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Whether you are happy at your current weight or wishing you were thinner, it’s important to eat well balanced meals that provide all the nutrients your body needs. As women, we have some special nutritional concerns depending on how old we are and what stage of life we’re in.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association or ADA) recommends this for a healthy daily diet for weight maintenance:
• Whole grains – three 1-ounce servings
• Dairy – 3 fat-free or low-fat servings
• Protein – 5 to 6 ounces of lean meats or other proteins
• Fruit – 2 cups
• Vegetables – 2 ½ cups
This menu provides a good balance of nutrition. But women also have these special nutritional needs that should be considered:
• Low Iron or Iron Deficient Anemia (IDA) – Iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin, which is a protein inside the red blood cells that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Low iron or not enough hemoglobin is known as iron deficient anemia.
Women are at higher risk for IDA if they have very heavy or long periods. Women can also become anemic after lose significant amounts of blood during childbirth.
A diet rich in iron can help ensure that the body has enough iron to produce healthy red blood cells. Eggs, dairy, fish, meat, poultry, certain green leafy vegetables, and iron fortified foods are good sources of iron.
Your body can more easily absorb iron when vitamin C is also present, so try adding strawberries to fortified cereal or mandarin oranges to spinach salad.
• Calcium – You may not think about your bones being alive, but they are and they need calcium to grow strong and healthy. Osteoporosis is a condition that results when bones become weak and brittle. Women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men, so it is important to support strong bones by eating a diet rich in calcium.
In the U.S. dairy products are the primary source of calcium. Other calcium-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, certain grains, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, and garlic.