by Anna Marie Trotman, Integrative Nutrition Coach
March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate.
Women have unique nutritional needs–whether they’re in their teens, childbearing years or beginning to experience signs of menopause. I’ll briefly discuss how nutrition affects your wellbeing in your stage of life.
How many times did you hear your mother say, “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes,” “Eat your greens, they have lots of vitamins,” or “Don’t drink all that soda, it’s bad for your bones!” She was right, you know. My mother was into healthy eating before it was a thing and both of my grandmothers were amazing cooks. They knew how to put together a nutritious meal that looked beautiful and tasted amazing. I watched and learned.
The following are some nutritional facts about some foods that support your mama’s claims.
Age Matters when it comes to what’s on Your Plate
Teens: Adolescents need a variety of nutrients, such as iron, calcium, folic acid and protein, which can be found in lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, fruits and vegetables. Foods and beverages high in calories, saturated fats, sodium and sugar aren’t off limits; teens should aim to eat those foods only on occasion. Consuming such foods and beverages on a regular basis can have a short term effect on mood and overall health and long-term health consequences into adulthood.
Nutrition and Fertility: In your childbearing years it’s important to have the proper nutrients in order to conceive and have a healthy baby. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School did a study of women who were not able to conceive and found that certain vitamins and nutrients were linked to positive effects on fertility: folic acid, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet. See a nutritionist or fertility specialist who will support you in your dietary choices.
Moving into Your 30’s: As you move into your 30’s life can get pretty full with work, kids, your spouse or partner, and an active social life. But….you don’t seem to have any energy by the end of the week and you get cranky if you can’t veg out over the weekend.
Often women complain of headaches, digestive troubles, PMS, and recurrent vaginal and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Spacing out is common as well as having a craving for sweets. Approximately 75 percent of American women experience candida infections during their childbearing years. This can be reduced by visiting your favorite natural foods stores or Farmers Market to shop for fresh and frozen low-glycemic veggies (asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, celery, eggplant, garlic, leafy greens, onions, peppers, snap beans, and tomatoes), quality protein like fresh seafood, lean antibiotic-free poultry or free-range meat, and organic eggs, organic butter, high-quality olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Brown rice, oatmeal, and other grains (like amaranth and quinoa) also can support health and wellness during these busy years. The cost of these foods may be a little high, but not as high as what you pay with poor health.
Perimenopause: This phase of your life is a natural, and often disconcerting, transition to menopause among women between 35 and 50. Diminishing production of estrogen and progesterone by the ovaries can lead to all the symptoms women consciously experience as well as others that aren’t so obvious, such as loss of calcium in the bones and risk for heart disease. Essential fatty acids in cold-water fish, flaxseed, and black currant seed oils can help balance hormones and reduce hot flashes, as can fermented soy; these foods can support cardiovascular health, important as women begin to lose their natural hormonal protection during these years. Replace high-glycemic carbs with fiber-rich fruits and veggies that help fill you up without adding pounds, and make sure you’re getting plenty of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D in a bone-building formula.
Menopause and Postmenopausal: The same as above pretty much applies. A whole-foods diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein and dairy products may reduce menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish, may also help.
You may want to limit added sugars, processed carbs, alcohol, caffeine and high-sodium or spicy foods.
These simple changes to your diet may make this important transition in your life easier.
Make an appointment with one of our health care providers to discuss your concerns and how you can take a natural approach to your stage of life with good nutrition. 302-658-2229 x115.
For more information and some strategies for personalizing your plate, go to https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month.