Mar 2, 2011

FIVE NUTRIENTS EVERY WOMAN NEEDS


As women undergo complex changes over the years, their bodies need a variety of nutrients. If you eat a balanced diet, it's not difficult to get enough of the many nutrients our bodies need. However, menstruation, the menopause, pregnancy and fluctuating hormone levels affect the need for certain key nutrients. 

1. CALCIUM FOR STRONG BONES
Osteoporosis, also called brittle bones, affects one in two women over the age of 50. The risk of suffering from this debilitating condition increases dramatically if your diet lacks calcium. Studies suggest that a low intake may also be linked with PMS. Until your mid-20s, it's vital not to skimp on calcium while your bones grow, but it remains important for bone health at all ages. 

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) is 400 - 500mg, which can usually be gained from three servings of dairy. After the menopause, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium, so you may need to up your intake.
200ml (semi) skimmed milk = (248) 249mg calcium
150g low-fat yogurt = 225mg calcium
25g almonds = 60mg calcium
40g dried figs =100mg calcium
2 slices of white bread = 85mg calcium

SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?
If you don't eat dairy products, discuss options with your doctor as supplements are available in several forms. Always check the amount of elemental or pure calcium in the supplement as it varies depending on the form. Calcium citrate and calcium malate are more easily absorbed than calcium carbonate. Older people often lack sufficient acid in the stomach to absorb calcium in the form of calcium carbonate if you're over 65, take calcium citrate. 

2. FOLATE - HEALTHY BABIES, HEALTHY HEART
Folate is essential during pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Because the spinal cord is formed in the first 12 weeks, folate is critical during the very early stages of pregnancy. It can be weeks before you realise you are pregnant, which is why all women of child-bearing age are advised to take a supplement. New research suggests a good intake of folate may also help to protect against heart disease and stroke, so it's worth making sure your diet contains enough even if you're not planning a baby. 

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The RDA is 100 micrograms. Women of childbearing age should take a folate supplement of 400mcg a day in addition to the 100mcg from their diet.
1 portion spinach = 91mcg folate
150ml orange juice = 27mcg folate
1 boiled egg = 20mcg folate
1 slice whole meal bread = 14mcg folate
1 portion (80g) steamed broccoli = 51mcg folate
1 orange = 47mcg folate
1 portion (80g) steamed asparagus = 138 mcg folate

SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?
It's virtually impossible to get 400mcg from your diet, so a supplement is essential. 

3. MAGNESIUM FOR A HEALTHY SYSTEM
Studies show that low intakes of magnesium may be linked with PMS, while other studies have shown that magnesium may help to increase bone density in postmenopausal women.

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The RDA for magnesium is 350mg a day.
25g almonds = 68mg magnesium
2 slices whole meal bread = 46mg magnesium
1 portion steamed spinach = 43mg magnesium
100g cooked lentils = 34mg magnesium
1 serving (150g) cooked brown rice =77mg magnesium
25g Brazil nuts = 102mg magnesium
25g sunflower seeds = 97mg magnesium

SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?
If you are not eating nuts, seeds, wholegrain cereals, dark green leafy vegetables or beans regularly, consider adding these to your diet or taking a supplement. A study published in The Journal of Women's Health found that taking a daily supplement of 200mg magnesium reduced PMS, fluid retention, breast tenderness and bloating by up to 40 per cent. Magnesium supplements are available in many forms - magnesium citrate is the form that is most easily absorbed by the body.

4. BRAIN-BOOSTING OMEGA-3 FATS
Omega-3 fats are vital for the development of a baby's brain, which makes them a key nutrient for pregnant women. Studies also show that women who have a good intake of omega-3 during pregnancy are less likely to have a premature baby. Omega-3 fats also keep adult hearts healthy and reduce the risk of stroke, and may help to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Generally, omega-3 offers genuine health benefits whatever your stage of life. 

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The RDA is 160mg – 300mg. To reach this target you need to eat one portion of oil-rich fish a week.
150g fresh salmon (kaala meen) = 3.4g omega-3
150g mackerel (kanankeluthi) = 3g omega-3
150g fresh tuna (Soorai meen variety) = 2.4g omega-3
100g sardines (Chalai) = 2.0g omega-3

SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?
If you don't eat oily fish once a week, consider taking a supplement. These are derived from fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, which also contain vitamins A and D. These can be toxic in large amounts, so if you're taking other supplements such as a multivitamin, it's easy to exceed the maximum safe dose. As they contain vitamin A, fish liver oil supplements are not recommended for pregnant women - look for supplements labelled simply as omega-3 supplements.

5. IRON FOR ENERGY
Studies suggest that one in four women has low iron stores. Iron is essential for the manufacture of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen from your lungs and transports it around the body. An iron deficiency can make you feel washed out and constantly tired. 

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The RDA is 30 - 38mg. Most women's need for iron drops after the menopause, but until then it's important to ensure you get enough.
25g sunflower seeds = 1.6mg iron/ 15g pine nuts = 0.8mg iron
8 dried apricots = 1.7mg iron
1 slice whole meal bread = 1mg iron
125g roast chicken = 1mg iron
1 portion steamed broccoli = 0.8mg iron 

SHOULD YOU TAKE A SUPPLEMENT?
If you don't eat red meat and/or have heavy periods, you are at risk of iron deficiency. Iron supplements are available, but some forms can cause stomach upsets. Iron is toxic in excess and, although there is little risk of getting too much from food, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions for supplements. 

1 comment:

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