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A mother, daughter and grandmother leaned in close and smiling for the camera.

Health and nutrition for each stage of a woman’s life

From puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond, women’s health needs are ever changing.

September 28, 2023

A mother, daughter and grandmother leaned in close and smiling for the camera.

Health and nutrition for each stage of a woman’s life

From puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond, women’s health needs are ever changing.

September 28, 2023

A mother, daughter and grandmother leaned in close and smiling for the camera.

Health and nutrition for each stage of a woman’s life

From puberty to pregnancy to menopause and beyond, women’s health needs are ever changing.

September 28, 2023

Supporting women’s health

When it comes to women’s health, each stage of life brings new physical changes. Our bodies are constantly shifting gears as we grow and mature. As they do, our nutritional needs change, too.

From early adulthood through menopausal years, each new phase requires different nutrients to help support our optimal health. That’s why it’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and supplement with vitamins and minerals to help fill any nutritional gaps.

From the importance of iron after puberty and folic acid to support a healthy pregnancy to supplements that can help you feel more like yourself when going through menopause, here’s a look at the key nutrients to support women’s health at each stage of life.

Nutritional needs for girls ages 9-18

Supporting kids’ nutrition is a constant goal for parents and caregivers as they strive to provide fuel for those growing bodies.

Experts say that beginning at age 9 and lasting throughout the teen years, girls need more calcium and vitamin D to support strong bones and guard against osteoporosis, a common concern for women later in life. Kids ages 9-18 should aim for 1,300mg of calcium each day. Dairy products are good sources, as are leafy greens like kale and spinach, some beans, almonds or almond butter and oranges.

Nutritional needs for teenagers should also be a key goal for parents and caregivers as those young bodies continue to grow and develop through puberty. For girls, that means menstruation and the need to think about iron.

“Iron is a mineral that is essential to the production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, and hemoglobin makes it possible for our red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout our bodies,” said Holiday Durham Zanetti, PhD, MS, RD, a senior research scientist working on Nutrilite™ supplements. “If we become deficient in iron, our bodies can’t make enough red blood cells – so oxygen is no longer being efficiently distributed, which leads to fatigue.”

Iron is lost through menstruation, which means teen girls should pay special attention to their iron intake. Young women ages 14-18 should consume 15mg of iron each day. Foods rich in iron include meat, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils and fortified cereals. (Check the nutrition label, when possible, to see how much iron you get per serving.)

“Also, foods rich in vitamin C help your body absorb iron, so young women should make sure they’re getting enough of those, too,” Zanetti said.

Key vitamins and supplements for women in childbearing years

We all need a healthy amount of iron and folic acid to keep our bodies performing at their best. When we don’t get enough, it’s easy to tell: An early sign is hard-hitting fatigue. But iron and folic acid are important for more than just energy, and for women, these nutrients are even more critical.

“Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is the manmade form of folate,” Zanetti said. “It aids in cell division and in the production of red blood cells. Because it’s responsible for helping these two critical functions, it’s an essential vitamin for women who may become pregnant.”

The Office on Women’s Health reports that “birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the very early stages of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.” Add to that the fact that about 40% of all pregnancies are unplanned, it’s recommended that any woman of childbearing age should get 400-800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day.

Foods that are rich in folate include dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and avocados. Many breads, pastas, rice and flours are fortified with folic acid, too. Supplements featuring both iron and folic acid can help fill any gaps.

Nutrition for pregnancy and lactation

During pregnancy, nutrition takes on more importance because the woman is, of course, eating for two. That means eating more than before to help fuel her growing pregnancy – between 350 and 500 additional calories a day during the last two trimesters. Nursing moms generally need more fuel to meet the nutritional demands of breastfeeding. An additional 330-400 calories are recommended, Zanetti said.

Both pregnant women and nursing moms need to continue to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to ensure they and their babies get the nutrients they need.

In addition to iron and folic acid, the list includes calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, choline, omega-3s and plenty of protein, which are found in a well-balanced diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fish, beef, poultry or fortified cereals. Doctors often recommend a prenatal vitamin to help get the needed nutrients and many suggest continuing to take the supplement while breastfeeding.

And while staying hydrated is always important, it’s especially key for women who are breastfeeding. A good practice is to drink a glass of fluids each time you feed the baby.

Menopause supplements, support and symptom relief

Menopause is the transition a woman’s body goes through when she stops menstruating. While that sounds like a simple thing, the phases leading up to the cessation of her periods and the phases after – known and perimenopause and post-menopause – can last about 7 years.

And those phases come with a host of changes in women’s bodies, uncomfortable menopause symptoms and evolving nutrition needs. During this time, women need to increase their calcium intake to combat the rapid loss of bone mass and strength that can occur. Vitamins K, D and magnesium also support bone health.

Supplements can help meet these nutrient needs by filling gaps that may occur in a woman’s diet. Supplements may also help with some of the frustrating symptoms associated with menopause. Nutrilite™ Menopause Ease Dietary Supplement, for example, offers relief from hot flashes and night sweats while also providing antioxidant protection.

Healthy habits and nutrition for women over 50

If you follow a healthy diet throughout your life, you’ll have a good foundation as you ease into your elder years. But some nutrition concerns just come with age regardless, and that includes sodium intake.

Your body needs sodium, but too much over the course of your life can add up to concerns over high blood pressure. Experts recommend people over the age of 51 get no more than 2,300mg of sodium each day, less if you already have high blood pressure or prehypertension. That includes sodium in prepared foods as well as what you add when cooking or eating.

“Other key nutrients for women over 50 include potassium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamins B6 and B12, omega-3s, fiber and protein,” Zanetti said. “Loss of appetite as well as the body’s changing ability to absorb nutrients can make getting enough of these nutrients more difficult, making food choices all the more important. Focus on fruits, vegetables, dairy, fortified cereals and protein sources, such as beef, poultry or soy products.”

Multivitamins and supplements can play a role in filling any nutritional gaps. And adding protein to your diet can help combat the loss of muscle mass. Regular physical activity as you age, especially weight-bearing exercises, is also important for maintaining muscle mass.

Protein drinks or protein powders can be a convenient way for women to get what they need, especially if they aren’t eating as many protein-filled meals as before. While they often come in chocolate and vanilla flavors, there are some unflavored protein powders that are easily added to almost any meal without changing the flavor.

Supporting women’s health at any age

Getting the nutrients you need through food is the best way to give your body what it needs. But sometimes our busy lifestyles or changing appetites are not conducive to eating healthy 100% of the time, especially when our nutritional needs are evolving. That’s when supplements can help. Learn more about Nutrilite supplements here.