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How Indian women can have a calcium rich diet for better bone health

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
19 October 2020

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.

It’s nearly impossible these days to find people who don’t focus on their diet one way or another. But when our diets are motivated by the wrong reasons, watching what we eat may lead to more harm than good. Indian women, in particular, often struggle to get enough calcium into their diet when they are following set diets, leading to several health problems.

Why calcium is important

A calcium rich diet is vital for bone health, proper nerve function, blood clotting and muscle health. Women, in particular, are more prone to osteoporosis, a thinning of bones that can lead to repeated fractures and breaks. Even health authorities have recognized the need to increase calcium consumption among Indian women. Thus, new guidelines issued by the National Institute of Nutrition have raised the recommended daily allowance of calcium for women from 600 mg/day to 1,000 mg/day.

Why women suffer calcium deficiency

As they grow older, women tend to consume less milk and milk products. One possible reason for this is the myth that milk consumption leads to weight gain. The problem grows worse in older women, as their estrogen levels drop at menopause. Estrogen plays a crucial role in calcium metabolism and helps in reducing the number of cells that cause bone degradation. Estrogen also promotes active Vitamin D formation, which, in turn, stimulates calcium absorption from the intestines.

Loss of dietary variety causes calcium deficiency

While calcium plays such a vital role in women’s lives, many of the newer diet patterns often lead to a drop in dietary calcium. For instance, the mono diet involves only eating one food group. This leads to an imbalance of nutrients and a lack of dietary calcium. The Fast800 diet only allows 800 calories per day, which leads to drastic deficiencies if not perfectly planned. Similarly, the ketogenic diet severely restricts carbohydrate consumption, which leads women to drop milk from their diet. Taking on a diet only with the aim of losing weight and looking skinny causes a lot of harm, as people don’t pay enough attention to the nutritional balance of their meals.

Many young Indians don’t have a sense of nutritional balance when they move out of their family homes and start cooking and caring for their own nutrition. This is when they fall prey to fad diets, neglecting the fact that a balanced diet with a variety of foods is the surest way to health.

Can calcium supplements help?

In certain cases of higher deficiency, calcium supplements may need to be prescribed for a calcium rich diet. However, supplements come with their own difficulties. Certain medicines such as antibiotics, bisphosphonates and high blood pressure medications can interact with calcium supplementation. Calcium can also affect the absorption of iron, zinc and magnesium. While supplements are useful in certain cases, in general, upping our dietary consumption of calcium is the best way forward.

How to increase dietary calcium

There are several great dietary sources for calcium, including milk, curd, whole pulses, whole grains (like red rice), millets (like ragi, jowar and bajra), almonds, green leafy vegetables, black sesame seeds, black eyed beans and dry fruits (like figs and raisins). All spices contain trace amounts of calcium. So, a traditional diet provides many useful sources of calcium. Ajwain, in particular, is a good source when cooked with citran leaves. Curry leaves are another excellent source, and one should make it a point to consume the curry leaves used in sambhar, rasam, and so on. Sweets and traditional milagai podi (chilli powder made for dosa/idli) that use sesame seeds are another great source of calcium.

Pay attention to calcium

To avoid a future with joint pains and other orthopaedic problems, take care of your calcium consumption now. Sure, there are calcium supplements to make up for severe deficiencies. But a balanced, traditional diet with a variety of calcium rich foods can do a much better job of taking care of our bone health.

Make sure that your diet is chockfull of all the vital nutrients that help you lead a healthy lifestyle.



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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Pregnancy’s effect on blood pressure and how a healthy diet helps

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.

It is no mean feat to grow another human being inside oneself. So, it comes as no surprise that pregnancy has several profound impacts on the body.

Plasma volume increases progressively through pregnancy. Cardiac output increases by 20%. The mother’s body requires more iron to produce foetal haemoglobin and certain other enzymes, as well as folate and B12. Her glucose metabolism undergoes changes to provide the foetus with sufficient glucose and energy and fuel its development. And the growing uterus causes mechanical changes to the digestive tract, pushing the stomach upwards and increasing gastric pressure.

Pregnancy and blood pressure

Eat Breakfast

Among these many changes, one significant shift that women should watch out for is a change in blood pressure. The pregnancy causes blood pressure to decrease in the first and second trimester but increase in the third. This increase in blood pressure can have a significant effect on the foetus if care is not taken.

It can cause a decrease in blood flow to the placenta, affecting the amount of oxygen the baby receives. This can, in turn, lead to intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, or premature birth. High blood pressure can also cause the placenta to be separated from the uterine wall, causing severe bleeding.

There are several factors that contribute to increases in blood pressure during pregnancy. The risk increases if women are overweight or obese, over 35 years of age, not getting enough physical activity, carrying more than one child or have a family history of hypertension.

How a healthy diet can help

Skin Care

Pregnant woman must also look into their iodine intake, as deficiency of iodine in the mother can lead to congenital abnormalities and decreased intelligence. Supplementation of iodine in severely deficient mothers is likely to increase the IQ of the infant. In severe cases of deficiency cretinism could precipitate. Iodine deficiency also leads to hypothyroid issues in the mother and infant. The easiest and best way to ensure that the required iodine reaches the mother is through iodised salt.

However, one of the main contributors to high blood pressure is dietary sodium. Sodium levels in the diet increase from added salt as well as from processed or ready-to-eat foods. Hence, pregnant women should highly restrict the consumption of foods high in sodiumsuch as pickles, papads, and preserved food. Store-bought sauces are also another prominent contributor of sodium and should be avoided as far as possible.

One good way to do this is to replace salty tastes with tangy or citrus tastes. For instance, pregnant women require a large quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet to ensure adequate micronutrients. A good way to achieve this without adding more salt to the diet is through fresh salads seasoned with lime juice or coriander.

Another clear contributor to high blood pressure is bad cholesterol. When the arteries get clogged due to cholesterol, this forces the heart to pump harder, which increases blood pressure. Thus, women should also stay away from unhealthy cooking such as fried foods and dishes containing trans fats. What’s more, fried foods also often contain high levels of sodium, which increases sodium intake.

Sweets and desserts, particularly those prepared outside the home, can also be red flag. Such preparations often contain unhealthy fats, which again contribute to bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.

While it might seem like that cravingsareundeniable, all our cravings are learnt and we do get used to a variety of tastes over time. So, when eating while pregnant, it’s time to cut down on sodium-richand fatty foods, and experiment with more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a range of other spices and herbs. This will ensure that you and your baby stay healthy and happy.



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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