‘A woman’s health is her capital.’ as quoted by Harriet Beecher Stowe, famous American author, highlights the importance of protecting women’s health. A Balanced, Moderate & Variety (BMV) diet and an active lifestyle are the essential components of building and maintaining optimal health for both women and men. As children, both genders generally have the same nutrition needs. However, girls and women will start to require different nutritional needs as puberty begins, along with body and hormonal changes. In this article, we will point out some of the key nutrients that are vital at stages of women’s lives.
01. Variety – The Spice of Life
Women, like men should enjoy various types of healthful foods from all food groups such as wholegrains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats and fruits & vegetables. Different food groups provide different combination of nutrients and calories. A plate full of one food group is not suitable as it may lack certain nutrients. A healthy eating plan includes:
- Avoid meal skipping and take 3 main meals regularly every day.
- Consume at least half of the grains from wholegrains.
- Aim for 1 serving (palm size) of protein in each main meal such as lean meat, fish or chicken.
- Focus on fiber intake with consumption of at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits daily.
- Cut down sugar, salt and fat intake.
- WHO recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10 percent of daily calories (Should not exceed 5-10 teaspoons per day).
- Replace salt with natural herbs and spices during meal preparation.
- Opt for low fat or fat-free foods, replace high saturated fat foods (foods from animal sources) with sources of unsaturated fats (vegetable oils, oily fish, nuts & seeds).
02. Be Iron Women!
Iron is an essential component of haemoglobin, an erythrocyte (red blood cell) protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Iron becomes vital nutrient to be restored especially when girls begin to menstruate. With each period, a woman loses iron through menstrual blood loss. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, which is when the body lacks sufficient red blood cells for oxygen transport. Symptoms of anemia can be lethargy, weakness, shortness of breath and dizziness. Food sources which are high in iron include oyster, clams, shrimps, eggs, chicken, lentils, spinach and iron-fortified cereals. It is important to incorporate these food sources into daily diet.
03. Calcium Up & Vitamin D for the Boost!
Women need to take a variety of calcium rich foods to ensure healthy bone & teeth formation and eventually reduce the risk of osteoporosis (a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily). Aside from milk and dairy products, fish with edible bones such as canned sardines and anchovies, beans and bean products including yellow dhal, tofu and tempeh (fermented soybeans), as well as vegetables like spinach, watercress, mustard leaves, tapioca leaves, ‘kai-lan’ and broccoli are high in calcium too. To ensure calcium is fully absorbed into the body, Vitamin D is important in this role. Sunlight is the main source of Vitamin D hence soaking some morning sun maybe ideal, because the Sun in the mid noon can be detrimental to skin health. One can also achieve Vitamin D intake from food sources including fatty fish such as salmon, eggs, milk and dairy products.
04. Get the Best from Vitamin B12!
Also known as cobalamin. Vitamin B12 plays a huge role in the formation of red blood cells in the body. Normal red blood cells are small and round. When one is deficient of Vitamin B12, the red blood cells will become bigger and abnormal in shape, hence they cannot pass through blood stream. This condition is known as megaloblastic anemia. Lack of oxygen transport can make one lethargic and deprived of energy. Furthermore, vitamin B12 aids in the prevention of major birth defects of the foetus for pregnancy. Foetus’s brain and nervous system requires a sufficient amount of Vitamin B12 from the mother to develop properly. Women should also be delighted as Vitamin B12 can help to support healthy skin, hair and nails. Food sources containing high Vitamin B12 include animal products such as meat, poultry, fish and milk, dairy products, and animal organs.
05. Lead an Active Lifestyle!
Women tend to have lower muscle, but higher fat percentage than men. Therefore, women are prone to diseases which are associated with inadequate physical activities, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and breast cancer. Thus, regular physical activities for at least 30 mins daily help to improve women’s health and prevent non-communicable diseases. One can go for brisk walking, swimming, yoga or even occupational activities which suits your daily lifestyle.
What works best for a woman may not always be the suitable choice for another woman. It’s essential to focus on the choices and make small changes in daily diet. These nutrition tips will help women to stay healthy and vibrant throughout their glorious life. The true beauty of one woman is her health, so it’s time to rethink as a healthy outside comes from the inside!