A nutritious diet is important for everyone, but women have unique nutrient requirements. Remember to enjoy a variety of foods, including: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole-grains, and low-fat dairy products.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% of women in the United States are deficient in iron. Iron is important because it helps to transport oxygen throughout your body, and a deficiency may result in exhaustion, shortness of breath, brittle nails and hair, and pale skin. Women are at a higher risk of developing an iron deficiency than men due to monthly blood losses during menstruation. As a result, the daily iron needs for women between the ages of 19-50 are 18 mg each day, compared to only 8 mg per day for men of the same age. Good dietary sources of iron include: red meat, fish, poultry, iron-fortified cereal, lentils, beans and spinach. If you choose plant-based sources of iron, eat them with vitamin C-rich foods, which help your body to absorb iron. Foods high in vitamin C include: orange juice, strawberries, and bell peppers, tomatoes and kiwi.
A diet sufficient in folic acid is essential during childbearing age to decrease the risk of birth defects. Folic acid helps your body to make new, healthy cells and is important before and during pregnancy. Women who are planning to get pregnant should consume 400 mcg to 800 mcg of folic acid per day to lower the risk of developing neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. You can find folic acid in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes, and fortified cereals. If you are planning on getting pregnant, you may want to talk with your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin in addition to consuming a diet rich in folic acid.
Calcium helps to keep your bones and teeth strong and to prevent osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, eight million are women. Women are at higher risk than men for developing osteoporosis because they usually have smaller, thinner bones. Also, estrogen decreases dramatically when a woman reaches menopause, causing bone loss. The recommend daily intake of calcium for women between the ages of 19 and 50 years is 1000 mg. This increases to 1200 mg per day for women 51 years and older. Dietary sources of calcium include: milk, cheese, calcium-fortified soymilk, salmon, sardines, calcium-fortified orange juice, yogurt, and kale.
Women should include nutrient-rich foods into their diets to help maintain health and to prevent disease. Remember that women have unique nutrition requirements and should focus on including a variety of healthy foods in the diet.
Chicken Breast over Black Bean and Quinoa topped with Avocado Yogurt Sauce
• 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
• ½ tsp paprika
• ¼ tsp pepper
• ¼ tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp cumin
• ¼ tsp chili powder
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
• 1 cup quinoa
• 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 2 Tbsp lime juice
• Dash of salt and pepper
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
• 2 ripe avocados, peeled
• ½ cup plain Greek Yogurt
• 1 tsp lemon juice
• Combine paprika, pepper, onion powder, and cumin in a bowl. Mix together and use to season both sides of a chicken breast.
• Add the olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium/high heat.
• Add chicken, cover with lid, and cook for 7 minutes on each side. Slice chicken once it has cooled.
• Add chicken stock, garlic and quinoa to medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium/low heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes with lid on. Add black beans and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes, until all the stock has been absorbed.
• Toss quinoa and black bean mixture with lime juice, salt and pepper, and fresh cilantro. Set aside.
• Combine avocado, Greek yogurt, and lemon juice in a food processor.
• Stop the quinoa and black bean mixture with sliced chicken and avocado yogurt sauce.
Yield 8 Servings
Nutrition per serving: 369 Calories, 39 g Protein, 11 g Fat, 29 g Carbohydrate, 8 g Fiber, 2 g Sugar, 289 g Sodium