The effect of education programs on nutrition outcomes is difficult to assess because programs often have poor baseline data or nutrition outcomes are not evaluated (174, 182). Studies that used longitudinal analyses and “natural” experiments (e.g., before and after a national education policy) found that education was associated with reduced fertility (183, 184), and delayed early marriages and pregnancies (184–187). The impact was more significant for higher levels of education (185). However, 1 study in Malawi identified negative associations between education and timing of first birth, although these findings were largely not statistically significant (188). Secondary education for adolescents and women of reproductive age also showed no impact on women's empowerment (184), although it did show an impact on improved literacy and leadership (174). Educational interventions that provided conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and school feeding, as well as other forms of social protection to families of enrolled girls, were associated with greater school enrollment and attendance (189–191), improved test scores (189, 190), reduced gender gaps (192), and reduced hunger (190, 191).
There were also supplementation programs that targeted nonpregnant women. National supplementation programs that provided food baskets to low-income families increased maternal BMI and improved household food insecurity (92, 93). However, there were some unintended consequences. In Mexico, food transfer programs disproportionately increased weight gain in overweight women compared with underweight women (93), and 1 study in Bangladesh found that food transfers had larger impacts on men's intake than women's intake, except with less preferred foods (94). Adolescents who received protein-energy supplementation at school showed an increase in weight gain during supplementation, as well as improvements in school attendance and mathematics scores (46, 95). However, the impact of supplementation on micronutrient deficiencies and, specifically, hemoglobin concentration, was limited (46).
Eating healthy is important for a woman’s body and mind. But what does eating healthy mean? On the internet, in books and journals, there is a wealth of nutrition information at your fingertips. Important dietary needs include carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. Having a balanced diet and physical activity plan can help keep you ready for class demands and activities on campus. To get the basics on nutritional needs, visit the websites listed below. Please note, every body has different nutrient needs. The major nutrients benefiting women’s health are listed on this page.

Don’t fear the fats! Healthy fats provide the structural component to many cell membranes which are essential for cellular development and carrying various messages (hormones) through our body quickly. Protein is also responsible for hormone production, so it’s important for women to get foods that will provide you with healthy fats and protein. Women’s cycles can also deplete your body of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and magnesium so you should be aware of your whole food intake and possibly choose to supplement (see above for more if it’s right for you).
Much of the sugar we eat is added to other foods, such as regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, puddings, ice cream and baked goods, to name just a few. Soft drinks and other sugary beverages are the No. 1 offenders in American diets. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar, exceeding the daily maximum amount recommended for women.
Folate or vitamin B9 (also known as folic acid when used in fortified foods or taken as a supplement) is another nutrient that many women don’t get enough of in their diets. Folate can greatly reduce the chance of neurological birth defects when taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Folate can also lower a woman’s risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer, so even if you’re not planning on getting pregnant (and many pregnancies are unplanned), it’s an essential nutrient for every woman of childbearing age. In later life, folate can help your body manufacture estrogen during menopause.
Almost 25% of women will experience mental health issues over their lifetime.[126] Women are at higher risk than men from anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic complaints.[17] Globally, depression is the leading disease burden. In the United States, women have depression twice as often as men. The economic costs of depression in American women are estimated to be $20 billion every year. The risks of depression in women have been linked to changing hormonal environment that women experience, including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause.[119] Women also metabolise drugs used to treat depression differently to men.[119][127] Suicide rates are less in women than men (<1% vs. 2.4%),[27][28] but are a leading cause of death for women under the age of 60.[17]
WHO (1948). "WHO definition of Health". Archived from the original (Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19–22 June 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.) on 7 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016., in WHO (2016)
After 40, your hormone levels (estrogen) drop. This causes your insulin (hormone that helps your body use sugar) rise. Your thyroid levels go down. This combination makes you hungrier. You end up eating more and burning fewer calories. Much of the weight gain occurs around your belly. Eat more foods with fiber (berries, whole grains, nuts) to fill you up and help you eat less. Aim for 25 grams of fiber each day after the age of 40. Other ways to increase your metabolism include:
Consult your health care professional. Women of childbearing age may want to consider taking folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of having a pregnancy affected with neural tube defects. Many women and teenage girls don't get enough calcium or vitamin D, both of which are critical to healthy bones and avoiding osteoporosis. Some people with diabetes appear to benefit from chromium. Vegetarians, especially vegans, may want to consider supplements to obtain nutrients they aren't getting from animal products.
Don’t fear the fats! Healthy fats provide the structural component to many cell membranes which are essential for cellular development and carrying various messages (hormones) through our body quickly. Protein is also responsible for hormone production, so it’s important for women to get foods that will provide you with healthy fats and protein. Women’s cycles can also deplete your body of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and magnesium so you should be aware of your whole food intake and possibly choose to supplement (see above for more if it’s right for you).

  Home visits  ↑/NC knowledge about hygiene and sanitation, ↑ hand-washing, ↑ water quality, ↓/NC diarrheal morbidity, ↓ intestinal parasite prevalence  ↑/NC knowledge about hygiene and sanitation, ↑ hand-washing, ↑ water quality, ↓/NC diarrheal morbidity, ↓ intestinal parasite prevalence  ↓ maternal mortality, ↑/NC knowledge about hygiene and sanitation, ↑/NC hand-washing, ↑ water quality, NC waste disposal, ↓/NC diarrheal morbidity, ↓ intestinal parasite prevalence  ↑/NC knowledge about hygiene and sanitation, ↑ hand-washing, ↑ water quality, ↓/NC diarrheal morbidity, ↓ intestinal parasite prevalence 
Low-fat diets also can help you lose weight.16 But the amount of weight lost is usually small. You can lose weight and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke if you follow an overall healthy pattern of eating that includes more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans that are high in fiber, nuts, low-fat dairy and fish, in addition to staying away from trans fat and saturated fat.
Interventions resulting in public infrastructure changes were found to be less effective than household-based interventions; however, both are important aspects of improved health outcomes for women (128, 130). Public water infrastructure requires regular maintenance and periodic replacement and water from these sources is often contaminated (130). However, even public water points that provide good-quality water have had minimal impacts on health outcomes (136). One review estimated that water-source interventions were associated with a 27% reduction in diarrhea risk at all ages, whereas household-based interventions were associated with a 43% reduction (128). This could be associated with bias and confounding, as measuring WASH outcomes is not a blinded process (128). The differential impact could also be related to practice. As compared with public water sources, home water connections were associated with greater odds of handwashing and fecal waste disposal (136). As a significant portion of diarrheal disease is a result of person-to-person transmission and poor hygiene, interventions that improve domestic hygiene behaviors can have a significant impact (136). Behavior change communication and resource provision, e.g., soap and point-of-use water treatment resources, were also important and sustainable aspects of WASH interventions (131, 137).
A healthy vegetarian diet falls within the guidelines offered by the USDA. However, meat, fish and poultry are major sources of iron, zinc and B vitamins, so pay special attention to these nutrients. Vegans (those who eat only plant-based food) may want to consider vitamin and mineral supplements; make sure you consume sufficient quantities of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium. You can obtain what you need from non-animal sources. For instance:
Before and during pregnancy. You need more of certain nutrients than usual to support your health and your baby’s development. These nutrients include protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. Many doctors recommend prenatal vitamins or a folic acid supplement during this time. Many health insurance plans also cover folic acid supplements prescribed by your doctor during pregnancy. You also need to avoid some foods, such as certain kinds of fish. Learn more about healthy eating during pregnancy in our Pregnancy section.
Osteoporosis ranks sixth amongst chronic diseases of women in the United States, with an overall prevalence of 18%, and a much higher rate involving the femur, neck or lumbar spine amongst women (16%) than men (4%), over the age of 50 (Gronowski and Schindler, Table IV).[6][7][128] Osteoporosis is a risk factor for bone fracture and about 20% of senior citizens who sustain a hip fracture die within a year.[6] [129] The gender gap is largely the result of the reduction of estrogen levels in women following the menopause. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been shown to reduce this risk by 25–30%,[130] and was a common reason for prescribing it during the 1980s and 1990s. However the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study that demonstrated that the risks of HRT outweighed the benefits[131] has since led to a decline in HRT usage.
 Micronutrient supplementation 	Health clinics 	↓ anemia and Fe-deficiency anemia, ↑ Hgb, ↓ soil-transmitted helminth infection, ↑ cognitive function 	↓ anemia and Fe-deficiency anemia, ↑ Hgb, ↑ serum ferritin, ↓ soil-transmitted helminth infection 	↓/NC anemia, ↑/NC MN status (Hgb, folate, zinc, retinol), ↑ MN status [ferritin, B-12, 25(OH)D], ↓/NC gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia, NC gestational diabetes, ↓/NC hyperthyroidism, ↓/NC night blindness, ↓ bone mineral content, ↑ weight gain (among underweight women), ↓ maternal mortality, ↓/NC placental malaria, NC parasitemia, NC maternal infection, ↓/NC depression and perceived stress 	 

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world and the most common among women. It is also among the ten most common chronic diseases of women, and a substantial contributor to loss of quality of life (Gronowski and Schindler, Table IV).[6] Globally, it accounts for 25% of all cancers. In 2016, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in both developed and developing countries, accounting for nearly 30% of all cases, and worldwide accounts for one and a half million cases and over half a million deaths, being the fifth most common cause of cancer death overall and the second in developed regions. Geographic variation in incidence is the opposite of that of cervical cancer, being highest in Northern America and lowest in Eastern and Middle Africa, but mortality rates are relatively constant, resulting in a wide variance in case mortality, ranging from 25% in developed regions to 37% in developing regions, and with 62% of deaths occurring in developing countries.[17][122]

The major differences in life expectancy for women between developed and developing countries lie in the childbearing years. If a woman survives this period, the differences between the two regions become less marked, since in later life non-communicable diseases (NCDs) become the major causes of death in women throughout the world, with cardiovascular deaths accounting for 45% of deaths in older women, followed by cancer (15%) and lung disease (10%). These create additional burdens on the resources of developing countries. Changing lifestyles, including diet, physical activity and cultural factors that favour larger body size in women, are contributing to an increasing problem with obesity and diabetes amongst women in these countries and increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease and other NCDs.[11][20]


Part of the reason why so many women fail to get the amount of iron they need is because one of the best sources of iron is red meat (especially liver) which also contains high levels of saturated fat. While leafy green vegetables and beans are also good sources of iron—and don’t contain high levels saturated fat—the iron from plant foods is different to the iron from animal sources, and not absorbed as well by the body. Other foods rich in iron include poultry, seafood, dried fruit such as raisins and apricots, and iron-fortified cereals, breads, and pastas.


There remain significant barriers to accessing contraception for many women in both developing and developed regions. These include legislative, administrative, cultural, religious and economic barriers in addition to those dealing with access to and quality of health services. Much of the attention has been focussd on preventing adolescent pregnancy. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has identified a number of key barriers, on both the supply and demand side, including internalising socio-cultural values, pressure from family members, and cognitive barriers (lack of knowledge), which need addressing.[67][68] Even in developed regions many women, particularly those who are disadvantaged, may face substantial difficulties in access that may be financial and geographic but may also face religious and political discrimination.[69] Women have also mounted campaigns against potentially dangerous forms of contraception such as defective intrauterine devices (IUD)s, particularly the Dalkon Shield.[70]
  Home visits  ↓/NC anemia, ↑/NC Hgb, ↑ serum ferritin, ↑/NC serum retinol, ↓ vitamin A deficiency  ↓/NC anemia and Fe-deficiency anemia, ↑/NC Hgb, ↑/NC serum ferritin, ↑ serum folate, ↑ serum zinc, NC serum retinol  ↓ anemia, ↑ Hgb, ↑ serum ferritin, ↑/NC serum retinol, ↑ erythrocyte thiamine diphosphate concentrations, ↓ night blindness, ↑/NC weight gain  ↓ anemia, ↑/NC Hgb, ↑ serum ferritin, NC serum retinol, ↑ serum calcium, ↑ 25(OH)D concentrations, ↓ PTH, ↓ bone turnover 
Globally, women's access to health care remains a challenge, both in developing and developed countries. In the United States, before the Affordable Health Care Act came into effect, 25% of women of child-bearing age lacked health insurance.[176] In the absence of adequate insurance, women are likely to avoid important steps to self care such as routine physical examination, screening and prevention testing, and prenatal care. The situation is aggravated by the fact that women living below the poverty line are at greater risk of unplanned pregnancy, unplanned delivery and elective abortion. Added to the financial burden in this group are poor educational achievement, lack of transportation, inflexible work schedules and difficulty obtaining child care, all of which function to create barriers to accessing health care. These problems are much worse in developing countries. Under 50% of childbirths in these countries are assisted by healthcare providers (e.g. midwives, nurses, doctors) which accounts for higher rates of maternal death, up to 1:1,000 live births. This is despite the WHO setting standards, such as a minimum of four antenatal visits.[177] A lack of healthcare providers, facilities, and resources such as formularies all contribute to high levels of morbidity amongst women from avoidable conditions such as obstetrical fistulae, sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer.[6]
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