Is making the right food choices important? Do I need to be aware of the kinds of foods I am eating? Why should I stress about it? Is eating what I want a big deal? I have asked myself these questions and now, along with you, I will find the answers to them and the information I need to make better food choices.
In an article tittled, Women’s Nutrition Needs Special Attention, by John Casey, women need fewer calories, but more nutrients than men to be at their best. When a woman hits puberty, her role as the bearer of children drives her nutritional needs (Casey, 1). “So women need fewer calories than men in part because they tend to be smaller and have higher fat percentages than men. In general, women need around 1,200 calories every day and men need a few hundred calories more.” (Casey, 1).
“Women also need iron more than men. Women need to eat a diet rich in meat, fish, and poultry,” says Spalding. “For vegetarian women it may be harder to get iron from dietary sources because the iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well.” (Casey, 1). Foods that are naturally high in iron include spinach, chard, beans (pinto, kidney, black), lentils, and split peas. Most grain foods we eat such as cereals, pasta, and bread are now fortified with iron (Casey, 1). You can increase the amount of iron you absorb from food by eating Vitamin C rich foods. Turner notes, “Women can be iron deficient and not be anemic. Being iron deficient can keep women from performing optimally.” (Casey, 1).
Moreover, according to Spalding, another area to watch for is calcium and folic acid. The daily amount of calcium is greater for women. The recommendations are 1,000 milligrams a day for women under 50, and 1,500 milligrams a day for women 51 and older (Casey, 1). Another important nutrient, folic acid, betters heart health and possibly protects you from colon cancer. “The Institute of Medicine recommends 400 mcg daily for people over age 14. Pregnant women need 600 mcg daily, and women who are breast feeding need 500 mcg daily.” (Casey, 1). Folic Acid is important for overall good health, but even more so for a developing fetus.
Another smart food choice is omega-3. There are several omega-3 fish oil benefits for women. According to Moss Greene of Bella Online, there are eleven omega-3 fish oil benefits for women. They are: breast cancer protection, relief from menstrual cramps, improved fertility, healthy babies, preeclampsia prevention, full term babies, baby’s brain development, less postpartum depression, minimized menopause problems, protection against osteoporosis, and reduced risk of heart disease. Fish rich in omega-3 and considered lower risk for contaminants are anchovies, bass, halibut, herring, blue mussels, pacific oysters, salmon, trout, tuna (up to 6 ounces per week), and white fish (Moores, 2). Omega-3 fish oil also helps boosts memory. “DHA, or docosahexaoenoic acid, is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. It makes sense that if you have higher levels of DHA in the blood, then the brain will operate more efficiently,” says Andrea Giancoli, RD, registered dietician and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson (Moores, 2).
There are several diet and nutrition tips for women found in the website www.helpguide.org. These include focusing on whole, plant-based foods which means fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and beans. It suggests taking calcium to support bone health since women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis more than men. The website also suggests women should get enough iron. They say women lose a lot of this important mineral during menstruation. Another recommendation from www.helpguide.org is to cut back on alcohol and caffeine. “Women who have more than two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine consumption interferes with hormone levels and also increases the loss of calcium. Try to limit alcohol consumption to one glass a day and caffeine to one cup a day.” (helpguide.org, 4). Another tip is to eat the right type of protein. Eating too much animal protein can cause calcium loss, therefore, they suggest fish, skinless chicken and turkey, low-fat dairy, and plant-based protein sources. Finally, according to helpguide.org, many women have been led to believe that dietary fat is unhealthy and contributes to weight gain. However, fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet. What matters are the types of fat you eat. Healthy fats boost your brain power and mood. They promote healthy pregnancies, they contribute to lifelong beauty, they help control cravings, they lower the glycemic index of foods (easing the spike in blood sugar resulting from eating carbohydrates), and finally, you need fat in order to absorb certain vitamins. Healthy fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are in plant oils including canola oil, peanut, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are in fish, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, and walnuts.
In conclusion, there are ten tips for making better food choices found on www.choosemyplate.gov. They are as follows: number one, find out what you need by getting personalized nutrition information, number two, enjoy your food but eat less*, number three, strengthen your bones,number four, make half your plate fruits and vegetables, number five, drink water, number six, eat whole grains more often, number seven, learn what is in foods, number eight, cut back on some foods that are high in solid fats and added sugar, number nine, be a better cook by trying healthier recipes, and number ten, be active whenever you can.
*= This suggestion to me is a little evasive. Maybe they meant for you to look at what you’re eating and pay attention to your nutrition, your overall well-being, and if the food you eat helps you or could make things worse for your health. Is gaining weight a concern for you or not? Is it necessary? Eating small amounts throughout the day sounds better to me than eating small amounts at meal time.
- Casey, John, “Women’s Nutrition Needs Special Attention,” WebMD Feature, Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD. www.webmd.com
- Moores, Susan, MS, RD, “Pregnant? Safe sources of Omega-3 Fats,” www.eatright.org, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Greene, Moss, BellaOnline’s Nutrition Editor, “Omega-3 Fish oil benefits for women,” BellaOnline, The Voice of Women, www. bellaonline.com.
- www.helpguide.org, “Diet and Nutrition for Women: Eating Right to Look and Feel Your Best.”
- www.choosemyplate.gov, “Make Better Food Choices: 10 Tips for Women’s Health,” Nutrition Education Series, USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.