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Ask the Nutritionist: What Nutrients Do Women Need Most?

posted: 06/13/16
by: Ashley Lauretta
Young woman making fresh salad
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When it comes to nutrition, most women focus on the number of calories they're consuming -- and the number on the scale. And though it's important to maintain a healthy weight, it is just as important to make sure your body is being fueled by the right nutrients.

The definition of nutrient is simple: "A substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life." Your body gets vitamins and minerals from more than what you eat--we also get it from being out in the sun and from the soil our food is grown in.

Men and women are different and our nutrient needs are different, too, but there are some nutrients that are often under-consumed by all of us.

So which ones are we lacking? "Vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc," explains Georgie Fear, RD, CSSD, founder of One by One Nutrition and author of Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss. Fear says it's not exactly accurate to claim that "most" women are lacking these vitamins and minerals, but they're definitely ones to watch for in your diet.

Fear provides a graph that illustrates that more than 50 percent of the population (including both men and women) come up short on vitamin D and E and don't meet the estimated average requirement (EAR), or enough to prevent deficiency in 50 percent of people.

women-nutrients

"This level is lower than the dietary reference intake (DRI), which is estimated to meet 95 percent of the population's needs," Fear adds. "Magnesium, calcium and vitamin A are under-consumed by about 35-50 percent of the population. "

When it comes to women specifically, they are more likely than men to be iron deficient. Fear notes that roughly 5 percent of the total population takes in inadequate iron.

"The average woman between 19 and 50 takes in 13-14 mg of iron a day," notes Fear, "when she really needs 18mg."

So while iron deficiency is noted to be more likely for women, it is important to know what we, as a society, are not getting enough of in general. Armed with this information, when you go to the doctor for a psychical, you can ask for these levels to be tested to find out if there are any supplements you should be taking daily to help increase any specific vitamins or minerals. Additionally, they can provide dietary suggestions for nutrient-dense foods you should add into your diet.