Tammy is a nutritionist based in Melbourne and here she shares what foods are important to a woman's diet.
In today’s world, our lives are busier than ever before. As women, we have to balance competing demands, whether it be our family, work or studies, and then on top of all this are the external pressures from the media and society to look a certain way. Unfortunately for many women we end up putting energy into everything but ourselves and get into thought patterns that don’t serve us, all of which can put our health at risk.
More so than ever before, we know the benefits of eating a balanced, nutritious diet and for a woman, this is especially important. Eating a nutritious and healthy balanced diet is not only important for weight loss but also boosts our energy levels, help balance our hormones and fight disease. No matter what stage of life we are at, consuming the right amount of vitamins and minerals can support our body to function at its best.
It is important to note that a woman’s nutrition needs to differ to men’s. In fact, these differences start as early as puberty. It’s at this life stage that our bodies start to go through physical and hormonal changes which require a balanced and healthy diet. Our need for some vitamins increase. Starting menstruation during puberty is one example when a woman experiences an increased need for more iron. Going through menopause is another example, where a woman has an increased need for calcium.
Following are nutrition tips for women to ensure they consume the right amounts of some of the most vital and essential vitamins to support our bodies to function at their best:
We need calcium for a number of reasons including to build healthy bones, regulate our heart’s rhythm and promote proper nervous system functioning. Calcium deficiency has many detrimental effects and when we lack calcium in our diets, our bodies start to use our bones calcium stores. This leads to weakened bones, a condition most of us are familiar with; osteoporosis. Women have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis when compared to men.
The recommended intake of calcium for the average adult women aged between 18 and 50 years old is 1,000 mg/day and women over this age bracket, are recommended to consume 1,200 mg/day.
Dairy products such as yoghurt and milk are good sources of calcium. Other adequate sources include dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and high fibre grains such as oatmeal.
Iron is made up haemoglobin which helps carries oxygen around our bodies. Due to excess amounts of blood lost during menstruation, which occurs every month, and which can start from as early as 10 years of age, women need more iron than men. For an adolescent female, the recommended daily intake is 15mg/day and for adult women the recommended daily intake is 18 mg/day.
Be sure to include plenty of high iron foods in your diet, including nuts and sunflower seeds, beef and other meats, lamb, whole grains, beans and dark leafy greens such as spinach. Iron is best absorbed from heme (meat) sources, compared to non-heme (plant).
3. Folate (Folic Acid)
Folate or folic acid is part of the vitamin B group. Folate is essential for overall health but it is even more so required when considering becoming pregnant as folate deficiency is known to increase the risk of neurological birth defects. That said, folate offers so many more benefits and is believed to fight against cancers, heart disease and estrogen deficiency. The recommended intake on a daily basis is 400mcg. When considering pregnancy, adult women should consume 600mcg.
Foods high in folate include nuts, beans and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale. Nowadays, folic acid can be found in grain-based products such as fortified cereals, bread and pasta.
Good nutrition is important for a woman because it helps you lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Combined with an active lifestyle and healthy mindset, a nutritionally appropriate diet can offer many health benefits for women of all ages, such as improved mood and hormone regulation. Good nutrition is also adequate for maintaining a healthy weight and promoting overall good health.
Diet recommendations and needs will vary among individuals and existing health conditions and medication statuses need to be considered. Consult with your healthcare professional before making any dramatic changes to your diet.