Women’s diet: Top 5 nutrients women need for good health

While a healthy diet is important for everyone, women should be aware of the extra nutritional sustenance they might need at various life stages.

What does a healthy woman’s diet look like?

If you answered something along the lines of “plenty of water, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegies and the occasional piece of lean protein”, you’d be right – to a point.

Women have unique nutritional needs during various life stages, such as menstruation, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and menopause.

And this means they may require an increase in certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

The five key nutrients for women’s health

When it comes to supporting female health, the following five nutrients should have pride of place in your kitchen:


Iron transports oxygen around the body, helping to give us energy, but up to 18 per cent of healthy women are low in iron – a condition that’s often overlooked by doctors, according to a study by the University of Western Australia.

“Women who have heavy periods tend to have lower iron levels, but we should all be checking our iron levels and eating accordingly to ensure our bodies are functioning at optimum levels,” dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians Australia, Dr Anika Rouf says.

“Animal products such as red meat, poultry and seafood are the best sources, but you can also boost your intake of dark leafy greens, nuts and beans.”

Vitamin B12/folate

Women must consume B vitamins regularly to maintain the healthy functioning of the body as they can be depleted easily, according to nutritionist and recipe developer at The Fast 800, Gabrielle Newman.

“Vitamin B12 is required for the development and function of the central nervous system, while folate (or B9) is necessary for producing DNA and for producing red and white blood cells in bone marrow.

“B vitamins are also essential in energy production, supporting metabolism and menstrual-cycle health and fertility.”

Good sources include red meat, seafood, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, nuts and beans, but those planning on starting a family should take folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy.


Only one in 10 Australians are getting enough calcium – a particular concern for women who require the nutrient for their bone health, Dr Rouf says.

“Obviously, having too little is a risk factor for osteoporosis, particularly those who are post-menopausal, but we also know calcium can assist with menstrual symptoms for younger women, too.”

In fact, one study found increasing calcium intake not only reduced period pain and water retention during the premenstrual phase, but improved mood and concentration.

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are obviously good sources of calcium, but Dr Rouf recommends also incorporating plenty of canned fish with bones, nuts, seeds, tofu and other non-dairy milks such as soy into the diet.

Vitamin D

Known by many as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D works as calcium’s partner to build strong and healthy bones.

“It’s also involved in nutrient absorption and retention, healthy immune function and muscle function,” Gabrielle explains.

Sunshine is the best source.

“You’ll only need 10 to 15 minutes daily in Australia,” Gabrielle says.

But topping up the vitamin with your diet is recommended.

“Try to include plenty of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, cheese and some egg yolks, all of which contain trace amounts.”


There’s nothing like the ongoing events of the past two years to make us think about the functionality of our immune systems, and zinc is all about give it a little boost, Gabrielle says.

“It also plays a vital role in metabolic function,” she adds.

Oysters (and other forms of shellfish) are an excellent source of zinc, as are meat, whole grains, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, and nuts.

Written by Dilvin Yasa.