Health tips for women

6 Ways to Boost Women’s Health

To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:

Health Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement to make sure you’re maintaining good health.

Health Tip #2: Exercise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in America, but plenty of exercise can help keep your heart healthy. You want to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, if not every day. Aerobic exercises (walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, dancing) are good for women’s health in general and especially for your heart, says Sabrena Merrill, MS, of Lawrence, Kan., a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.

Health Tip #3: Avoid risky habits. Stay away from cigarettes and people who smoke. Don’t use drugs. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Most women’s health studies show that women can safely consume one drink a day. A drink is considered to be about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol, which is equal to 12 ounces of beer (4.5 percent alcohol); 5 ounces of wine (12.9 percent alcohol); or 1.5 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof).

Health Tip #4: Manage stress. No matter what stage of her life — daughter, mother, grandmother — a woman often wears many hats and deals with a lot of pressure and stress. “Take a few minutes every day just to relax and get your perspective back again,” Novey says. “It doesn’t take long, and mental health is important to your physical well-being.” You also can manage stress with exercise, relaxation techniques, or meditation.

Health Tip #5: Sun safely. Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin cancer, which can be deadly. To protect against skin cancer, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you are going to be outdoors for more than a few minutes. Even if you wear sunscreen faithfully, you should check regularly for signs of skin cancer. Warning signs include any changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, or freckles, or new, enlarging, pigmented, or red skin areas. If you spot any changes or you find you have sores that are not healing, consult your doctor.

Health Tip #6: Check for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society no longer recommends monthly breast self-exams for women. However, it still suggests them as “an option” for women, starting in their 20s. You should be on the lookout for any changes in your breasts and report any concerns to your doctor. All women 40 and older should get a yearly mammogram as a mammogram is the most effective way of detecting cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

A woman’s health needs change as she ages, but the basics of women’s health remain the same. If you follow these six simple healthy living tips, you will improve your quality of life for years to come.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.

Let’s face it, ladies: Doctor visits are short. And they’re getting shorter. What if your doctor had more time? She might tell you the same things that OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck, MD, co-author of V Is for Vagina, wants you to know.

Consider Dweck’s tips your prescription for a lifetime of wellness.

1. Zap your stress.

“The biggest issue I see in most of my patients is that they have too much on their plates and want to juggle it all. Stress can have significant health consequences, from infertility to higher risks of depression, anxiety, and heart disease. Find the stress-reduction method that works for you and stick with it.”

2. Stop dieting.

“Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to forgo your favorite glass of wine or a piece of chocolate cake now and then. The key is moderation. Get a mix of lean proteins, healthy fats, smart carbs, and fiber.”

3. Don’t “OD” on calcium.

“Too much absorbed calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones and may even increase the risk of heart disease. If you’re under 50, shoot for 1,000 milligrams per day, while over-50 women should be getting 1,200 milligrams per day mainly through diet — about three servings of calcium-rich foods such as milk, salmon, and almonds.”

4. Do more than cardio.

“Women need a mix of cardio and resistance or weight-bearing exercise at least three to five times a week to help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise also promotes good self-image, which is really important to a woman’s mental health.”

5. Think about fertility.

“While many women have no problem getting pregnant in their late 30s and even into their early 40s, a woman’s fertility may start to decline as early as 32. So if you want to have kids, talk to your doctor about options, like freezing your eggs.”

6. Appreciate birth control.

“Birth control gets a bad rap, but not only can it keep you from getting pregnant before you’re ready, studies show it can lower the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer as well as regulate your cycle.”

Being a female is amazing; no one would want to argue with that. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, soldiers, leaders, CEOs, caretakers and anything else we would want to become. But the fact is we are too busy running the world and often forget to take care of ourselves. Our physical and mental well-being comes secondary sometimes, unintentionally or otherwise. It is important to remember that good health enables women to accomplish the impossible, reach our life goals and fulfill our aspirations. So we’d better start today: living a healthy lifestyle, having healthy habits, regular health check ups, eating healthy food and overall, being a healthy woman.

I’ve put together much of the knowledge and information that I’ve been learning from myself, from others, and from the research I’ve done into this one infographic. There are 4 main sections: simple statistics about women vs men, things that have a direct effect on our health, a sample of a healthy daily routine and an A to Z health check up plan. I believe these will help women out there to stay strong and healthy if they create their own plan based on the information provided.

First, a woman’s body is different to that of a man. This difference is not only in appearance but also in the way they function. Women tend to experience anxiety and depression twice as much as men do, and we tend to also cry more often. No shocker there, huh?

In order to have a healthier lifestyle, you should start building better habits right now. There are 3 main things you should pay attention to and adjust to better your body: what you eat, what you do to strengthen your physical health and mental health. No more junk food, more vegetables and fruits, drink more water and do more exercises and activities that can help your body and your mind stay strong.

To maintain your health, you also need to visit your doctor and do regular check ups. We are at high risk of alcohol misuse, obesity and of being affected by diseases like cancers, STDs, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, etc. as we age. Therefore, regular check ups must be included in your healthy lifestyle plan. These do not only help you prevent/detect any disease in their early stages but also plays an important role in treatment and thus better well-being.

Instead of writing lengthy paragraphs, we’ve created a simple, easy to follow infographic with minimal words that convey to you the most important information. It’s easy on the eyes, and also easy to remember. It will give you a reference to a healthy daily routine that will undoubtedly improve your life when you begin to follow it.

Now, check out the following infographic and start acting on it!

My patients are among my best teachers. They’ve taught me how to communicate clearly—and how to live a better life. On The Dr. Oz Show, I’ve seen that once people are emotionally involved, change happens quickly, especially if they feel that their behavior is letting loved ones down. Large-scale change seems daunting. We want simple routines that we can automatically follow. Adopt some of the steps here, which anyone can do, and you will like your life more in just a couple of weeks. And you’ll live longer. Try them—they work for me.

ROTF, LMAO
Laughing not only eases stress, promotes social bonding, and lowers blood pressure, it may also boost your immune system. So bring some humor into your life, whether it’s through friends or even a new TV show (preferably mine).

Women’s Health Tip
Besides laughing, certain foods have been proven to soothe stress and can counteract the damage that chronic pressure does to your bod. Stock up on these eats and beat down stress for good.

Don’t Skip Breakfast
Fiber in the morning means less hunger late in the afternoon, when you’re most likely to feel tired and gorge yourself on sugar. My morning dose comes from steel-cut oatmeal, usually mixed with raisins, walnuts, and flaxseed oil. An early start on eating also keeps your metabolism more active throughout the day; breakfast eaters are thinner than people who just rush out the door.

Women’s Health Tip
Need a new recipe? Try one of these eight healthy oatmeal mix ins for an instant breakfast upgrade.

Hit the Sack
Conan and Dave are funny, but they’re not worth the strain on your system. Seven hours of sleep a night not only helps you live longer, but also lowers your stress, sharpens your memory, and reduces cravings for pants-splitting foods. Set a bedtime and stick to it. My target is 10:30 p.m. I record the late shows and then watch them the next day as I pedal a stationary bike.

Women’s Health Tip
Are you sabotaging your sleep? Test your bedtime knowledge with our quiz to see if you’re actually getting the z’s you need.

Admire Your Work
Don’t be so trigger-happy with the flusher. Turn around and take a look at your poop, which speaks volumes about your gut and overall health. Poop should be smooth and S-shaped, like your colon. If it comes out too lumpy, or drops into the bowl like marbles, you’re constipated. Increase your fiber and water intake. This happens to me when I travel, so I fiber-load before a trip to avoid getting irritable.

Women’s Health Tip
You don’t need Metamucil—here are 30 great-tasting ways to add fiber to your diet.

Don’t Pamper Your Bad Back
Even if you’re hunched over in agony, taking to your bed will only make a bad back worse. The latest research shows that bed rest weakens back muscles and prolongs the suffering. Married men may suffer more than single men because of all the pampering. I used to love milking the care from Lisa, but the best solution is to get up, take a pain reliever, and be a soldier.

Women’s Health Tip
Try these safe and simple yoga moves to prevent and relieve back pain.

Taste the Colors
Foods with bright, rich colors are more than just nice to look at. They’re also packed with flavonoids and carotenoids, powerful compounds that bind the damaging free radicals in your body, lowering inflammation. (Sadly, skittles do not count.) Eat nine fistfuls of colorful fruits and vegetables each day and you’ll reap the benefits without having to give up other foods. Whenever I shop the produce aisle, I’m reminded that these foods are often more powerful than the drugs sold in pharmacies. My favorites are arugula and blueberries.

Women’s Health Tip
Want to experiment with more exotic veggies? If you’re tired of the same-old produce picks, switch ’em out for these delish and super-healthy alternatives.

Brushing is Not Enough
If you plan to spend your later years eating more than yogurt and applesauce, invest in some floss. No matter how thoroughly or long you brush your teeth, you’re missing a good portion of their total surface. That’s like washing one armpit after a workout. But the dangers of skipping floss go beyond hygiene: The bacteria that linger can increase your risk of heart disease. I use Reach Ultraclean floss, which stretches to glide between teeth.

Women’s Health Tip
For a brighter smile, check out these 15 ways to whiten your teeth.

Take a Deep Belly Breath
Do this anywhere, anytime. Push out your bellows and suck air through your nose until your lungs are full. They’ll fill with nitric oxide, a chemical found in the back of your nose that opens up blood vessels. The dose of oxygen will make you feel happier and more alert. This is my secret technique for calming down before a show or a tough stitch in the OR.

Women’s Health Tip
Learn even more ways to iincorporate breathing as a healing and preventative tool with these techniques.

Join a Yoga Class
Yoga is the most important exer cise of my daily routine. Being surrounded by beautiful women in spandex should be reason enough for you to join a class, but if you need more motivation, consider this: Yoga eases stress, lowers blood pressure, slows heart rates, and increases flexibility. And there’s nothing mystical about it. Loosening your muscles will make them more adaptable, so you may be less likely to injure yourself playing sports. Sure, some of the poses may look ridiculous, but that’s for a reason you’ll learn quickly enough. Yoga can reach and work muscles that are ignored during routine sports and daily life. My favorite maneuver is the sun salutation.

Women’s Health Tip
Learn that pose and many others in this list of the best yoga poses for women.

Don’t Be an Island
Ever wonder why women live longer than men do? One major reason: You form tight networks and actually talk about your problems. If you face life’s stresses alone, you will make yourself older. Bankruptcy, for example, causes enough stress to wreak havoc on your body. With another person’s love and support, that inner aging can be reduced. Don’t forget to reach out to your friends when you need them.

Women’s Health Tip
Don’t forget your guy friends! See why there are specific boons that only male friendships can bring to your life.

Avoid Fad Diets
The secret to weight loss is not to avoid carbs, fats, yellow foods, solid foods, or foods that start with the letter G. The real trick is to lower your daily intake by about 100 calories. You’ll hardly notice, but it’ll add up to a loss of about 10 pounds in a year. Calorie restriction has been shown to lengthen life (in rats and monkeys). I cut back once a year to reset my appetite and tastebuds. Healthy food tastes great afterward. Frankly, any food would.

Women’s Health Tip
Lose weight by eating all the foods you by following the secrets in Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide.

Be a Smart Patient
Your doctor can help keep you in good health, but the responsibility ultimately falls on you. Seek a second opinion before undergoing any procedure, because 30 percent of the time, that opinion will change the diagnosis or plan. Keep a written medical history, and educate yourself about any family problems, even if that means calling your creepy uncle. You might even consider signing onto Microsoft HealthVault or Google Health, so your files are accessible in case you find yourself in trouble away from home.

Women’s Health Tip
Read our cheat sheet — put together with top emergency physicians and medical experts — to learn more about some common health crises and the best ways to handle an emergency room visit.

Lose the Belly
Grab a tape measure and put it around your body at the level of your belly button. That number should be less than half your height. So for my 6’1″ frame, I need to keep my waist under 36.5″. Just think—you’ll be avoiding heart attacks and diabetes as well as looking hot in your bikini. That’s a win win win.

Women’s Health Tip
Learn the cutting-edge, 4-week plan to a leaner, stronger, leaner body in The Big Book of Exercises.

Go Green
I drink green tea three times a day. It’s packed with heart-boosting and cancer-stopping polyphenols that black tea doesn’t offer. (These beneficial chemicals are lost when it’s fermented.) Green tea also delivers a boost of alertness, but from a smaller dose of caffeine than black tea. Green tea can even fight dandruff, although only if you pour it directly onto your scalp. (It’s probably a good idea to let it cool down first.)

Women’s Health Tip
Any time you’re thirsty, tea is a great choice—but you don’t have to steep it to reap the rewards. Check out how to incorporate other varieties of the green stuff to your everyday dishes.

Sweat Till You’re Wet
If you can work up a sweat for just 1 hour a week, you’ll enjoy a range of benefits: reduced risk of heart attack, better mood, and lower blood pressure. I like interval training on the elliptical, with 15 pullups and 15 dips every 10 minutes. Your muscles will become more efficient, so you’ll have more stamina for more enjoyable activities that also work up a sweat.

Women’s Health Tip
Try our free downloadable training guides to lengthen, strengthen, and tone.

Put It in the Bank
Most people rank personal finance as their number one stressor, usually because they feel powerless. Stress not only shortens lives, it also drives people to habits like smoking, drinking, or bingeing on food. Keep some money in a special bank account, safe from your lust for a new television, and you’ll establish an emotional comfort zone with major health benefits.

Women’s Health Tip
How can you do that considering the economy? Throw out the old rules and learn the right way to negotiate a raise, or haggle for a discount.

Have as Much Sex as Possible
If a 50-something woman could have sex 700 times a year, the exercise and stress reduction would make her look and feel years younger. I wouldn’t recommend quitting your day job in order to hit that number—but what’s the harm in trying? The next time you don’t feel particularly in the mood, remind yourself that not having sex is literally killing you. It works for me.

Women’s Health Tip
Not that you need to be convinced, but we put together 17 more reasons hitting the sheets can help your health. Check ‘em out.

Know Your Numbers, Then Aim Lower
Take the part of your brain dedicated to your nail salon’s phone number and reassign it to your heart’s vital signs. These include blood pressure (which ideally should be below 115 over 75), LDL cholesterol (under 100), resting heart rate (under 70), and fasting blood sugar (under 100). If your numbers aren’t ideal, change your diet until they improve.

Women’s Health Tip
Keep your body working properly with these 18 self-checks every woman should do.

Add Some Weights
Just 30 minutes twice a week spent lifting weights can build significant muscle mass. What’s more, working all that muscle burns tons of calories, making it a great way to lose your gut, too. Don’t have weights? Try lifting yourself: Pullups are the most valuable muscle-building exercises I do. Oprah’s trainer, Bob Greene, pointed out to me that pullups work the back, pecs, arms, and belly all at once. And since you’re lifting yourself, you’ll think twice before eating that doughnut, because you’ll just have to lift it later.

Women’s Health Tip
Can’t do a pull-up? Try our plan for tackling the most difficult workout moves (like pull ups, push ups, and yoga headstands)!

Grab Some Nuts
Nuts are among the best sources of healthful fats and protein around. I keep a bag of walnuts in my fridge and use their massive dose of omega-3 fatty acids to boost my brainpower while I see patients. Half of a handful eaten about 30 minutes before a meal will temper your appetite and help you avoid the drive-thru.

Women’s Health Tip
Find other good-for-you snacks in our list of 125 best packaged foods.

Hit the Dance Floor
Crosswords and card games aren’t the only way to keep your brain razor sharp. It turns out that any kind of dancing with complex moves is stimulating enough to give your neurons a workout. Even the simplest moves provide some physical exercise. So don’t be such a wallflower on your next night out.

Women’s Health Tip
Boost your memory, amp creativity, and fine-tune focus with these fun brain games.

Learn to Cook
Think you know how much butter goes into those mashed potatoes at a restaurant? You’re probably off by half. If you can cook, you not only save money but also gain control over what goes into your meals. Plus, cooking is sexy. I have trouble boiling water. Thankfully, I’m already married.

Women’s Health Tip
Turn on the man in your life with these guy-approved romantic meals.

Some Pills Should Be Popped
The indoor life gives us protection from the elements and the ability to watch Gossip Girl in private. Unfortunately, roughly half of us are deficient in vitamin D which the sun is a major source. This crucial vitamin may aid in fighting cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. I take a 1,000 IU supplement each morning.

Women’s Health Tip
Consult this vitamin guide to figure out which other supplements you should take for your health and fitness.

Diet and Nutrition Tips for Women

Tips for eating well at every stage of life. Know what you need to control cravings, boost energy, and look and feel your best.

Trying to balance the demands of family and work or school—and coping with media pressure to look and eat a certain way—can make it difficult for any woman to maintain a healthy diet. But the right food can not only support your mood, boost your energy, and help you maintain a healthy weight, it can also be a huge support through the different stages in a woman’s life.

As children, boys’ and girls’ dietary needs are largely similar. But when puberty begins, women start to develop unique nutritional requirements. And as we age and our bodies go through more physical and hormonal changes, so our nutritional needs continue to evolve, making it important that our diets evolve to meet these changing needs.

While women tend to need fewer calories than men, our requirements for certain vitamins and minerals are much higher. Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, child-bearing, and menopause mean that women have a higher risk of anemia, weakened bones, and osteoporosis, requiring a higher intake of nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B9 (folate).

Why many women fall short of the nutritional guidelines

As women, many of us are prone to neglecting our own dietary needs. You may feel you’re too busy to eat right, used to putting the needs of your family first, or trying to adhere to an extreme diet that leaves you short on vital nutrients and feeling cranky, hungry, and low on energy. Women’s specific needs are often neglected by dietary research, too. Studies tend to rely on male subjects whose hormone levels are more stable and predictable, thus sometimes making the results irrelevant or even misleading to women’s needs. All this can add up to serious shortfalls in your daily nutrition.

While what works best for one woman may not always be the best choice for another, the important thing is to build your dietary choices around your vital nutritional needs. Whether you’re looking to improve your energy and mood, combat stress or PMS, boost fertility, enjoy a healthy pregnancy, or ease the symptoms of menopause, these nutrition tips can help you to stay healthy and vibrant throughout your ever-changing life.

Why supplements alone aren’t enough

In the past, women have often tried to make up deficits in their diet though the use of vitamins and supplements. However, while supplements can be a useful safeguard against occasional nutrient shortfalls, they can’t compensate for an unbalanced or unhealthy diet. To ensure you get all the nutrients you need from the food you eat, try to aim for a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, quality protein, healthy fats, and low in processed, fried, and sugary foods.

Calcium for strong bones throughout life

Among other things, you need calcium to build healthy bones and teeth, keep them strong as you age, regulate the heart’s rhythm, and ensure your nervous system functions properly. Calcium deficiency can lead to, or exacerbate, mood problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take calcium from your bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis. Women are at a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis, so it’s important to get plenty of calcium, in combination with magnesium and vitamin D, to support your bone health.

How much calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D do you need?

Calcium: For adult women aged 19-50, the USDA recommended daily allowance is 1,000 mg/day. For women over 50, the recommended daily allowance is 1,200 mg/day. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, certain fish, grains, tofu, cabbage, and summer squash. Your body cannot take in more than 500 mg at any one time and there’s no benefit to exceeding the recommended daily amount.

Magnesium: Magnesium increases calcium absorption form the blood into the bone. In fact, your body can’t utilize calcium without it. The USDA recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 320 to 400 mg/day. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, summer squash, broccoli, halibut, cucumber, green beans, celery, and a variety of seeds.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is also crucial to the proper metabolism of calcium. Aim for 600 IU (international units) daily. You can get Vitamin D from about half an hour of direct sunlight, and from foods such as salmon, shrimp, vitamin-D fortified milk, cod, and eggs.

Should you avoid dairy because of its saturated fat content?

As the table above shows, some of the best sources of calcium are dairy products. However, dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, and yogurt also tend to contain high levels of saturated fat. The USDA recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to no more than 10% of your daily calories, meaning you can enjoy whole milk dairy in moderation and opt for no- or low-fat dairy products when possible. Just be aware that reduced fat dairy products often contain lots of added sugar, which can have negative effects on both your health and waistline.

The importance of exercise for bone health

In addition to diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors can also play an important role in bone health. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, while weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, dancing, yoga, or lifting weights) can lower your risk. Strength or resistance training—using machines, free weights, elastic bands, or your own body weight—can be especially effective in helping to prevent loss of bone mass as you age.

Iron: why you may not be getting enough

Iron helps to create the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. It’s also important to maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. Due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women of childbearing age need more than twice the amount of iron that men do—even more during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, many of us aren’t getting nearly enough iron in our diets, making iron deficiency anemia the most common deficiency in women.

Anemia can deplete your energy, leaving you feeling weak, exhausted, and out of breath after even minimal physical activity. Iron deficiency can also impact your mood, causing depression-like symptoms such as irritability and difficulty concentrating. While a simple blood test can tell your doctor if you have an iron deficiency, if you’re feeling tired and cranky all the time, it’s a good idea to examine the amount of iron in your diet.

How much iron do you need?

For adolescent women aged 14-18, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) recommended daily amount is 15 mg (27 mg if pregnant, 10 mg if lactating). For adult women aged 19-50, the FNB recommends 18 mg/day (27 mg if pregnant, 9 mg if lactating). For women 51+ years old, the recommended daily amount is 8 mg.

Part of the reason why so many women fail to get the amount of iron they need is because one of the best sources of iron is red meat (especially liver) which also contains high levels of saturated fat. While leafy green vegetables and beans are also good sources of iron—and don’t contain high levels saturated fat—the iron from plant foods is different to the iron from animal sources, and not absorbed as well by the body. Other foods rich in iron include poultry, seafood, dried fruit such as raisins and apricots, and iron-fortified cereals, breads, and pastas.

Good sources of iron
Food Milligrams (mg) per serving
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% iron, 1 serving 18
Chocolate, dark, 45%-69% cacao solids, 3 ounces 7
Oysters, eastern, cooked with moist heat, 3 ounces 8
Sardines, with bone, 3 ounces 2
Tuna, light, canned in water, 3 ounces 1
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces 5
Beef, braised bottom round, 3 ounces 2
Chicken, roasted, meat and skin, 3 ounces 1
Turkey, roasted, breast meat and skin, 3 ounces 1
White beans, canned, 1 cup 8
Lentils, boiled and drained, 1/2 cup 3
Kidney beans, canned, 1/2 cup 2
Chickpeas, boiled and drained, 1/2 cup 2
Spinach, boiled and drained, 1/2 cup 3
Tomatoes, canned, stewed, 1/2 cup 2
Broccoli, boiled and drained, 1/2 cup 1
Green peas, boiled, 1/2 cup 1
Raisins, seedless, 1/4 cup 1
Tofu, firm, 1/2 cup 3
Potato, medium, baked, including skin 2
Cashew nuts, oil roasted, 1 ounce (18 nuts) 2
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 1
Egg, large, hard boiled 1
Source: National Institutes of Health

The importance of folate (vitamin B9) for women of child-bearing age

Folate or vitamin B9 (also known as folic acid when used in fortified foods or taken as a supplement) is another nutrient that many women don’t get enough of in their diets. Folate can greatly reduce the chance of neurological birth defects when taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Folate can also lower a woman’s risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer, so even if you’re not planning on getting pregnant (and many pregnancies are unplanned), it’s an essential nutrient for every woman of childbearing age. In later life, folate can help your body manufacture estrogen during menopause.

Not getting enough folate in your diet can also impact your mood, leaving you feeling irritable and fatigued, affecting your concentration, and making you more susceptible to depression and headaches.

Nutrition tips to boost fertility

If you are planning a pregnancy, as well as getting sufficient folate in your diet, consider:

  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, as they are known to decrease fertility.
  • Eating organic foods and grass-fed or free-range meat and eggs, in order to limit pollutants and pesticides that may interfere with fertility.
  • Taking a prenatal supplement. The most important supplements for fertility are folic acid, zinc, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C.
  • Not overlooking your partner’s diet. About 40 percent of fertility problems are on the male’s side, so encourage your partner to add supplements such as zinc, vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin D.

How much folate do you need?

The U.S. FDA recommends that all women and teen girls who could become pregnant consume 400 mcg (micrograms) of folate or folic acid daily. Women who are pregnant should take 600 mcg, and those breastfeeding 500 mcg

Good sources include leafy green vegetables, fruit and fruit juice, nuts, beans and peas. Folic acid is also added to enrich many grain-based products such as cereals, bread, and pasta.

Eating to ease the symptoms of PMS

Experiencing bloating, cramping, and fatigue during the week or so before your period is often due to fluctuating hormones. Your diet can play an important role in alleviating these and other symptoms of PMS.

Eat foods high in iron and zinc. Some women find that foods such as red meat, liver, eggs, leafy green veggies, and dried fruit can help ease the symptoms of PMS.

Boost your calcium intake. Several studies have highlighted the role calcium-rich foods—such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables—play in relieving PMS symptoms.

Avoid trans fats, deep fried foods, and sugar. All are inflammatory, which can trigger PMS symptoms.

Battle bloat by cutting out salt. If you tend to retain water and experiencing bloating, avoiding salty snacks, frozen dinners, and processed foods can make a big difference.

Watch out for food sensitivities. PMS is a common symptom of food sensitivities. Common culprits include dairy and wheat. Try cutting out the suspected food and see if it makes a difference in your symptoms.

Cut out caffeine and alcohol. Both worsen PMS symptoms, so avoid them during this time in your cycle.

Consider vitamin supplements. For some women, taking a daily multivitamin or supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E may help relieve cramps. But, again, supplements are not a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet. It’s always better to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs from the food you eat.

Add essential fatty acids to ease cramps. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with cramps. See if eating more fish or flaxseed eases your PMS symptoms.

Nutrition for pregnant or breastfeeding women

You only need about 300 extra calories per day to provide sufficient nutrition for your growing baby. However, gaining some weight is natural during pregnancy, and nursing can help with weight loss after the baby is born.

Nutrition tips for healthy pregnancy

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the neurological and early visual development of your baby and for making breast milk after birth. Aim for two weekly servings of cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, or anchovies. Sardines are widely considered the safest and most sustainable fish to eat, while seaweed is a rich vegetarian source of Omega-3s.

Abstain from alcohol. No amount is safe for the baby.

Cut down on caffeine, which has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and can interfere with iron absorption.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than a few large ones. This will help prevent and reduce morning sickness and heartburn.

Be cautious about foods that may be harmful to pregnant women. These include soft cheeses, sushi, deli meats, raw sprouts, and fish such as albacore tuna, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel that contain high levels of mercury.

High quality protein is also important to your baby’s developing brain and nervous system. Opt for high-quality protein from fish, poultry, dairy, and plant-based protein sources rather than relying on just red meat.

Nutrition tips for healthy breastfeeding

Keep your caloric consumption a little higher to help your body maintain a steady milk supply.

Emphasize healthy sources of protein and calcium, which are higher in demand during lactation. Nursing women need about 20 grams more high-quality protein a day than they did before pregnancy to support milk production.

Take prenatal vitamin supplements, which are still helpful during breastfeeding, unless your physician tells you otherwise.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Just as with the pregnancy guidelines above, refrain from drinking and smoking, and reduce your caffeine intake.

If your baby develops an allergic reaction, you may need to adjust your diet. Common food allergens include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, fish, and citrus. For a cow’s milk allergy, you can meet your calcium needs through other high calcium foods, such as kale, broccoli, or sardines.

Eating to ease the symptoms of menopause

For up to a decade prior to menopause, your reproductive system prepares to retire and your body shifts its production of hormones. By eating especially well as you enter your menopausal years, you can ease common symptoms.

Boost calcium intake (along with vitamin D and magnesium) to support bone health and prevent osteoporosis.

Limit wine, sugar, white flour products, and coffee to ease hot flashes.

Eat more good fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids can help boost hormone production and give your skin a healthy glow. Evening primrose oil and blackcurrant oil are good sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that can help balance your hormones and alleviate hot flashes.

Try flaxseed for hot flashes. Flaxseed is rich in lignans, which help stabilize hormone levels and manage hot flashes. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your daily diet. Try sprinkling it on soups, salads, or main dishes.

Eat more soy. Soy products are high in phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogens that are similar to estrogen produced by the body. Some studies suggest that soy may help manage menopausal symptoms. Try natural soy sources such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and soy nuts.

Girls, Women Can Stay Healthy at Any Age

A woman passes many milestones throughout her life and her health should stay top-of-mind every step of the way.

Now is the perfect time to think about how women can keep their minds and bodies healthy, whether it’s a new mom navigating motherhood with her day-old daughter or a woman in her golden years with a lot of life yet to live. Here’s what you should know about keeping yourself — and all the women in your life — strong, healthy and happy through every single birthday.

Babies, Toddlers and Young Girls

Babies’ brains develop at a lightning-fast pace. Keeping up with normal preventive care and immunizations through well-child visits, as recommended by Kaiser Permanente, is a huge part of raising healthy kids, as is providing nutrition and encouraging exercise that helps them grow.

Beyond that day-to-day support, one of the best things you can do to provide your little one a lifelong boost is to support her early development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that boost looks different for every parent and baby — not only because of age, but because of personal preferences, too. Often, positive parenting involves a mix of nurturing and engaging that encourages your daughter to explore her world on her terms. You could:

  • Read, sing, cuddle and talk to your daughter — and stay present in the conversation (i.e., put your phone down).
  • Encourage your daughter to play make-believe games to foster her creativity.
  • Provide a helpful nudge when she needs it, but let her safely explore and figure out new games, toys and activities on her own.
  • Boost her social skills by scheduling play dates with others and helping her make new friends.

Along the way, don’t forget to take some time for yourself, whether that means getting help for postpartum depression or practicing self-care to alleviate the stress that can come along with staying on top of soccer games and school lunches.

Preteens and Teens

At this age, keep those well-child visits going, and pay attention to your teen’s exercise habits and encourage good nutrition choices, as advised by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Beyond that, there are plenty of ways to help a teenage girl take control of her health:

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends scheduling her first visit to the gynecologist when she’s between 13 and 15.
  • Before or when she starts her period, help her understand what’s happening to her changing body.
  • Don’t shy away from tough topics. Talk to her about sex, birth control, bullying, self-esteem, drugs and more.

20s and 30s

As you enter your 20s and continue into your 30s, your life will continue to change in monumental ways. It can be easy to neglect your health when getting caught up in academics, graduation, career and dating — but that neglect can have lifelong consequences.

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends yearly well-woman checks. Even though Pap tests are recommended on a three-year cadence after a woman turns 21, women still need annual exams for other wellness topics, such as birth control and pelvic exams.
  • Pay attention to heart health. The American Heart Association advises that women stay aware of the risks for heart disease and keep an eye on blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, weight and physical activity to manage those risks.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends that women with a high risk for breast cancer (e.g., women with a family history of breast cancer or radiation exposure, or women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene) get a yearly mammogram starting at 30.

40s and 50s

You may have a few more gray hairs, but you still have plenty of years ahead of you, and taking care of your health is as important as ever. Your 40s and 50s are a good time to focus on early detection of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

  • The American Cancer Society recommends scheduling annual mammograms starting at 40 if you’re at average risk for breast cancer.
  • Continue to get a yearly well-woman check, and continue to get Pap tests every three years.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends that women of average risk start getting screened for colorectal cancer at 45.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides the information you need to familiarize yourself with the symptoms, like hot flashes, that come with perimenopause.
  • Continue to manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, weight and exercise.

60s and Older

The golden years are no time to stay idle. A little physical activity goes a long way in retirement age. Keeping an eye on exercise and eating calcium-rich foods for strong bone health are important, and screenings are also a big part of aging gracefully.

  • Keep getting annual well-woman exams, though the U.S. National Library of Medicine indicates Pap tests can stop by 65 in healthy women.
  • The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends a bone density screening at 65. It also recommends a pneumococcal vaccine at 65, and it offers resources for learning about the shingles virus, something that may be inside you if you had chickenpox.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends maintaining your breast and colorectal cancer screening schedule until 75. After that, you should ask your doctor whether you should continue that routine.

No matter our age, women’s health plays a big role in helping us make the most of every moment.

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