Diet advice can have the same basic principles across ages, sexes, and races: eat more fruits and vegetables, less sugar, sodium, and processed foods. However, this can be further broken down into specific nutritional needs based on gender due to complex hormonal processes. Males tend to have a straightforward 24-hour hormone cycle, whereas women have a more intricate 28-ish day cycle that evolves throughout her lifetime. Everything from immune function, bone and muscle condition, eyesight, fertility, and cellular health can be affected through matching nutritional needs with food intake.
In their 20’s, women’s lives become hectic, and eating on the go becomes more routine. This is an excellent time to simply focus on nutrient density: adequate amino acid, carbohydrate, essential fatty acid, and vitamin and mineral intake is paramount. This is also a great time in life to establish a meal prep routine. Meal prepping is a time saving hack that women can continue to utilize through the years. For many women, this is also a time when they begin thinking about having a family. Because women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, their daily diet in this phase can drastically alter the health of these eggs. Due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women need twice the amount of iron than that of men, plus even more if pregnant and breastfeeding. Folate is another vitally important nutrient during this life phase, as a deficiency can lead to heart disease or birth defects. Both iron and folate are also important for energy and mood support.
As women enter their 30s, hormones begin decreasing some while life stressors seemingly increase. This combo finds many women beginning to experience health concerns. Vital nutrients to focus on for this stage are zinc, selenium, and omega-3’s. Zinc is helpful in hormone regulation and metabolism management. Selenium can slow down the aging process while keeping skin, hair, and nails healthy. Omegas help with mental health, stress, and mood management. Making it a rule to eat fatty fish a minimum of once a week is helpful.
The 40’s bring about positive changes such as exciting levels of career development and deepening relationships. However, the small signs of aging begin to creep in. Declining hormone levels, minor aches and pains, and declining athletic performance and more difficulty losing fat or gaining muscle are common complaints. As hormone levels decrease, they take the metabolism with them. Adjusting caloric needs to a bit slower metabolism is usually warranted, and smaller more frequent meals can assist with this. Spending more time strength training is important to keep bones strong, and lean mass increased. Adequate protein levels and lots of calcium are also a necessary focus now through the elderly years, as muscle protein synthesis and bone density declines.
In their 50’s, women experience changes such as menopause, stiff joints, gut health dysregulation, and a shifting circadian rhythm. This is a lot to go through at once! Areas of focus during this time are again Omega 3s for keeping the brain sharp and the joints lubricated, colorful fruits and vegetables for extra antioxidant protection against chronic disease, and anti-inflammatory supplementation such as turmeric and garlic. Probiotics and fermented foods are also important during this time as the microbiome adjusts to new low hormone levels.
The 60’s and on tend to bring about a time of more meaningful personal fulfillment, while there is no argument that aging is happening. Energy decreases, and protein requirements increase. A high-quality multivitamin can be very useful to make sure a woman is keeping up with her nutrient needs while eating less. Vitamins B-12, A, C, and D3 are common deficiencies that can alter an older woman’s elderly years in many ways. Lifestyle-wise, taking on challenges of learning new skills and staying active with a focus on function and balance keeps the brain and body healthy. This can be further built on through increasing sleep during this time.
All in all, each woman and her life will have individual needs. In general, women can support their bodies, minds, and spirits throughout their life each and every time they eat. Staying fit, strong, lean and healthy at any age can happen with these basic principles: recognize what you can control and what you can’t, keep moving, choose nutrient-rich foods, removing things that add no value such as alcohol, and keep a strong sense of connection and community.