How do you balance it all – work, family, social life – and your diet too?
While the nutrition needs for women do not differ too much from men, there are a few key nutrients that women should focus on throughout different phases of life for optimal health. Unfortunately, women can fall short of their nutrient needs if prioritizing health and self-care falls by the wayside. Here are some quick nutrition and diet tips on where to focus throughout the many phases of life.
Life Phase: Pre-Menopause
Nutrient of Focus: Iron
Iron is a key nutrient that aids in the delivery of oxygen throughout the blood ultimately working on the maintenance of energy levels and the ultimate goal of avoiding iron deficiency anemia. Remember to schedule your annual check-up so your doctor can test your iron levels, but in the meantime, focusing on getting iron from foods is a great preventative measure to take. Iron is most readily absorbed from animal foods such as red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, and fish. Vegetarian sources of iron include kale, spinach, beans, lentils, and some fortified ready-to-eat cereals. If you’re focusing more on vegetarian sources of iron, they are more easily absorbed by your body when eaten with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, berries, bell peppers or broccoli.
Some of the best iron-rich items you can get at FreshDirect, whether you’re a vegetarian or not: Ground Beef, sardines, lentil pasta, lentil soup, spinach, chopped super salad, Lamb Chops, and iron-fortified cereal.
Life Phase: During Reproductive Years
Nutrient of Focus: Folate / Folic Acid
Folic acid is a vital nutrient during childbearing age and should be taken regularly when trying to conceive, as it is most important in the first trimester of pregnancy (but needs to be continued throughout the entire pregnancy as well). As with iron, many foods are fortified with folic acid and also found naturally in foods, so making sure your diet is rich in folate is key. If there’s any concern, a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin can also serve to ensure folic acid is being consumed in the needed quantities.
Many iron-rich foods also have a significant amount of folate, such as spinach, fortified cereals, and beans/lentils. If you’re shopping at FreshDirect, here are some of the items highest in folate available: lentil quinoa kale salad, asparagus, fortified cereal, and black-eyed peas.
Life Phase: Lifelong
Nutrients of Focus: Calcium & Vitamin D
Calcium is a key nutrient in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth that become more important in aging for osteoporosis prevention. Women are at a greater risk than men for developing osteoporosis; a routine bone density screening isn’t recommended until age 65 for women, but talk with your doctor if you are concerned or have other risk factors.
Calcium is best absorbed in combination with magnesium and vitamin D. Just like with iron and vitamin C, it can be a lot to think about to eat combinations of foods together, so focusing on a healthy variety of foods throughout the day can ensure proper nutrition and absorption of these essential nutrients. While calcium and magnesium are relatively easy to get from the diet, vitamin D is a little less prevalent in food sources. Instead, aim to get about 20-30 minutes daily in the sun without sunscreen to absorb enough Vitamin D (just make sure to always cover your face!). Any more time in the sun and you want to apply sunscreen of SPF 30+ and reapply every 45-60 minutes.
Calcium is one of the labeled nutrients, so you can always check a package (or the FreshDirect website!) to see the calcium content. Calcium is found in all dairy foods – milk, yogurt, cheese and in fortified juices, soy and almond milk as well. For non-dairy sources, your best bets are leafy greens like kale, some fish like sardines or canned salmon and tofu.
Life Phase: Lifelong
Life Goals of Focus: Exercise & Positive Body Image
The benefits of exercise are endless – stress management, mood enhancement, cardiovascular health, muscular strength, bone density from weight lifting, and on and on. But the most positive impact exercise can have is to improve your self-image. There is a lot of research showing the significance of the relationship between positive body image and phycological well-being. It is not only important for you and your mental health, but also for those around you. Your daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, friends’ kids, colleagues, and spouses are listening to what you are saying. Aim to be a positive role model and celebrate all the amazing things that your body can do! Surround yourself with positive people, unfollow anyone on social media who makes you feel bad, and go ahead and use the time you would have spent worrying about calories or your weight to do something more useful. And most importantly, celebrate the women around you who are trying to do the same each and every day. Happy International Women’s Day!