Women’s health: Know your nutritional needs change with each life stage
Keeping healthy can be a challenge, especially when the advice is so variable and depends so much on what ‘stage of life’ you’re in. Well, worry not – we’ve compiled a simple list of the basic nutritional needs you’ll encounter at each stage of life. Focus on this aspect of health, and the rest will follow on pretty easily.
Whatever Your Age
There’s some basics that remain the same regardless of your age, so these are a great place to start changing in your diet. To begin with, your diet should be well-balanced and moderated. What does this mean? It certainly doesn’t mean you can’t indulge with a little wine or a lot of chocolate every now and then. Instead, it’s more about what your meals consist of and what food groups you’re eating. You should ensure you’re eating whole grains, fruit and veg, lean sources of protein and (healthy!) fats. All too often health trends suggest cutting fats out of your diet, but there’s an important distinction they lack – what fats are healthy and what fats aren’t. You need the healthy kind, so don’t cull fat completely. Another really important thing you should increase your intake of is calcium. Women are generally at a higher risk than men of getting osteoporosis (thinning bones). You don’t need to down gallons of milk though – beans, broccoli and kale are all high in calcium! Ensuring you have enough iron is important to – especially if you’re still menstruating. Cereals and almonds, as well as red meat are good sources for this.
Do you have terrible PMS? Try tracking your period and adjusting your diet a few days before it’d usually hit. Depending on what you experience, try: – Bloating: avoid sugar and salt – Inflammation (cramps): avoid red meat, egg yolk and add in Omega-3 – General PMS: cut caffeine, alcohol, and dairy It’s also worth taking B6 as this can help with bad cramps – though check with your doctor first as it’s not suited for everyone.
Trying for a Baby
Would you believe, what you eat affects your fertility? We’re not meaning things like aphrodisiacs here – just simple food groups you already eat. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine can all decrease your fertility, so they’re worth cutting out if you’re worried. Prenatal vitamin supplements are great (and why not get your partner some multivitamins of his own too?). Other than that, ensuring you’re eating healthily as above, and you’ll be fine.
It’s true what they say – you’re eating for two now! You don’t need much extra for the baby (300 calories) but what you’re eating is important. Try not to worry about the weight gain – as long as its within standard boundaries, you’re fine. Make sure you eat plenty of fat and protein as these are vital to a developing child. It’s also worth changing up how you eat meals – don’t try to stick to three big ones a day. Not only is this better for preventing unneeded weight gain, it’ll help reduce morning sickness and heartburn. If you’re struggling for ideas on how to do that, check out the bento boxes common in Japan. Not only are they cute, they’re really healthy and balanced if you follow the given proportions. If you can, cut out alcohol and caffeine entirely – though ensure you don’t go into caffeine withdrawal, as this is stressful for the baby. Unlike most life stages, there’s some unusual foods you should watch out for. Research varies, but sushi, raw sprouts, tuna and ginger are all potentially harmful for pregnant women. If you’re concerned, talk with your doctor – they’ll be up to date on the latest studies.
Similar to pregnancy in that you need extra nutrients for the baby, but different as its less reliant on you. Now, not all women can or should breastfeed, so remember if this doesn’t seem to work, it’s okay to make use of formula – whether as the main source of food, or as a supplement. You’ll want to keep up with the protein, but also add in some bonus calcium. Check in with your doctor first, but vitamin supplements can be very useful, especially if you find yourself struggling to stick to a regular meal plan with a new born. The real thing to watch out for is any allergies your baby may develop – because you’ll need to cut the offending food out of your own diet too!
For some lucky women, the menopause is a breeze. For the rest, it can be painful, embarrassing and emotionally challenging. Though changing your diet alone can’t stop this, in can help ease the symptoms. Once again, you’re at an increased risk of osteoporosis, so checking on that calcium intake is a must. Adding in more vitamin D (especially if you don’t get into the sun much) and magnesium is worth it too. If you suffer from hot flushes, try cutting out wine (we know, it’s tough! You’ll get through it soon!), coffee, and white flour-based products. Instead, try eating flaxseed and soy – both of which are good for balancing out hormones and easing your through. Healthy fats like Omega 3 and 6 are good for this too – as well as helping your skin to stay looking younger. You’ve probably heard of evening primrose oil, and this works thanks to the GLA content which can balance hormones.