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Healthy eating is a must for breastfeeding mothers: Here’s why

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Motherhood is an enriching experience for many women, but it also puts significant demands on women’s bodies. While we now recognise the need for women to eat healthily during pregnancy, it’s just as vital to pay attention to a woman’s dietafter delivery - during breastfeeding.

Nutritional needs after delivery

Since babies are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of their lives, their nutrition is entirely dependent on the diet of their mothers. Only if lactating mothers eat well can they pass on adequate nutrition to infants.

While women are advised to consume around 350 extra calories per day during pregnancy, this number increases during the time they breastfeed their infants. Thus, lactating mothers require an additional 600 calories per day during the first six months in their diet after delivery, and 520 calories for the next six months as the baby will also be taking other foods.

This extra nutrition is in addition to what they normally require. For instance, a woman with an ideal body weight of 60kg normally requires around 36 to 48 gm per day of protein in her diet. This increases by 13.6 gm during the first six months of breastfeeding, and by 10.6 gm during the next six months.

Healthy diet for breastfeeding mothers

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Perhaps the most important dietary requirement for breastfeeding mothers is a sufficient quantity of protein. Proteins form the building blocks for the growth and development of infants, which they receive through mother’s milk. Thus, women need to incorporate plenty of protein into their diet.

For vegetarians, dals are one of the healthiest sources of protein. Beginning with green gram, women should consume a variety of dals while they are breastfeeding. They should also ensure a high intake of dairy products in the form of milk and curd. While it is recommended that they consume at least 750 ml of dairy per day, vegetarians can consider increasing this quantity further too. For non-vegetarians, egg, chicken or fish in less oily dishes such as gravies or boiled and lightly spiced are the way to go.

Women also require a variety of vegetables and fruits to ensure that the micronutrient requirements of the infant are fully met. They should aim to eat at least one cup of vegetables in two meals of the day, starting with beans, gourds, and brinjal. A sufficient quantity of cereals and oils are also necessary to satisfy energy and fat requirements.

Finally, it is important to eat a sufficient quantity of foods such as garlic, oats, and asparagus. These foods, called galactogogues, play a vital role in breastfeeding by improving lactation.

Women should also ensure that they do not skimp on calories, go on any sort of a restrictive diet, or try to lose weight while breastfeeding.

Traditional foods to help new mothers

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The physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy and delivery have a strong impact on women’s digestion. So, it’s important for new mothers to focus on their digestion. Traditionally, breastfeeding mothers are advised to eat more of spices such as jeera and pepper to improve digestion. Rasam is a good source of such spices.

In South Indian communities, a range of powders such as curry leaf powder, angayapodi (made with a combination of neem leaves and sundakkai or turkey berry), and sukkuthippilimarundhu (with dry ginger and long peppers) are recommended for improving digestion, providing micronutrients such as iron, and warding of illnesses such as coughs and colds. Betel leaf with lime and betel nuts is also traditionally recommended for providing additional calcium.

Eat healthy and stay healthy

Include all the major food groups in your diet, with a focus on proteins, vegetables and fruits.Drink a lot of fluids in the form of water and milk, as this improves lactation. Make sure you do not overeat, all you need are an extra 520 to 600 calories per day. Rest when the baby sleeps so that you get sufficient sleep, stay relaxed and avoid excess stress. Stress can affect lactation.After six weeks following delivery, regularly do exercises to get your abdomen back into shape.



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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Diet, exercise and sunlight: Three factors women shouldn’t ignore for good bone health

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
11 January 2021

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Barring a significant injury or fracture, we rarely tend to think about bone health. Yet, for women, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, this is a vital concern because of the risk of osteoporosis.

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 50 million Indians who were osteoporotic or having low bone mass. Some studies have found that the prevalence of osteoporosis could be as high as 42.5% in women over the age of 50.

Osteoporosis and health complications

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Osteoporosis comes from the Latin for “porous bone”, and is a condition where bone tissue loses its density, and becomes weaker and more fragile. Such bones are easily susceptible to breaks, resulting in pain, disability and loss of functionality in everyday life.

Bones, which form the primary supporting framework of the body, grow from birth till our early twenties, which is the period of peak bone mass. Bone is an active tissue that undergoes regular replacement in conditions of health.

In osteoporosis, however, bone formation is outpaced by bone loss, leading to porosity or thinness of bone tissue and brittle bones. Such bones could easily be fractured even in the absence of significant trauma. Such fractures tend to reduce mobility and lead to increased hospitalization and dependence on others.

Why osteoporosis affects women more

Women are particular at risk for osteoporosis because they have lesser bone mass to start with. The geometry and structure of bone have also been increasingly recognized as important risk factors for fracture.

The risk of osteoporosis significantly rises during menopause because of the hormonal changes women undergo at the time. This is because estrogen plays a significant role in maintaining bone health, and the secretion of this hormone falls drastically during menopause.

The importance of protein and calcium in the diet

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For some time now, awareness of the importance of calcium for bone health has been growing. Hence, women are advised to consume sufficient amounts of dairy, green leafy vegetables, soya products and nuts.

What many don’t realise is that sufficient levels of protein are just as important for strong bones. After all, protein makes up roughly 50% of bone volume and about one-third of its mass. Daily intake of protein is also necessary to provide the raw materials for bone formation. Unfortunately, research shows that the levels of dietary protein consumed by Indians are actually reducing.

For non-vegetarians chicken, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. For vegetarians, pulses are one of the primary sources of protein, along with dairy products. Daily intake of protein in at least two major meals of the day, particularly in healthy forms such as sambhar or dal is, therefore, vital.

The role of exercise and sunlight

Eat Breakfast

Bone health also requires good muscle health. This makes it necessary to undertake moderate exercise as often as possible. A 45-minute walk six days a week as well as resistance training using the body weight, such as surya namaskaras, can go a long way to building muscles. Importantly, the body also requires Vitamin D to mobilize calcium for bone health. Hence, exposure to peak sunlight between 11am and 3 pm at least twice a week is also vital for bone health.

Osteoporosis can be a serious health problem that disrupts life and limits mobility, particularly for women. However, a healthy diet, rich in calcium and protein, together with exercise, can go a long way in maintaining bone health.



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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