Nutritional food for women may be different from what’s best for men – and to confuse matters further, it changes as your body changes, as the demands on it vary, and as you get older. But there are some principles which will always apply!
When we talk about healthy eating, what we should really be considering is ‘optimal nutrition’. Our food and drink has to do more than prevent deficiencies… it has a loftier role to help us achieve optimal health – complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.
It’s responsible for giving you energy, supporting your hormones and mood, maintaining your weight, and keeping you looking and feeling your best! So, here are my tips on how to strike the right nutritional balance for you at every stage of life:
1. The basics of good nutrition
Good nutrition starts with the foundations: a balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, and whole grains*. This provides women with energy, the means for lifelong weight control, and the key ingredients for looking and feeling good.
2. Feed your bones with calcium
Women are at a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis, so it’s important for them to get enough calcium from their diets, throughout their lives, to support bone health. Yes, dairy products are high in calcium, but so are beans, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts. So, eat your greens!
3. Make sure you get enough iron
Many women don’t get enough iron in their diet, which is especially important during menstruation, when levels are depleted. Boost your intake by eating iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, dark poultry, lentils, spinach, and almonds.
4. Eat good stuff regularly
By making the right food choices throughout the day, it’s much easier to control cravings and feel energetic all day. Start with an energy-boosting breakfast that includes protein (like eggs) and eat regular healthy snacks (like fruit, nuts, seeds, oatcakes, etc). Long periods between meals can make you feel crabby, so keep well fuelled, finishing with a light early dinner.
5. Don’t cut out the fat!
Healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, groundnut oil and the fat in foods like avocado, seeds and nuts, etc…) are an essential part of a nutritious diet, contributing to: vitality; vibrant skin, hair and nails; and mental and emotional health. In pregnancy, the demand for fat is even higher – it’s very important to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
6. Cut the sugar and the soda
Sugar and fizzy drinks do nothing but harm to your body, affecting body fat, hormones and all elements of your health – lose them from your diet as much as you possibly can! More here on sugar and healthier sweet alternatives
7. Don’t overdo alcohol or caffeine
Some foods and drinks, instead of being nutritious, are the opposite… robbing our body of nutrients, or negating their good effects! For example, alcohol! One alcoholic drink a day is enough as far as your body’s concerned – more than two puts you in a higher risk bracket for osteoporosis. Caffeine’s another one: it affects women’s hormone levels and increases loss of calcium, so ideally limit caffeine drinks to one a day.
8. Nutrition to combat PMS
It’s a week before your period. You’re suffering from bloating, cramps, and fatigue, brought on by fluctuating hormones. That’s something you have to accept, right? Nope! Diet can help lessen these symptoms. First step: avoid refined sugar and salt. Sugar makes mood swings more pronounced and salt aggravates water retention and bloating. Next, add essential fatty acids to your diet to help with cramps. Eat more fish, or take fish oil, or flaxseed oil supplements, to ease symptoms. Also consider vitamin supplements – for some women, taking a multivitamin, or supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E is helpful.
9. Nutritional tips for baby-making
If you want to boost your fertility, avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. Eat organic food – as pesticides may interfere with fertility. A prenatal supplement may help you achieve the optimum levels of fertility-boosting nutrients, including folic acid, zinc, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C. Keep an eye on your partner’s diet too, as 40 percent of fertility problems are on the male’s side. Encourage them to supplement zinc, vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin D.
10. Nutrition for pregnant women
Don’t eat for two, just add about 300 extra calories a day (of good food) to maintain a healthy pregnancy and nourish a growing baby. Fat and protein are very important to baby’s developing brain and nervous system. Stick to lean sources of protein and healthy fats for weight control. Abstain from alcohol and cut down on caffeine. Eat smaller, more frequent meals, to help prevent heartburn. Foods that may be harmful to pregnant women include: soft cheeses, sushi, deli meats and fish such as tuna that may contain high levels of mercury.
11. Nutrition for breastfeeding women
When you’re nursing a baby, you can afford to take on board a higher level of calories, which help your body maintain a steady milk supply. Lean sources of protein and calcium are in higher demand during lactation. As in pregnancy, refrain from drinking and smoking, and reduce caffeine.
12. Nutrition for menopausal women
10 years before the menopause hits, your reproductive system gradually prepares for retirement and hormone production changes. By eating especially well as you enter your menopausal years, you can ease the transition. Make sure you boost calcium intake and get plenty of vitamin D and magnesium, both of which support calcium absorption. Limit wine, sugar, white flour products and coffee. Hot flashes improve in almost all cases when those foods are limited or avoided.
Eat more good fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids can help boost hormone production and give skin a healthy glow. Evening primrose oil and blackcurrant oil are good sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that helps balance hormones. Flaxseed can also be effective in managing hot flashes. Add one to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your daily diet. Try sprinkling it on soups, salads, or main dishes.
That is a VERY potted version of my ‘how to eat what’s good for you’ guide… But it’s a good starting point if you’re looking for pointers on nutritional food for women. MUTU Food is all about eating good, clean, real, wholesome food… and if you start with that foundation, you can’t go far wrong.
Just remember, your body can survive, or thrive, the choice is yours!
* Want to try cutting our grains for health – read more on some easy Paleo principles here