Friday, October 22, 2010

Healthy Eating Tips for Women

Healthy Eating Tips for Women
For many working women, running a home, bringing up children and taking care of elderly leaves little or no time for themselves. Weight gain, breast cancer, iron deficiency; all these are either unique to women, or are more prevalent in women. But making simple changes to your diet can significantly improve your health, from easing your menstrual and menopausal symptoms to strengthening your bones and protecting your heart.
Healthy eating is a way of balancing the food you eat to keep your body strong, energized, and well nourished. Whatever your age, committing to a healthy diet will help you look and feel your best. Here are a few health tips especially for women:

Eat a well balanced diet:
Crisps, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, etc. do not constitute a balanced diet. Cut back on junk food and fast food takeaways. Junk food not only causes excessive weight gain, it can also bring the added annoyance of acne, headaches, cavities and bad moods. Try to have a myriad of healthy food like fruits, bread, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts etc.

More calcium:
Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis (brittle bones) and hence, require a lot of calcium to support their bone health. After the age of around 30, the bone mass start decreasing at a rate comparable to men. But after menopause, you lose bone mass 2 to 6 times faster due to the loss of estrogen, a female sex hormone which plays a key role in building and maintaining bone calcium. By getting enough of the nutrients that support bone health, you can maximize bone building when young and maintain strong bones at any age.

Increase the consumption of calcium-containing foods.
The calcium consumption should be stepped up even more when you're pregnant as you still need calcium for your body, plus extra calcium for your developing baby. Don't rely on dairy products alone for your calcium requirement as their animal fat and protein can accelerate bone loss. So, also include other sources of calcium like leafy green vegetables, cabbage, beans, tofu, fish, seeds and nuts. Along with calcium, include magnesium rich foods also as calcium can only work when taken in conjunction with magnesium. Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, oatmeal etc.

More vitamin D:
Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and is required for normal bone metabloism Apart from exposure to sunlight, good dietary sources of vitamin D are margarine, eggs and oily fish.

More Iron:
Many women don't get enough iron in their diet and on top of that, they lose a lot of it during menstruation (because of blood loss). Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells which helps in the transportation of oxygen throughout your body. Without enough iron, iron deficiency anemia can develop leading to symptoms like fatigue, pallor and headaches.For women, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron is 11 mg per day (which is 5 mg more than the RDA for men). You can get iron from both animal-based sources and plant-based sources. Animal products like meat, poultry and fish contain heme iron (a type of iron) which is easily absorbed into your system. Plant based sources like spinach, almonds, lentils, whole grains and iron-fortified cereals contain non-heme iron which is not as well absorbed as heme iron. By including foods containing vitamin C in your diet, you can substantially increases the amount iron absorbed from the plant sources.

Adequate protein:
Your muscles need protein, and cannot function properly without it. Meat, fish, nuts, pulses, chicken, and similar foods are high in protein. But don't overdo it as eating too much of animal-based protein can cause calcium loss, particularly in postmenopausal women. Over time, this could lead to a decrease in bone density and osteoporosis.

Include Soy:
Soy is a rich source of isoflovnes an estrogen-like substance found in plants. Some studies suggest that regularly eating moderate amounts of soy-based food products can help decrease menopausal symptoms. Try natural soy sources such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh and soy nuts.

More Folate:
Folate is a B-group vitamin which is important for women who are considering getting pregnant or are in early stage of pregnancy. Even women who aren't planning to have a baby should increase their folate intake as many pregnancies are unplanned and you don't find out that you are pregnant until a month into the pregnancy. Folate is essential in reducing the risk of having a pregnancy affected with spina bifida and other neural tube defects. You can increase folate in your diet by including green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, strawberries and legumes. You can also take folic acid supplements.

Cut down on saturated fat and trans fat:
 Rather than cutting fat completely from your diet, reduce the amount of bad type of fat you eat. Avoid food that is high in saturated fat and trans fat (especially junk food), and have foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead, such as vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil), oily fish, nuts and seeds. Saturated fat and trans fat can increase your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease and stroke. On the other hand, unsaturated fat - polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat - contribute to your health. They are essential for healthy brain function, glowing skin and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins.

Cut down on salt:
Fluid retention is common in the days leading up to a woman's period because certain hormones encourage the body to hold salt (sodium). Too much salt also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. You should aim for no more than 6g a day. Use herbs and spices instead of salt in cooking and be very sparing with salt.

Moderate Alcohol:
Drinking too much alcohol can, over time, damage your heart and raise your blood pressure. Also, drinking more than one drink per day increases the risks of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum to enjoy its benefits.

These are just some healthy eating tips to help you and other women stay in shape and enjoy life!

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