By Eisla Sebastian, Contributing writer

Women have special nutritional needs that are different from those of men.

Studies by the Harvard Medical School show that women understand that they need nutrients such as calcium, folic acid and iron, but most women are not getting enough of five very important nutrients.

Potassium to counteracts the health problems created by excess sodium.

Today's women are very active and don't usually have the time to cook meals from scratch. Unfortunately, this means that many women are relying on prepackaged meals that contain a lot of sodium.

According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, by increasing your potassium intake to the maximum dose recommended for women -- about 3,500 mg per day -- you can reduce your chances for strokes, kidney disease and heart disease by up to 28 percent.

Magnesium is another nutrient that many women fail to get enough of. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, it can be used to lower women's risks of colon cancer by up to 23 percent.

Magnesium also can help to maintain bone strength, regulate your blood pressure and improve bone and muscle function. The recommended dose of magnesium for women in their 20s is about 310 mg, while women 30 and older need about 320 mg.

Vitamin E, an antioxidant, offers women many health benefits. According to the University Medical Center in Chicago, consuming 20 mg of vitamin E a day can lower a woman's risk for Alzheimer's disease by up to 26 percent.

In addition to this great benefit, vitamin E also can help your skin to look better, as well as improve your overall health and resilience to disease by up to 18 percent.

Vitamin D is commonly used to help women's bodies absorb calcium more effectively, according to an article in Shape magazine.

However, this nutrient also can help to reduce the severity of PMS symptoms, alleviate chronic pain and help to prevent some types of cancers and heart disease. To get the most from this nutrient, you will need 1,000 to 2,000 international units, or IUs, of vitamin D a day.

Perhaps one of the most important nutrients that a woman can add to her diet is omega-3 fatty acids, which include ALA, DHA and EPA. These nutrients are vital to combating many common health concerns that women have.

For example, according to Shape magazine, omega-3 fatty acids help to control inflammation, prevent breast cancer and depression and help to prevent heart disease.

When planning a new diet or looking for a multivitamin, you will want to select items that provide you with a high dose of omega-3s, as you will need about 500 mg a day to reap the full benefits from this nutrient.

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