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A Balanced Diet for Women

Nandita Iyer

Nandita Iyer
28 May 2020

This article is authored by Nandita Iyer. Nandita is the author of the book The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian and blogs at The Saffron Trail. She has studied medicine and nutrition.

We all know that a balanced diet comprises carbohydrates, protein and fat along with vitamins and minerals.

Carbohydrates, a complex affair

All carbohydrates are not made equal. Complex carbohydrates that come from whole grains, root vegetables and pseudo-grains (millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa) provide a whole range of health benefits. The fibre in complex carbs reduces bad cholesterol, keeps us feeling full for longer, aids in better blood sugar management. Replacing half the grains consumed by whole grains is a good place to start.

Protein, a must

Dal Healthy Indian Food

Protein is vital for growth and repair in the body. During pregnancy and lactation, protein intake is also critical for the growth of the foetus and production of breast milk. Foods that have all eight essential amino acids are said to be a complete protein. Vegetarian foods are usually lacking in one or more essential amino acids but combining cereal with a legume, which is extremely common in Indian cuisine is an easy way to get all essential amino acids in a meal. Similarly, legumes can also be combined with dairy such as in dahi-vada, khichdi-dahi also becomes a complete protein. Using good quality, unpolished dal can, like Tata Sampann Dals help you get good amount of nutrition from your ingredients.

All fats are not bad

Healthy fats are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in preventing heart disease, blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Women need more percentage of fat in their diet as compared to men due to its role in reproductive function.

Vitamins & minerals matter too

Healthy Meals

To get all the essential vitamins and minerals, it is good to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables of different colours in a day. Each of these fruits and vegetables is rich in phytochemicals that prevent disease, boost immunity, reduce inflammation and fight free radicals. While fresh produce is ideal, produce in frozen, dried, canned, fermented, pureed forms all contribute towards the 5-a-day requirement.

Women specifically need to be more careful with their diets during pregnancy and lactation, which places an increased nutritional demand on the body. Other conditions like polycystic ovarian disease and pre-menstrual syndrome can also benefit from lifestyle changes that include a healthier diet free of processed foods.

Here are some specific foods that benefit women’s health:

Iron-rich foods such as red meat (eat in moderation), chicken breast, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, beans and lentils. For better absorption of iron from vegetarian sources, make sure you combine with foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, tamarind, tomato as in tomato in rasam, spinach+tamarind, cereal+orange juice. While men need 8mg iron/day, women need 18mg iron/day and 27 mg/day during pregnancy.

Calcium-rich foods such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, broccoli and tofu prevent osteoporosis. The requirement for women is 500-700 mg/day which is easily obtained from 2 cups of yoghurt or milk in a day. Along with calcium, vitamin D is also important so if you do not have adequate sun exposure in a day, then talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.

Phytoestrogen rich foods like flaxseeds and soy products mimic the effects of the female hormone oestrogen and enable proper functioning of the reproductive system, sexual function and metabolism.

An ideal way to ensure a balanced diet is to eat a wide variety of whole and natural foods. Each ingredient in the Indian kitchen is full of nutrition. Choose the right recipes, spices and methods of cooking to get the most out of your meals.


DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.



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Hypertension In Women

Karishma Chawla

Karishma Chawla
27 October 2020

This article is authored by Karishma Chawla. She is a practising nutritionist and a weight loss expert. She advises people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or to achieve a specific health-related goal.

Hypertension is quite often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. In fact, men and women have a similar risk of developing high blood pressure. But after the onset of menopause, women actually face higher risk than men of developing high blood pressure. Although prior to 45 years of age, men are slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing inside the lining of arteries. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when the force increases and stays higher than normal for a period of time.

Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer. If untreated, it can lead to a major health set back and cause many complications. In most cases, there may not be any symptoms of high blood pressure. Sometimes, in case of sudden or severe increase in B.P., individuals may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or nosebleeds. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and kidney failure. These problems worsen when high blood pressure is present along with diabetes. For women, high blood pressure during pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and child.

What causes it? Reasons for high blood pressure

Eat Breakfast

• Genetic factors: Hereditary factors – one of the leading reasons for high blood pressure, which worsen when the environmental factors are not healthy.

• Body weight: Obesity and diabetes along with their associated disorders are often associated with hypertension.

• Age:Chances of a high blood pressure diagnosis increase steeply with age. But research now shows that high blood pressure can affect adolescents and the young as well.

• Gender: Risk is greater in men than women, but after menopause, the difference decreases.

• Dietary factors: Some dietary factors that can contribute to high blood pressure include excess calories coming saturated fats, diets that contain high sodium foods, and less calcium and magnesium in the diet

• Potassium: Decrease in potassium intake and low intake of high potassium foods like fruits and vegetables can also lead to increase in heart rate and high blood pressure.

• Contraceptives: Certain oral contraceptive pills may lead to high blood pressure

• Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle devoid of exercise can contribute to high blood pressure. Stress, smoking, tobacco intake, and alcohol intake also lead to increase in high blood pressure.

• Other medical conditions High blood pressure can also be a result of other medical conditions such as kidney problems, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Hormone issues such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome and Hyperaldosteronism (increase in aldosterone) and preeclampsia in pregnancy are responsible for high blood pressure diagnosis.

Measures to reduce high blood pressure

Reduce sodium intake
It is important to note that it’s not the consumption of salt but excessive consumption of sodium is a concern. Sodium is a compound found naturally in foods. One teaspoon of salt contains 2400 milligrams of sodium and the amount recommended for daily consumption is approximately the same. The amount of recommended sodium intake reduces further to approximately 1500 mg under conditions such as hypertension, kidney issues, water retention, and heart condition to name a few. But these problems are usually correlated with high consumption of sugar and fat. Hence it is beneficial to avoid foods such as processed foods, salted snacks, pickles, papad, sauces and instant soups. These are some known sources of excess sodium and not the usual home cooked foods.

It’s important to avoid sprinkling excess salt at the table. Rather use adequate salt during cooking and experiment with reduced sodium salt after conferring with your physician. Tata Salt Liteis a good option for those looking to reduce sodium intake. It provides 15% reduced sodium than regular salt. Inclusion of herbs and spices like like coriander, ginger, turmeric, mint, garlic or lemon juice can also help improves the taste and flavour of the food.

Improve intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium How to Increase Immune System
This can be done by inclusion of low-fat dairy products for calcium and green leafy vegetables for magnesium. Fruits and vegetables rich in potassium are bananas, watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, sweetlime, leafy vegetables, milk and almonds. Eating three to five servings of these foods daily would ensure sufficient potassium intake and regulate blood pressure.

Reduction in refined carbohydrates
Though this is not a direct connection, but the preparations and the nature of these foods usually contain excess sodium for taste and preservation purposes. Add omega 3 foods such as fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds to reduce blood pressure.

DASH DietDash Diet has been found to be a good approach for the treatment of hypertension. This diet emphasizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, low sodium, and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes low amounts of saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol to reduce blood pressure. This includes whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and other foods rich in potassium, calcium, omega 3 and magnesium.

Lifestyle MeasuresLifestyle measures include regular exercise of 30 minutes daily, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga, avoidance of rage and anger, adequate sleep, low alcohol intake, no smoking and normal body weight with low body fat percentage.

High blood pressure can affect the physical, professional, personal and economical life of any individual. As women tend to juggle multiple priorities, managing their own health often takes a back seat. It is advisable to take some judicious measures such as dietary and lifestyle modifications in order to prevent the onset of hypertension, control it and minimize its risks.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 



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