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Women and Nutrition: A Menu of Special Needs

by Dori Stehlin

Breast cancer. Osteoporosis. Iron deficiency. Weight reduction. what do these things have in common? They are either unique to women, or are more prevalent in women. And they affect current recommendations on what women should eat for optimum health.

While new information on what's good and what's bad seems to surface almost daily, some basic guidelines have taken rood over the past several years.

The bottom line (also known as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, from the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture) is:


  • eat a variety of foods
  • maintain healthy weight
  • choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grain products
  • use sugar and salt/sodium only in moderation
  • if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

That sounds simple enough, except, what exactly is variety? Cake one day, cookies the next? What is a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol? And, finally, what parts of a healthy diet have special importance for women?

Vitamins and Minerals

There are several vitamins and minerals essential to a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet will usually meet women's allowances for them. However, for good health, women need to pay special attention to two minerals, calcium and iron.

Calcium

Both women and men need enough calcium to build peak (maximum) bone mass during their early years of life. Low calcium intake appears to be one important factor in the development of osteoporosis. Women have a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis.

A condition in which progressive loss of bone mass occurs with aging, osteoporosis. Women have a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis.

A condition in which progressive loss of bone mass occurs with aging, osteoporosis causes the bones to be more susceptible to fracture. If a woman has a high level of bone mass when her skeleton matures, this may modify her risk of developing osteoporosis.

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen


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