Drastic changes in lifestyle have increasingly affected people’s health and well-being. While eating well is an important requirement to stay healthy and avoid trips to the doctor, taking care of oneself takes a backseat due to the demanding and fast-paced lives that people live. We end up eating foods packed with unhealthy fats, and with no proper exercise, the body suffers.
Women are especially affected, with the biological changes that they have to go through. Menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause all take a toll on not just their physical but mental health too. They become more susceptible to disorders like depression, stress and frustration, and unhealthy food habits result in infertility, stillbirth of children, etc.
Which is why, this World Nutrition day, we focus on women’s nutritional intake and health. With inputs from Dr M Udaya Kumar Maiya, Medical Director, Portea Medical, here are five essential nutrients that women must include in their daily diet.
During menstrual cycles and parturition, women lose blood and thus their iron stores. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women across the world. To replenish the blood loss, women need to strictly include iron-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, liver, dark chocolate, tofu, whole grains, chicken, etc., in their diet regularly. Inadequate iron content in the body will lead to medical conditions like anaemia among women. Pregnant women must take special care to ensure intake of iron-rich foods on a daily basis.
Other good dietary iron sources are red meat, fish, fortified cereals, legumes and nuts.
VITAMIN B-GROUP RICH FOODS
In the days before menstrual cycle starts, the body tends to retain fluids. Excessive water in the body causes certain hormones causes the body to hold salt or sodium within. More the sodium content in the body, more fluid is retained. In such cases, it is ideal to increase the intake of Vitamin B-group rich foods, especially foods like pistachio nuts, liver, fish etc., rich in vitamin B6.
CALCIUM- AND ZINC-RICH FOODS
An increasing number of women suffer from PCOD (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome), a sedentary lifestyle disease that affects the menstrual cycles and the fertility of the women. To combat the disease, it is important for women to include calcium and zinc-rich foods like yogurt, kale, almonds, broccoli, garlic, chickpeas, etc.
Deficiency of this important mineral has serious effects on a woman’s body ranging from depression, poor perception levels, abnormal weight gain to decreased fertility and even chances of weight gain in expectant and lactating mothers. Intake of foods like strawberries, organic cheese, legumes, etc., will help in such conditions.
Phytoestrogens are known to be highly beneficial for women. These plant derived nutrients are found in foods like sesame seeds, almonds, flaxseeds, wholegrains, including cracked wheat and barley.