Nutrition For Women: Should It Be Different? –

Posted: March 19, 2020 at 8:50 am

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When it comes tothe basics of healthy eating, theres no doubt that whats good for the gooseis also good for the gander. No matteryour gender, you cant go wrong with eating a variety of healthy foodsincluding lots of fresh vegetables and fruit; legumes and pulses, nuts andseeds; lean proteins and dairy; healthy fats and wholegrains. Combine those healthy eating guidelines withregular physical activity plus the awareness that we require less calories thanmen, and women can do a lot to safeguard their health. Inevitably though, finely etched into thefabric of womens lives are the details of our difference, and we do have someunique needs when it comes to certain micronutrients, which shift in focusduring our changing life stages.

MarykeBronkhorst, a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (Association forDietetics in South Africa) points out that our reproductive years represent the major portion of ourlives. Women and girls of reproductive age, who are not pregnant orbreastfeeding, should strive for optimal nutritional status for their ownhealth and for the health of any future children, Maryke says. Goodnutrition during the reproductive years helps set the foundation for health inyears to come. It helps ensure proper growth during adolescence, adequatenutrient stores for a healthy pregnancy, and a good nutritional status to helpmaintain bone health during the menopausal and postmenopausal time of life. Many womens health issues are related tothe hormonal shifts in oestrogen and progesterone associated with the menstrualcycle. These include higher riskof anaemia, weakened bones, and osteoporosis. Malnutrition, as either under- or over-nutrition, canalso have adverse effects on womens health and fertility.

Top tips for your reproductive yearsare:

What aboutpregnancy?

This incredibly special time in awomens life can become a minefield when it comes to everyones opinions aboutpregnancy dos and donts. What iscritical for pregnant women is to turn a blind eye to old wives tales and thelatest fads and to rather follow professional, evidenced-based nutritionaladvice.

Pregnant women and breastfeedingmoms do have important nutritional requirements that support both their healthand the health of their precious baby.Maryke highlights the importance of healthy weight gain: Ideally, a healthyweight should be achieved prior to conception but, of course, this can only beworked on in the case of planned pregnancy. What mums-to-be need to understandis that obese pregnant women have increased rates of pregnancy relatedhypertension, gestational diabetes, large babies, C-section, perinatalmorbidity and mortality. Conversely, underweight pregnant women have greaterrisks when it comes to preterm delivery, low birth weight, and foetal growthrestrictions. Healthy weight gain during pregnancy is important for the healthof both the mother and the foetus, and it has a positive impact both during andafter pregnancy. However, weight loss during pregnancy should be avoided.

Top tips for pregnancy and breastfeeding are:

During and after menopause

While thebasics of a healthy, balanced diet stay the same, your post-reproductive years heraldsome slight changes in your healthy eating regime. Maryke notes that acommon concern for women during and post- menopause is unexplained weightgain, especially around the abdomen. This is attributed to many factors, shesays, such as changes in hormones affecting metabolism; the loss of lean bodymass which is part of the ageing process; reduced basal metabolic rate;lifestyle changes and changes in physical activity. It is important to note that your calorierequirements are reduced post-menopause due to a natural metabolic slow down.Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods in smaller portions, cutting down on processedfoods and foods that are high in fat and sugar, as well as maintaining (orincreasing) regular physical activity. Dueto the cessation of menstruation, iron requirements are reduced.

Top Nutritional Tips:

Maintaining a healthy weight for a lifetime

From girlhood through to old age, we benefit greatly from maintaining a healthy weight. Another ADSA spokesperson and Registered Dietitian, Nathalie Mat makes the point that South African women tend to weigh more than our male counterparts, which puts us at greater risk of a number of health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. One of the key identified reasons is physical inactivity, says Nathalie. South African women tend to exercise less than men do and this increases the likelihood that they will gain weight. Nathalie also warns against unregulated portion size, especially when eating out: Chefs have no idea whether the food they are dishing up in the kitchen is going to a woman or a man. As women, we need to be acutely aware that the portions we are eating when out are most probably more food than we need. This means we need to stop eating when we have had enough, instead of eating mindlessly until we finish the plate.

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