written by Gitanjali Jaswal, SPORTS NUTRITIONIST on Dec 28, 2017 in NUTRITION
A READY RECKONER ON WOMEN NUTRITION
Nutrition plays a very important role in women‘s life. Their nutritional needs change during menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. The hormonal changes associated with various stages of their life, decide what kind of food or supplement they should be having.
Key nutrition for women is Folate, Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin-C, Iodine, Omega-3 fatty acid, and Fiber.
1. Folate: Folate is the bioavailable, natural form of vitamin B9 found in a variety of plant and animal foods. Folic acid, while readily utilized by the body, is the synthetic form of the vitamin; it's primarily found in supplements and fortified foods. Folic acid helps in the formation of red blood cells. Its deficiency causes anemia in both adults and children. In pregnant women, it prevents certain birth defects. Folic acid also lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that has been linked to dementia, cognitive impairment, stroke, and heart disease. Food Sources: dark, leafy greens vegetables like spinach, kale mustard greens, turnip greens and lettuce, citrus fruits like orange, nuts& seeds, beans, peas, Beetroot, carrot, lady finger, avocado, broccoli, papaya, grapefruit, grapes, banana, cantaloupe, and strawberries. Folic acid is also found in fortified bread, cereals, and pasta.
2. Calcium: Calcium promotes bone growth and prevents osteoporosis or bone loss. Calcium is also very important for proper functioning of our nerves and muscles. Food Sources: Low-fat dairy products, oranges, soya, soya milk, figs almonds and some greens like spinach, kale, celery, and broccoli.But supplements also can help you meet your daily requirement.
3. Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. That's why you often find calcium-rich foods fortified with vitamin D. Calcium is one of the main building blocks of bone. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis or rickets. Vitamin D also has a role in your nerve, muscle, and immune systems. You get Vitamin D -through your skin (exposure to the sun), from your diet, and from supplements. Vitamin D-rich foods include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver.
4. Iron: Iron is an essential trace mineral which needed only in small amounts, but it plays a major role in how the body works and how you feel. Without adequate iron, the body can’t make red blood cells to carry oxygen, and you may feel more tired than usual, frequently dizzy or out of breath. Consistently low levels of iron can cause anemia. Food sources: There are two forms of iron: heme iron, found in animal foods such as red meat, fish, Oysters and poultry; and non-heme iron, found in plant foods such as Rajmah (kidney beans), Lentils, chickpeas, spinach, nuts, seeds, broccoli etc. To help increase absorption, eat food sources of non-heme iron along with foods that contain high levels of vitamin C.
5.Vitamin C: Vitamin C is probably best known as an antioxidant. Vitamin C is required to produce collagen, a protein that plays a critical role in the framework for our skin and our bones, and without it, we would quite literally fall apart. Collagen helps to give our skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing the dead skin cells thus helps in slowing down skin aging. Vitamin C is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the signals that carry thoughts, feelings, and commands around our brains and throughout our nervous system. Food Sources: Indian gooseberry (Amla) is one of the best natural sources of vitamin-C. Citrus fruits like, Oranges, grapefruit, lemon and non-citrus fruits like Papaya, strawberries, pineapple, Guava, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, and raspberries are also excellent vitamin C sources. Vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower also have a good amount of vitamin-C.
6. Fiber: Soluble Fiber-rich foods help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Non-soluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Apart from these benefits, fiber also helps in reducing two common concerns for many women―energy and weight control. Fibrous foods do not have any calories and keep you full for longer time.They are digested slowly, so they sustain energy levels for long periods of time. Food sources: Soluble fiber - oats, peas, beans, apples, pears, berries, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, soybean, chia, broccoli, carrots, and psyllium, etc. Insoluble fiber - whole grain foods, oatmeal and beans. Potato and tomato skins, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini and celery have both types of fibers.
7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the "good" fats as they decrease triglycerides, boost good HDL cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure-all of which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. They also have anti-inflammatory effect so they help in reducing the cellular inflammation that can worsen conditions from arthritis to heart disease. They are essential fatty acids as they cannot be made in the body, so we have to maintain everyday supply through the diet. Food Sources: Fish is the best source. Wild salmon, halibut, non-white tuna, sardines, herring, and anchovies are high in omega-3.Plant sources are flaxseed, almond, soya bean, chia seeds, walnut, pumpkin seeds. Dietary supplements are also an option; you can also go for fish oil capsules /cod liver oil.
8. Iodine: Iodine is needed for the normal metabolism. Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Slow metabolism leads to weight gain. Iodine is required for normal thyroid function, and for the production of thyroid hormones. Reduced thyroxin levels lead to hypothyroid.Hypothyroid is very common now a day in women.So keep your iodine levels best and lifestyle healthy. Food Sources: Iodized salt is the main food source of iodine. Seafood is naturally rich in iodine. Cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch are good sources. Kelp is the most common vegetable-seafood that is a rich source of iodine. Dairy products also contain iodine. Other good sources are plants grown in iodine-rich soil.
9. Zinc: Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes, and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for proper sense of taste and smell. A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system. Food Sources: Oysters, Wheat Germ, lamb, beef, pumpkin & squash seeds, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, low-fat yogurt, milk, chicken breast, cheddar cheese, mozzarella, watermelon seeds, alfalfa sprouts, seaweed (kelp), green peas, sesame seeds (tahini). If women are aware of the importance of various above-mentioned nutrients in their life they are not only able to incorporate them judiciously in their day to day diet but are also able to match their intake with their health goals. In today’s hectic lifestyle, balanced and informed diet combined with a generous dose of daily exercise is a sure shot way of keeping one’s immunity level as well as energy levels high. So all you pretty ladies out there, remember, it’s not only important to know how much you eat but also what all should you eat!!!