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But when puberty begins, women start to develop unique nutritional requirements. And as we age and our bodies go through more physical and hormonal changes, so our nutritional needs continue to evolve, making it important that our diets evolve to meet these changing needs.
While women tend to need fewer calories than men, our 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, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B9 folate.
In the past, women have often tried to make up deficits in their diet through the use of vitamins and supplements. To ensure you get all the nutrients you need from the food you eat, try to aim for a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, quality protein, healthy fatsand low in processed, fried, and sugary foods. Calcium deficiency can lead to, or exacerbate, mood problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. Calcium: For adult women agedthe U. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, certain fish, grains, tofu, cabbage, and summer squash.
Magnesium: Magnesium increases calcium absorption form the blood into the bone. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, summer squash, broccoli, halibut, cucumber, green beans, celery, and a variety of seeds. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is also crucial to the proper metabolism of calcium. Aim for IU international units daily. You can get Vitamin D from about half an hour of direct sunlight, and from foods such as salmon, shrimp, vitamin-D fortified milk, cod, and eggs.
To learn about good sources of these nutrients, see Calcium and Bone Health. Some of the best sources of calcium are dairy products.
However, dairy products such as whole milk, cheese, and yogurt also tend to contain high levels of saturated fat. Just be aware that reduced fat dairy Slim to average girl needed often contain lots of added sugar, which can have negative effects on both your health and waistline.
In addition to diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors can also play an important role in bone health. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, while weight-bearing exercise such as walkingdancing, yoga, or lifting weights can lower your risk.
Strength or resistance training —using machines, free weights, elastic bands, or your own body weight—can be especially effective in helping to prevent loss of bone mass as you age. Iron helps to create the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood.
Due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women of childbearing age need more than twice the amount of iron that men do—even more during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Anemia can deplete your energy, leaving you feeling weak, exhausted, and out of breath after even minimal physical activity. Iron deficiency can also impact your mood, causing depression-like symptoms such as irritability and difficulty concentrating.
For adolescent women agedthe U. Food and Nutrition Board FNB recommended daily amount is 15 mg 27 mg if pregnant, 10 mg if lactating. Part of the reason why so many women fail to get the amount of iron they need is because one of the best sources of iron is red meat especially liver which also contains high levels of saturated fat. Other foods rich in iron include poultry, seafood, dried fruit such as raisins and apricots, and iron-fortified cereals, bre, and pastas.
Folate can greatly reduce the chance of neurological birth defects when taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. In later life, folate can help your body manufacture estrogen during menopause. Not getting enough folate in your diet can also impact your mood, leaving you feeling irritable and fatigued, affecting your concentration, and making you more susceptible to depression and headaches. The U. Food and Drug Administration FDA recommends that all women and teen girls who could become pregnant consume mcg micrograms of folate or folic acid daily.
Women who are pregnant should take mcg, and those breastfeeding mcg. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, fruit and fruit juice, nuts, beans and peas. Folic acid is also added to enrich many grain-based products such as cereals, bread, and pasta. Experiencing bloating, cramping, and fatigue during the week or so before Slim to average girl needed period is often due to fluctuating hormones. Your diet can play an important role in alleviating these and other symptoms of PMS. Eat foods high in iron and zinc.
Some women find that foods such as red meat, liver, eggs, leafy green veggies, and dried fruit can help ease the symptoms of PMS. Boost your calcium intake. Several studies have highlighted the role calcium-rich foods—such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables—play in relieving PMS symptoms. Avoid trans fats, deep fried foods, and sugar. All are inflammatory, which can trigger PMS symptoms. Battle bloat by cutting out salt.
If you tend to retain water and experiencing bloating, avoiding salty snacks, frozen dinners, and processed foods can Slim to average girl needed a big difference. Watch out for food sensitivities. PMS is a common symptom of food sensitivities. Common culprits include dairy and wheat. Try cutting out the suspected food and see if it makes a difference in your symptoms. Cut out caffeine and alcohol. Both worsen PMS symptoms, so avoid them during this time in your cycle. Consider vitamin supplements. For some women, taking a daily multivitamin or supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E may help relieve cramps.
But, again, supplements are not a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet. Add essential fatty acids to ease cramps. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with cramps. See if eating more fish or flaxseed eases your PMS symptoms.
You only need about extra calories per day to provide sufficient nutrition for your growing baby. However, gaining some weight is natural during pregnancy, and nursing can help with weight loss after the baby is born.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the neurological and early visual development of your baby and for making breast milk after birth. Aim for two weekly servings of cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, or anchovies.
Sardines are widely considered the safest and most sustainable fish to eat, while seaweed is a rich vegetarian source of Omega-3s. Cut down on caffeinewhich has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and can interfere with iron absorption. Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than a few large ones. This will help prevent and reduce morning sickness and heartburn. Be cautious about foods that may be harmful to pregnant women.
These include soft cheeses, sushi, deli meats, raw sprouts, and fish such as albacore tuna, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel that contain high levels of mercury. Opt for high-quality protein from fish, poultry, dairy, and plant-based protein sources rather than relying on just red meat.
Keep your caloric consumption a little higher to help your body maintain a steady milk supply. Emphasize healthy sources of protein and calciumwhich are higher in demand during lactation. Nursing women need about 20 grams more high-quality protein a day than they did before pregnancy to support milk production. Take prenatal vitamin supplementswhich are still helpful during breastfeeding, unless your physician tells you otherwise. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and Slim to average girl needed.
Just as with the pregnancy guidelines above, refrain from drinking and smoking, and reduce your caffeine intake.
If your baby develops an allergic reaction, you may need to adjust your diet. For up to a decade prior to menopause, your reproductive system prepares to retire and your body shifts its production of hormones. By eating especially well as you menopausal years, you can ease common symptoms. Boost calcium intake along with vitamin D and magnesium to support bone health and prevent osteoporosis. Eat more good fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids can help boost hormone production and give your skin a healthy glow.
Evening primrose oil and blackcurrant oil are good sources of gamma-linolenic acid GLAan essential fatty acid that can help balance your hormones and alleviate hot flashes. Slim to average girl needed flaxseed for hot flashes. Flaxseed is rich in lignans, which help stabilize hormone levels and manage hot flashes.
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your daily diet. Try sprinkling it on soups, sal, or main dishes. Eat more soy. Soy products are high in phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogens that are similar to estrogen produced by the body. Some studies suggest that soy may help manage menopausal symptoms. Try natural soy sources such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and soy nuts. Authors: Melinda Smith, M. National Institutes of Health. Iron Deficiency Anemia — Symptoms and causes of iron deficiency anemia. Mayo Clinic.
Folate Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet — Outlines the recommended intakes of folate as well as good food sources. Eating Healthy During Pregnancy — Offers breakdowns of food groups with suggestions for food choices during pregnancy. March of Dimes. Foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy — Details the different foods considered to be potentially dangerous during pregnancy, and explains Slim to average girl needed these foods may pose a threat.
Diet tips to boost fertility If you are planning a pregnancy, as well as getting sufficient folate in your diet, consider: Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, as they are known to decrease fertility. Eating organic foods and grass-fed or free-range meat and eggs, in order to limit pollutants and pesticides that may interfere with fertility.
Taking a prenatal supplement. The most important supplements for fertility are folic acid, zinc, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C. Get more help. National Institutes of Health Eating Healthy During Pregnancy — Offers breakdowns of food groups with suggestions for food choices during pregnancy.Slim to average girl needed
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Healthy Eating and Diet Tips for Women