benefit!

Have a lovely day and don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Bronte Williamson.
Head Dietitian & Founder

Reference:
1.  DOI: 10.1007/s11684-020-0748-y 
2. DOI: 10.1159/000074505
3. DOI: 10.3109/13697130009167611
4. Berg MJ. The importance of folic acid. J Gend Specif Med. 1999 May-Jun;2(3):24-8. PMID: 11252849.

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