If you have browsed the aisles at your local supermarket lately, you have undoubtedly noticed that a steadily growing number of foods, including cereals, granola bars and yogurts, are being targeted directly towards the nutritional needs of women. This is due to the fact that men and women have somewhat different nutritional requirements.
Women Require Fewer Calories Than Men
Women are typically smaller in size and have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio than men. As a result, women need to consume fewer calories in order to sustain their bodies. According to the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a moderately active woman between the ages of 31 and 50 years of age should consume approximately 2,000 calories per day as opposed to a moderately active man of the same age, who should consume between 2,400 and 2,600 calories daily.
Nutrients That Are Important to Women
There are several vitamins and minerals that women need to help reduce risk of certain serious health conditions that may affect not only their own health, but that of their unborn children, as well. These essential nutrients include:
Calcium plays a vital role in helping women reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become more brittle and susceptible to fracture. Women need to consume enough calcium during their early years to create a "bone bank" that can be drawn upon later in life. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that females between the ages of 9 and 18 consume 1,300 mg each day. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 years should consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily and those over the age of 50 should aim for 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Foods that are good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, canned fish with soft bones, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the RDA for iron is 18 milligrams per day for women, which is 5 milligrams more than the RDA for men. Women require more iron since they may lose some iron each month due to menstruation. Once a woman goes through menopause, her body's iron stores typically increase. Some foods that are naturally high in iron include red meat, other meat such as chicken, pork or fish, spinach, chard, and beans (kidney, black and pinto) as well as meat products such as fish and poultry. Many grain foods, including cereals, breads and pastas are now enriched with iron.
Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients women need before and during pregnancy. This B vitamin has been shown to help protect the developing fetus against serious neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida. According to the Mayo Clinic, women of childbearing age should take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Once a woman becomes pregnant, she should take 600 micrograms of folic acid daily. Folate is the natural form of folic acid and is found in leafy green vegetables including spinach, dried beans and peas, broccoli and citrus fruits. Folic acid is the synthetic form and is commonly used to fortify foods such as breakfast cereals, rice, pasta and breads.