I probably shouldn’t be writing about my eating habits. With all of my workouts and fitness articles that I write (and read), my eating habits have remained bleak. However, something has struck me over the years. As women, we chase after being thin or slender. It’s likely culturally rooted in us (to be fair, the majority of men have also been told to look a certain way – tall, muscular, or what society calls “masculine”). When trying to be thin, we often make fundamental mistakes such as eating less, eating less healthy meals, or even eating things that we “suspect” will help us be thin, even if they do not make us fit.
Let’s face it, we’ve all tried crazy diets before. I know I’ve tried the GM diet, a juice detox, and even the keto diet. None of them were helpful. This week (September 1-7) has been known as the National Nutrition Week. So it seemed appropriate to talk about what women should eat.
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The important things first. A change in our diet requires a changed perception of what constitutes “fitness”. Our goal shouldn’t be to get thin, bulky, or muscular. It should be to be healthy, have good immunity (especially important when there is a global pandemic), and the strength to do at least our basic daily chores without any problems. That’s not to say that just because your goal isn’t to lose weight, you gain extra weight or get super thin. Aim for and maintain a healthy weight range, eat foods that are good for you, and eat enough to keep you full.
“Many customers want to follow a certain diet in order to achieve what they think is ideal. To lose weight, they sometimes skip meals or eat less. However, if your diet does not contain enough nutrients, it can have many negative effects. Including impairment of metabolism, sleep cycle, hormones and bone health, ”explains Paraj Primlani, certified nutritionist and founder of ParaFit, a collaborative fitness website.
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It should also be remembered that our nutritional needs as women differ from those of men because of the hormones we produce. So if the men in your life eat something that is healthy for them, it doesn’t necessarily have the same effects on your body. Conversely, that doesn’t mean you won’t either just because they don’t need a specific nutrient.
“Women go through so many hormonal changes in their lives. Food is a very important part of their lives, both in terms of diet and taste, and when eaten right it can make them happy. There are so many things you make during adolescence physical changes and you need good nutritious food that supports growth. During puberty, girls need extra iron along with vitamins and minerals to manage the menstrual cycle. Pregnancy brings so many extra needs and mood swings with it. that the food is not only nutritious but also delicious as a complete package, “says Gunita Singh, Director of Dentem and Associate Consultant at Sri Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.
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With that in mind, here is a quick checklist of the nutrients to keep in mind.
Iron: The body needs iron to support growth, make certain hormones, and carry oxygen to various tissues. Women often suffer from iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia (a lack of red blood cells in the body). This is all the more true for women of childbearing age, as blood loss through menstruation can lead to iron deficiency. Some regular, simple sources of iron are fish, nuts, beans, vegetables, and meat.
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Calcium: Both men and women need calcium. However, women over the age of 35 tend to lose bone density and are more likely to develop conditions such as osteoporosis. So, monitor your calcium levels and strengthen them with proper diet. Some good sources include fish with bones, leafy greens, and soybeans.
Folic Acid: Another nutrient that we don’t talk much about is folic acid, or folate in its natural form. This is found in beans, peas, eggs, and spinach. Folate stimulates red blood cell formation and the production of important chemical signals in the nervous system. It is especially important for pregnant women as it is known to prevent neural tube defects in newborns.
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Vitamin D: This seems almost obvious as most people appear to be deficient in vitamin D. This is useful for cell growth, building immunity, and reducing inflammation. According to a 2019 study in India, around 70-90% adults and around 84% pregnant women are vitamin D deficient. Good sources for this are egg yolks, fish like hilsa and tuna, and even mushrooms.
So keep in mind that at the end of the day you need a balanced meal that will provide you with enough nutrients in the right amounts. Just because you ate a meal high in calcium doesn’t mean you can save on the others. Once you have made nutritious eating a habit, you can easily achieve your other health and fitness goals – be it for weight loss, building muscle, or increasing endurance.
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