Essential nutrition for women’s wellbeing
Woman: a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother known for balancing responsibilities at home, work, multi-tasking all the time. She is always worried about the well-being of her family, often sacrificing, ignoring her aches and pains, health and diet. This month brings a focus on us women. So let us celebrate ourselves and all the beautiful phases that we go through in life. Let’s focus inwards, within ourselves and to what we put inside our bodies so that we remain healthy and take care of loved ones.
All babies are provided with adequate nutrition through their early life but girls hit their growth spurt earlier and their physical and mental developmental changes are faster than those of boys. Between the ages of 10 -17, girls need approximately 2100 to 2400 kcals/day. Once they start menstruating they need more iron, calcium and protein. This is the time when the groundwork of their health is being laid out for the rest of their life, hence supplementing their nutritional needs is very, very important.
Protein helps develop muscle mass, calcium, which is genetically low in Indian women builds bone strength and iron takes care of hemoglobin synthesis, mental function and body defense. Physical exercise strengthens bones and builds immunity. Adequate exposure to sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D, another essential factor.
Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, dates, jaggery, various nuts, roasted chana, ragi, milk, curd, cheese, paneer, eggs, chicken, liver, lentils, apples, watermelon, oranges.
Nutrition during Pregnancy
Twenties and thirties bring motherhood; we are at the prime of our health and tend to ignore the importance of maintening our health. A sedentary woman needs about 1800kcals/day to maintain and sustain her health. It’s in this phase that the stresses of work, social and family life starts showing up. Enter PMS or premenstrual syndrome causing hormonal changes. Diet helps control PMS and its severity.
Consume three servings of calcium and vitamin D along with lean protein. Keep a check on the amount of sugar and salt that you consume. Omega 3 fatty acids and magnesium lift one’s mood and help alleviate symptoms of grouchiness and PMS blues.
Food Sources: Low fat milk, curd, paneer, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds.
During motherhood, dispel the notion of eating for two. The baby seeks its nutrition from the mother’s reserves. Calorie needs and expenditure are high. Gaining up to 12-14 kgs through your pregnancy is ideal and necessary. A mother’s need for iron, calcium, vitamin B, folic acid and other macro and micro nutrients increases. Foods high in fiber and 10 -14 glasses of water should be consumed through the day. Supplementing iron with vitamin C rich foods helps in optimum absorption of iron.
Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, liver, eggs, lean chicken, amla, guava.
Menopause and post menopause
Around menopause and post menopause, hormonal changes play havoc with the body. Decrease in the production of estrogen leads to a lot of health issues for women. Osteoporosis, increased heart health risks, depression, risk to cancers, hot flashes are all linked to declining estrogen levels. During this time foods high in fiber and more plant based foods should be consumed. Food sources that are rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K should be included in the diet to maintain bone health.
Avoid foods containing phosphorous like aerated drinks, processed foods as they affect the integrity of the bone and lead to faster depletion of the minerals calcium and magnesium from the bones, further affecting bone health. Having foods rich in the mineral Boron is beneficial at this time. Also consume alkaline foods to prevent mineral loss.
Avoid spicy foods, hot beverages, and caffeine as they tend to trigger hot flashes. Instead try for cooler beverages like homemade iced tea, coconut water.
Weight bearing exercises are important too. Maintaining optimal diet and weight is very vital as hormonal imbalances tend to make it easier to gain weight, mainly around the middle. Healthy diet and physical activity not only helps lower cholesterol and lose weight but also reduces risks of breast cancer.
Food Sources: Nuts, legumes, apples, pears, dates, raisins, yogurt, broccoli.
Being a woman, looks are important for us. Healthy eating and leading a healthy life can help us enjoy life to the fullest. Starting good nutrition early in life, will help us reap the benefits later on. Remember “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT”
Ms. Nisha Singh
Nutritionist Nisha Singh is a gold medalist with over 10 years of independent experience of managing various ailments through lifestyle and dietary modifications, counselling of patients, diet and meal planning. She specializes in weight loss diets, pregnancy and post pregnancy diet plans, cardiac and lipid management, dealing with everyday diseases through dietary modification and health management of the athletes.
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