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Living ‘in the pink’

Living ‘in the pink’

Being a lady entails lots of privileges, but also requires lots of hard work, from trying to balance the demands of family and work or school, to coping with media pressure to look a certain way; and to top it all, women need to maintain a healthy diet to meet their specific body requirements. The right food can not only support your mood, boost your energy and help you maintain a healthy weight, it can help reduce PMS, boost fertility, make pregnancy and nursing easier, ease symptoms of menopause, and keep your bones strong. Whatever your age or situation, committing to a healthy, nutritious diet will help you look and feel your best and get the most out of life.

While women tend to need fewer calories than men, their requirements for certain vitamins and minerals are much higher. Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, child-bearing and menopause mean that women have a higher risk of anemia, weakened bones and osteoporosis, requiring a higher intake of nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B9 (folate).

Keeping in mind that what works best for one woman may not always be the best choice for another, the important thing is to build your dietary choices around your vital nutritional needs. The following nutrition tips can help you to stay healthy and vibrant throughout your ever-changing life.

  • Folic acid: Especially at the child bearing ages, this form of B vitamin helps prevent neural tube defects. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid. Most women get enough as part of their diet through foods such as leafy greens, asparagus, beans and chicken liver.
  • B12: Like folic acid, B12 is essential for healthy nervous system development and function. Women who are vegan or vegetarian may fall short on B12, since it is present in animal protein and to a lesser extent in dairy.
  • Choline: Eggs are an excellent source of choline. Other choline-rich food sources include milk, liver and peanuts.
  • Omega-3s: These essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA, found mainly in fatty fish such as salmon, nuts and avocados, play many roles in the body, including building healthy brain and nerve cells. They also reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Vitamin D: Over the past decade, dozens of studies have revealed many important roles for vitamin D, the nutrient that skin cells produce when they are exposed to sunlight, from healthy bones, to better mood and better weight control. While the sun is the best source of this vitamin, it is present in some foods such as dairy and fish with bones like sardines.
  • Calcium: Adult women should aim for between 1,000 mg and 1,300 mg of calcium a day. While milk and dairy products remain the best source for calcium, it is also present in a variety of other food sources such as kale, sardines and broccoli.
  • Iron: Adult women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 18 mg a day; this quantity almost doubles for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Best food sources of iron include animal meat sources (red meat, seafood and poultry), beans and green leafy vegetables.

In conclusion, some practical tips to ensure optimal health:

  1. Avoid food and drinks that are high in sugar such as sodas, sports drinks, cakes, pies and cookies that are very high in empty calories and fat, and low in important nutrients.
  2. Eat more plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, peas, beans, lentils. These are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients which help to protect the cells in the body from damage and help boost the immune system.
  3. Limit processed meats that are generally smoked, cured or salted. Processing of cold cuts, sausage and hot dogs adds cancer-causing substances like salt or sodium nitrite. Further, they are linked to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes risk.
  4. Limit the use of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium). Too much salt may increase the risk of stomach cancer as well as high blood pressure. Salt in the diet should be less than 2,400 milligrams a day; about one teaspoon. Cut back on the added salt in cooking and avoid salty foods and snacks.

Finally, focus on Phytonutrients and antioxidants since they are the center of youth for women, improving overall health and keeping the cells protected from environmental damages; in addition to their cancer-fighting benefits. Plant foods are rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, C, E and beta carotene. These include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower. Other excellent sources are: green tea, grapes, berries, citrus fruits, apples, whole grains, soy and nuts.

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