Why Women Have Unique Nutritional Needs
We now know that women need fewer calories and MORE nutrients than men to live their best life and for good reason. Yet, why don’t we talk about this a lot more? The fact is, as women- we are very different than men in so many ways (duh, right!?). However, it seems when it comes to nutrition and health many of us believe the age-old “calories in, calories out” routine and often compare ourselves way too much to our male counterparts.
Now I realize if you’re a professional bodybuilder or extreme athlete (You go, darling!), you just may be a bit more similar to the dudes than the rest of us when it comes to your calorie intake and nutritional needs. Yet, if you’re the average woman (read…amazing and badass) then let’s face it- we have different needs, and here’s why:
- Women have a very different hormonal makeup (another duh!)
- Women have a unique role as the bearers of children
- Women tend to be smaller and have higher fat percentages than men- thus they need fewer calories, yet foods that are nutrient-dense to get what they need (i.e., we must be a bit pickier about what we eat!
- Women of child-bearing age need extra iron due to blood loss during menstruation
- As women age, we need extra calcium due to the decline of estrogen with menopause
- During pregnancy, women need extra of almost everything- especially folate or folic acid. (and pregnancy is a whole other story of “needs” we have, am I right?!?
So, what do you do to make sure you’re getting what you need? A few things:
1. Get your hormone levels checked.
Much has been written about the importance of keeping our hormones balanced (men and women), and hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a big business due to this. I recommend that all of my clients get their current levels checked, but going straight to a hormone therapy (i.e., a cream, pill, injection, etc) may not be wise.
There are many ways to balance your hormones naturally and often lifestyle and diet changes can do the trick. Keep in mind that this may take time and patience, but gently bringing your body back into balance will do wonders for your long-term health instead of focusing on a quick fix.
That being said, I personally have benefitted from BHRT in the past and while pregnant, so there is a time and place for this type of therapy. If you are having a lot of symptoms and you’re just down right miserable, there is help! Find a functional or integrative naturopathic doctor, DO, or MD, and a holistic, compounding pharmacist and work with them closely to help your body right itself.
2. Be picky with your food!
Experiment and learn what foods work for your unique body (regardless of what your cutie-pie or work-spouse eats!) Be picky, sweetheart, as you know what is best for you. The best thing you can do for your beautiful, feminine body is to eat nutrient-dense foods that are whole and unprocessed as often as possible. You may need less than the men around you, but you need lots of nutrients.
3. Get more iron.
Get more iron from a diet rich in meat, fish, and poultry (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild- caught, organic as applicable, ideally). This is especially needed when menstruating.
If you’re vegetarian, you can eat a ton of iron-rich foods, which is great, but remember this can be harder for some of us to absorb. To increase the iron you absorb from food, eat plenty of vitamin-c rich foods like oranges, broccoli, and tomatoes (yay, a whole foods diet!). Get your iron levels checked by your doctor. You may need an iron supplement.
4. Think about your bones.
Most nutrition experts recommend that women get more calcium to support bone-density, especially as we age (as in over 30). Each foods rich in calcium as often as possible and consider a calcium and bone health supplement.
5. Take Folate, or folic acid.
Especially if you’re pregnant, your body needs folate, or folic acid, big time! Your multi-vitamin or prenatal vitamin may have all that you need, so check with your health coach, doctor, or midwife for their recommendations.
If you have the MTHFR gene mutation, as I do, you’ll want to avoid any supplements with folic acid in them and stick to a multi-vitamin or prenatal vitamin that uses Methylfolate instead. Get tested for this, especially if you’re pregnant.
6. Adjust your nutrition and supplementation based on your activity-level and lifestyle.
If you exercise a lot or push your body in extreme ways, do your homework or work with a coach, professional, or nutritionist to learn what more you need to keep yourself healthy and balanced.
You may know someone who assumed their old lifestyle (even if healthy at that time) and diet would be sufficient once they starting training for a marathon, doing 3-day mountain bike races, or competing in bodybuilding competitions, only to end up malnourished, exhausted, and possibly in the hospital. If you plan to kick it up a notch exercise wise, then you’ll need to do the same with your sleep, diet, and supplementation.
7. Work with a Certified Coach.
You can find out a lot of what you need to know online- yet working with a Board-Certified Health Coach, like myself, gives you more than information. You may know WHAT you need to do based on a recent google search, but do you know HOW to do it? Do you know how to fit this into your lifestyle and do you have the support for the long haul? Set up a complimentary coaching call with me and we’ll discuss what it means to work with a coach like myself.
To Your Health,
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Disclaimer: My blog provides general information and discussion about supplements, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker.