A balanced diet is one that consists of healthy amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine suggests a specific recommended dietary allowance of nutrients for women due to their physiological needs during various stages of their lives, including pregnancy and lactation.
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Vitamin A supports immune system function, eyesight, reproduction and the growth and differentiation of organ cells. Carrots, sweet potatoes, beef liver, mangoes, cantaloupes, red peppers and even pumpkin pie are good sources of this fat-soluble vitamin. In general, women should get 700 micrograms of vitamin A a day. Pregnant women need 770 micrograms, and breast-feeding women need 1,300 micrograms.
Vitamin B Complex
The B complex consists of eight vitamins responsible for growth, development, energy processes and metabolism. Liver, beef, chicken, milk, grains and fortified breads, cereals and grains are good dietary sources of B vitamins. The RDA for nonpregnant women age 19 and older is 1.1 milligrams of thiamine, 30 micrograms of biotin, 14 milligrams of niacin, 1.1 milligrams of riboflavin, 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid, 1.3 milligrams for B-6 (1.5 milligrams for women over age 50), 400 micrograms of folate and 2.4 micrograms of B-12.
B Vitamins for Pregnant and Lactating Women
Pregnant and lactating women have a thiamin RDA of 1.4 milligrams. The biotin RDA for pregnant women is 30 micrograms and 35 micrograms for lactating women. Pregnant women have an RDA for niacin of 18 milligrams, and lactating women require 17 milligrams. The riboflavin RDA for pregnant women is 1.4 milligrams and 1.6 milligrams for lactating women. Pantothenic acid, also known as B-5, has an RDA of 6 milligrams for pregnant women and 7 milligrams for lactating women. Pregnant women are required to get 1.9 milligram of vitamin B-6 a day and lactating women are required to get 2 milligrams a day. The folate RDA for pregnant women is 600 micrograms and 500 micrograms for lactating women. The RDA of B-12 for pregnant women is 2.6 micrograms. Lactating woman are required to get 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B-12.
Vitamin C is necessary for protein metabolism, the production of collagen and neurotransmitters. This water-soluble vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant, meaning that it limits the effect of free radicals in the body. The RDA of vitamin C for women 19 and older is 75 milligrams a day. Pregnant women over the age of 19 should get 85 milligrams of vitamin. The RDA for lactating women goes up to 120 milligrams a day. Women who smoke require 35 milligrams more a day of vitamin C, meaning a 25-year-old, smoking woman who is not pregnant should get 110 milligrams of vitamin C a day. Good dietary sources of vitamin C are tomatoes, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe, green and red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage.
The body produces vitamin D when it is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, and it is needed for bone growth. It also has a positive role in the function of the immune system and reduces inflammation. Women aged 19 to 70, pregnant or nursing are required to get 600 international units, or 15 micrograms, of vitamin D. After age 70, the RDA for vitamin D is 800 IU, or 20 micrograms. Salmon, tuna and swordfish, liver and eggs are good animal sources of vitamin D. Other sources are fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals.
Vitamin E occurs naturally as four kinds of tocopherol and tocotrienol. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in the body and plays a role in metabolic processes. The RDA of vitamin E for women over age 14 and pregnant women is 15 milligrams. Lactating women are required to get 19 milligrams of vitamin E. Nuts, seeds and vegetable oils such as safflower oil, sunflower oil and wheatgerm oil are the best sources for vitamin E.
Vitamin K supports bone formation and the production of proteins found in the blood so it can clot. The Vitamin K RDA is 90 micrograms for all women, age 19 and older, including pregnant and lactating women. Green leafy vegetables, cabbage and margarine are sources of vitamin K in the diet.