National Nutrition Week 2022: Essential nutrients for women at every age

National Nutrition Week is observed every year from September 1 to September 7 in a bid to raise awareness about the importance of nutrition for the human body and how we can take adequate and timely measures to eradicate hunger and malnourishment. While everybody requires nutrients, women’s nutrition is the “cornerstone of excellent health and maximum vitality at every stage of their lives,” functional nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, CEO and Founder, iThrive, said.

“Adequate nutrition, a fundamental cornerstone of any individual’s health, is especially critical for women because inadequate nutrition wreaks havoc not only on women’s own health but also on the health of their children,” a study published in Population Reference Bureau noted.

Pradhan added that at specific points in life, some vitamins and minerals become very significant and, thus, women must be mindful of including these essential nutrients in their diet.

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According to Prachi Shah, Clinical Dietitian and Consulting Nutritionist, iron and calcium are important nutrients during the adolescent period. “Iron is an essential nutrient, especially when girls begin to menstruate. During childhood, calcium is the most important nutrient for the growth of the bones and teeth,” she said, adding that while beans, bajra and dark green leafy vegetables are rich sources of iron, milk, cheese, paneer and yoghurt are good sources of calcium.

Agreeing, Pradhan said that when girls start menstruating, it leads to iron deficiency. As such, it is recommended to consume foods rich in iron. “Also, they go through a growth spurt which needs to be supported by providing their body with calcium and essential amino acids like peptides and healthy fats (especially Omega 3 and saturated fats).”

women nutrition It is crucial for women to take utmost care of their health and nutrition during pregnancy. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)


The nutritionist added that a woman has to prepare her body even before pregnancy. “For this, she requires protein, fats, and a mix of essential micro-nutrients like iron, folate, calcium and other minerals,” she explained.


As we know, it is crucial for women to take utmost care of their health and nutrition during pregnancy. “During pregnancy, they need vitamin B (B12, folate and biotin), iron, calcium, proteins and healthy fats and antioxidants to nourish the fetus. They also need iodine for brain functioning,” Pradhan said.

Explaining the benefits, Shah said: “Folic acid (dark green leafy vegetables) help prevent neural tube defects, vitamin B12 (cheese, milk, fortified cereals) is essential for baby’s brain development, vitamin D and calcium is for the bone health of the baby and the mother, iron is essential to prevent anaemia and iodine is required for baby’s brain development.”

Lactation/post pregnancy

Unlike what is usually perceived, women require an increased amount of all the nutrients mentioned above, Pradhan highlighted. She explained that the milk produced by a lactating mother consists of calcium, biotin, vitamin A, protein, zinc, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozyme, WBCs and sodium.

“Thus, to replete the lost nutrients, it is vital for them to eat foods rich in the aforementioned nutrients. The only thing the milk contains in negligible amounts is iron, as the baby is born with iron stores,” she said.

women nutrition Iron and calcium are important nutrients during the adolescent period. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Menopausal stage

Weakening of bones, hot flashes, mood swings, depression, fatigue and vaginal dryness are some of the common symptoms experienced by women during menopause. As such, they require magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, proteins, Omega 3, and antioxidants, experts said.

Old age

Old age is marked by lean muscle mass, weak bones, and a loss of appetite. Pradhan said, “During this period of time, the body needs calcium and vitamin D to function well. One should also take care of their diet by increasing the amount of soft and easily digestible foods (low fibre), and foods that contain healthy fats like Omega 3 and saturated fats. It is also pivotal to include vitamin B12 for the nervous system.”

Shah added that in addition to these micronutrients, macronutrients are equally important. “The right amount of good quality protein with whole grains is vital. Hydration and fibre also play a major role in a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Pradhan concluded by saying that receiving these essential nutrients from food is more advantageous as opposed to dietary supplements as the latter “can be helpful in some circumstances, especially if you are breastfeeding, pregnant, attempting to get pregnant or otherwise at risk for a particular nutritional deficiency”.

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