Nutrition & exercise information
Poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to many health problems. It is important for all women to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to guard against ailments including obesity, heart disease, diabetes high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
While every woman's nutritional needs vary, here is an outline of the main nutrients your body needs, along with some possible sources of them:
- Needed for bone health. A lack of calcium can lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.
- Most women need 1000 milligrams (mg) per day. Sources include nonfat milk, yogurt and cheese; dark greens including collard greens and spinach; soybeans; and cereals and juices with calcium added.
- Needed to prevent anemia, which can make you weak and pale. Especially important during menstruation and childbirth.
- Women of childbearing age need approx. 18 mg of iron per day. Post-menopausal women need only 8 mg. Sources include spinach, beans, meats and iron-fortified cereals.
- Important for women of childbearing age. A lack of folic acid increases the risk of having a baby with spine or skull defects.
- Women of childbearing age need .4 mg of folic acid per day. Sources include breads, cereals, past and juices fortified with folic acid; leafy greens including spinach and collard greens; and citrus fruits.
- Needed to carry vitamins throughout the body. Unsaturated fats (liquids at room temp.) are healthiest because they do not raise cholesterol. Avoid saturated and trans fats.
- Get no more than 20-35% of your calories from fat. Sources of unsaturated fat include olive and canola oil, avocados, lean meats, nuts and seeds.
- The body's main source of energy. Look for naturally occurring sugars and avoid added sugars, which supply few nutrients.
- Limit sugar to 20 grams per day. Sources of natural sugars are fruits, vegetables and honey.
- A unit of energy used by your body. Any calories not used as energy turn to fat.
- The average woman needs approx. 2000 calories per day. Very active women might burn more than that, while sedentary women might gain weight eating that many.
Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy body weight are keys to good health. Exercise strengthens muscles and helps maintain bone density. You should aim to exercise 30 minutes every day. If weight loss is your goal, more exercise might be needed.
Age, pregnancy and metabolism all affect how your body processes food, and could change your diet and exercise requirements. If you are not used to exercising, consult your doctor before starting an exercise plan. If you are pregnant, it is fine to maintain your exercise regimen, but do not increase it without consulting your obstetrician.
You will find more diet and exercise planning tools for women on our educational resources page.