Nutrition Needs Of Women At Different Stages Of Life
Human life is a continuum. Studies have well proven that what you eat and how you live your life has an impact on your heart, your blood vessels, your liver, your moods, strength of your bones, and your chances of developing certain diseases. Our nutritional needs change from time to time. The nutritional needs of women mainly include complex carbohydrates, adequate protein and moderate healthy fats but at each life stage, there are subtle changes in women’s bodies that can impact overall health and need to be addressed by making certain changes in the diet. This can have a huge impact on health and overall well-being.
Let’s look at few important stages in a woman’s life and dietary requirements.
Stage 1: Initial stages of growth - As an infant, toddler and a child-
It is important to focus on the gut health of the child. Since it is an opportunity for beneficial bacteria growth and we now know that 70-80% of the immunity lies in the gut and this fends for us for life. Thus, it is an excellent idea to have your child be breast-fed (rich in beneficial bacteria) unless fundamental limitations and then weaning off to whole foods rich in fibre.
Since it’s easier to train the taste buds of the child at an earlier stage, parents should definitely take this opportunity to feed the child with a variety of whole nutrient dense foods in the most creative way.
Stage 2: Growing years and embracing adolescence
It is important to focus on the daily protein requirement during this age. Your muscles, hair, skin and nails are made of protein. Protein is essential for building the right quality of hormones as well. Hormone health extremely important for women considering it affects fertility and conception. The Indian diet is high in carbohydrates and sometimes the right quantity of protein may be missed. Ensuring at least 3 servings of protein daily can be beneficial. Good sources are milk, curd, paneer, eggs, lean chicken, fish, dals, nuts and seeds.
Similar to achieving one’s daily protein requirement, daily consumption of moderate amount of high-quality fats is also required to boost hormone health. Good sources are ghee, coconut oil, raw nuts and seeds. Especially foods rich in omega 3 fats which include walnuts, flax seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Stage 3: Fertility, Conception and Pregnancy
Studies confirm that exercising vigorously for at least 30 minutes a day while maintaining a healthy weight is related to a lower risk of infertility. Consuming meals rich in complex carbohydrates, high on fibre along with good exercise regime helps in insulin sensitivity which is a beneficial factor for fertility and conception. Few examples of complex carbohydrates are jowar, bajra, rajgira and dalia.
Omega 3 rich foods are highly beneficial for fertility like fatty fish, walnuts, and flax seeds along with Omega 3 supplements.
Calcium is equally important during pregnancy for the child and even more important for the mother since the child takes all vitamins and minerals from the mother. This may lead to few deficiencies in the mother most common one being calcium due to multiple pregnancies. Calcium rich foods like milk, curd, paneer, green leafy veggies, sesame seeds and calcium supplementation are beneficial.
Stage 4: Menopause
Menopause – ‘mens’ means month and ‘pausis’ means to stop - refers to the natural process of stopping of the menstrual cycle that occurs at the end of the reproductive years in women.
Most women tend to reach menopause around 40-50 years of age. However, the causes of premature menopause vary from chronic stress, autoimmune diseases, smoking, genetic factors, removal of ovaries, and in some cases, the cause is unknown. Symptoms are irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes and night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, water retention with bloating, headaches and weight gain. Dietary guidelines include complex carbohydrates, adequate protein, calcium rich foods, fermented foods high in beneficial bacteria with addition of super foods like coconut oil, medicinal mushrooms, bone broth, and raw cacao can help.
Making changes to your diet as per your life stage is an important step in ensuring good health as you age. Ensuring a daily protein requirement target is met is essential for women. Use these guidelines to get started on the journey of good health and well-being.
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