The focus of most nutrition programs and well being schemes is woman and child health. A child’s health is intrinsically linked to maternal health. This is why women’s health has so often been prioritized.
A woman by herself has different nutrition requirements at different stages of her life. While most requirements increase from childhood to adolescent, requirements for specific nutrients increases as she becomes a woman of reproductive age. We are all also aware of the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy and lactation. The menopausal and post menopausal phase also pose requirements of different nutrients and a healthy well balanced diet in general.
While a woman at each stage of her life requires a healthy and nutrition abundant diet, here are the 5 most important nutrients each woman needs to ensure is present in her diet in sufficient amounts:
Anemia, that is the main result of iron deficiency in the body is twice as prevalent in women than men. It results in lethargy, poor concentration, breathlessness and in pregnant women poses the risk of developmental delays in the child.
A simple Haemoglobin test can be done to assess whether there is sufficient iron in your body or not. The normal range for women is between 12.0 to 15.5 g/dl. Any less than 12 g/dl means that you are anemic.
To prevent iron deficiency, eat iron rich foods like red meat, egg, whole grains, dry fruits along with Vit C rich foods like Citrus, Broccoli, Capsicum. This is because Vitamin C increases the absorption of Iron in the body when consumed together. Secondly, don’t consume tea or coffee with meals. The tannins present in them decrease absorption of Iron by the body. Have at least a 20 minute gap in between.
Calcium is an important nutrient for women’s health. Calcium is required by our body for bone health. This is why its deficiency, particularly during menopause causes osteoporosis. Adequate Vitamin D levels should also be maintained so that our body can effectively utilize Calcium.
There is a misconception among people that lactose intolerant people do not have enough sources of calcium in the diet, however there are many. To prevent calcium deficiency, have adequate milk, cheese, amaranth, ragi, sesame seeds and almonds.
- Folic Acid
Women in the reproductive age should maintain adequate stores of folic acid. Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women causes spinal cord deformities in the child. The folic acid stores in the body should be adequate pre conception.
Consume plenty of folic acid rich sources such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beans and oilseeds in the diet
Magnesium is an important mineral required by your body in maintaining hormonal balance. Apart from potentially having anti inflammatory benefits, reducing hypertension, and lowering blood glucose level; magnesium plays a vital role in managing mood in women experiencing PMS. Magnesium can reduce mood swings, bloating, cramps, anxiety and insomnia.
Magnesium rich food sources include banana, spinach, quinoa, dark chocolate nuts and oilseeds, avocado and legumes.
Probiotics refers to healthy bacteria that improve gut health. The food that nourishes them is known as prebiotics. Growing research is suggesting the importance of probiotics in maintaining digestive health and boosting immunity.
Some examples of natural probiotics are yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, paneer, kombucha, tempeh, fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi.