Calcium is all about building strong bones. It’s really important as women age. The Affordable Care Act requires most plans to cover testing for many women over 60, who have a greater chance of getting osteoporosis, or weak bones.
Dairy products, calcium-fortified drinks such as soy milk, and fortified juice are good sources. Women who are under 50, pregnant, or nursing should get 1,000 milligrams a day. Women over 50 need 1,200 milligrams a day. That equals three servings of low-fat, plain yogurt or nonfat milk.
Iron helps get oxygen to cells. Too little iron leads to anemia, which can make you feel tired. The Affordable Care Act requires most plans to cover anemia screenings for most pregnant women with private health coverage.
Good sources include lean beef, turkey, and chicken, as well as beans and fortified cereals. Here are some ways to get the iron you need:
- Women 19-50: 18 milligrams/day = 3/4 cup 100% fortified cereal
- Women 50+: 8 mg/day = 1 cup soybeans
- Pregnant women: 27 mg/day = 3/4 cup fortified cereal + 1 cup soybeans + 1/2 cup spinach
If you have anemia because of too little iron, you may need to take iron pills.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which you need for strong bones. If you’re over 60 and have a higher chance of getting osteoporosis, or thinning bones, you can be tested for it without charge under the Affordable Care Act, under most health insurance plans.
Vitamin D is added to some dairy products and is found in fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. Women under 70 should get 600 international units of vitamin D daily. That's about 3 ounces of salmon and 1 cup of fortified orange juice. Women over 70 need 800 IU -- 3 ounces of salmon, 2 cups of milk, and 1 cup of fortified orange juice.
Folic acid helps make DNA and helps your cells divide. It's very important during pregnancy for a healthy baby.
Find folic acid in green, leafy vegetables, fruit juices, nuts, and beans. Women should get 400 micrograms daily. You can often get that from a serving of fortified cereal or bread. Women should get 600 mcg during pregnancy, or 500 mcg while breastfeeding. If you’re pregnant or plan to be, you should also take a folic acid pill. The Affordable Care Act requires most plans to cover folic acid pills without copays or deductibles for most privately insured women, if their provider gives them a prescription.
A high-salt diet can raise your chances of high blood pressure and stroke. These can lead to heart problems.
The Affordable Care Act requires most plans to cover blood pressure screenings under most private health plans.
Women should keep salt under 2,300 milligrams a day -- about 1 teaspoon. Even if you don't add salt, many processed and restaurant foods already have a lot of salt. If you're 50+, African-American, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease, keep sodium below 1,500 mg.
A heart-healthy diet helps keep a fatty substance called plaque from building up in the arteries around it. To keep your heart in good shape:
- Eat fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean meat, poultry, and fish.
- Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Limit saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. Avoid trans fats.
The ACA requires most plans to cover cholesterol and blood pressure screenings under most private health plans. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can eventually lead to heart problems so these screenings are important.
Eating a well-balanced diet and staying at a healthy weight are important for your overall health. You can get obesity screening and counseling under most plans, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Exactly what's covered depends on your specific insurance plan, but the help is offered without any cost to you.
In addition, nutrition counseling is covered for people who are at high risk of chronic disease -- such as heart disease.
Protein is an important building block for bones, muscles, and skin. In the body, proteins do many things like fighting germs, breaking down food that you eat, and controlling your metabolism.
Fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and nuts are good sources. Women should get 46 grams of protein every day. You can get that from ½ cup of milk and two 3-ounce servings of lean meat. Each serving should be about the size of a deck of cards.
Fiber helps you digest food and helps prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. Beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals are good sources.
Women under 50 should get at least 25 grams of fiber every day. You can get that from a bowl (1 ounce) of bran flakes plus 1 cup of raspberries plus 1 cup of mixed vegetables. Most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber -- only about half the recommended amount.
You need vitamin C for healthy bones and skin. Vegetables, such as broccoli and red peppers, and fruits -- especially citrus fruits – are good sources.
Women should get 75 milligrams of vitamin C every day or 85 mg during pregnancy. You can easily get that by drinking 3/4 cup of orange juice or eating 1/2 cup of sweet, red pepper.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These "good" fats may lower your chance of heart disease. The American Heart Association says you should eat at least two servings of fatty fish (salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines) a week. Flaxseed and walnuts have omega-3s, too. A recent study suggests people who eat a handful of nuts a day live longer and weigh less than people who don't. But take it easy -- too much of any food can cause weight gain.
A well-rounded healthy diet is the best way to get the nutrition you need. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about how to do that. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Some may interact with medications you're taking. Multivitamins or supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet.