Women Have Special Dietary Needs

The Difference Between a Man and a Woman:

In some important ways, women and men are biologically different. For example, women menstruate, tend to have less muscle mass, and are capable of getting pregnant and of lactating. These all have significant impact on the nutritional needs of women. In order to be healthy, diets for women must be customized to account for these areas of concern.

Women who are still menstruating are at increased risk of anemia. In order to protect themselves against anemia, they need extra iron and B vitamins. Both are critical to the production of healthy red blood cells. In fact, most people already know that. But what is less commonly known is that vitamin E also plays a role and that vitamins B-2, B-3 and B-12 are the specific B vitamins to load up on.

It takes about four days for the body to create new red blood cells. So, the time to load up on iron, vitamin E and the necessary B vitamins is the week before your menstrual cycle, not after it begins. If you do start your period and realize you have symptoms of anemia, such as low energy, go ahead and eat some “super foods” that are high in the necessary nutrients, such as liver, so your body can play catch up as quickly as possible.

With less muscle mass, women tend to need less protein than your average man. Thus, if they are pursuing a meat centered diet, they may do better to have a smaller portion of meat at meal time than is “standard.” If they are pursuing a vegetarian diet, they may not need to worry as much about protein complementarity as a vegetarian male because they are at less risk of ending up protein deficient.

In fact, your typical American diet provides far too much protein for most people. This leads to protein wasting: The body simply dumps the excess protein when you urinate.

Pregnant women grow a baby that weighs several pounds at birth from a single cell, all in a mere nine months. Not only that, their blood volume doubles. They need more of everything good, but they especially need more of the nutrients listed above that are involved in the production of red blood cells.

Additionally, pregnant women are at higher than normal risk of dehydration and can be at risk of complications, such as gestational diabetes. Although making sure they drink enough fluids is a critical first step in guarding against dehydration, it is not enough. They also need to limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol, plus make sure they are getting enough electrolytes. Orange juice and bananas are both good sources of electrolytes, like potassium. Serious complications, like gestational diabetes, should be addressed by a doctor.

Lactating women — in other words, women producing milk — are typically new moms. In addition to needing to support the production of breast milk, they are still recovering from a recent pregnancy and also caring for a baby. Thus, diets for women who are lactating need to be especially healthy.

To support milk production, they need extra fluids, calcium, protein and healthy fats. This may be why so many pregnant women and new moms seem to crave ice cream. If you want to stick to healthier options, go with milk, cheese, tofu and other soy products.

Additionally, new moms bleed for up to six weeks after the birth of the baby. Thus, for several weeks, they need extra support for blood production, like extra fluids, iron, vitamin E and vitamins B-2, B-3, and B-12.

Right or wrong, many women also are concerned about their weight. They want to be fashionably thin, thus they want to limit the number of calories they consume. In that case, they should focus on “super foods” — nutrionally dense foods — and avoid empty calories. It is the best way to avoid being malnourished, while keeping the weight off.

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