5 nutrition tips every woman needs to read

For women, juggling the demands of family, work, study and/or school, combined with the external pressures to look and eat a certain way, can make it challenging to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Males and females have unique nutrition requirements. Men usually require more kilojoules, however, women require higher amounts of particular vitamins and minerals. Menstruation, childbearing and menopause all result in hormonal changes, which can put women at an increased risk of anemia, weakened bones and osteoporosis. Focusing on your nutrition and getting the nutrient balance right can have a significant impact on not only your risk of disease but also your mood, energy levels and weight.

Whether your goal is to boost energy levels, combat stress, boost fertility, lose weight or support a healthy pregnancy, these 5 nutrition tips from our in house dietitians, Anna & Alex from The Biting Truth, will help you to stay healthy and vibrant throughout life.

1. Eat to support a healthy gut

Having a healthy gut, and a healthy gut microbiome, is an essential step in maintaining overall health. Your gut microbiome is comprised of trillions of bacteria, most of which live in your large intestine (aka large bowel). Your gut bacteria play a vital role in your overall health and can influence your immune system, sleep, energy, metabolism, weight management, appetite and much more. Poor gut health is not only linked to issues like bloating or constipation, but may play a role in the management of diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, arthritis and depression.

Diet plays a fundamental role in the bacterial makeup of your gut. Include the following foods in your diet for optimal gut health:

  • Probiotics such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh. These foods contain beneficial bacteria that promote microbial diversity.
  • Prebiotics such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes. These foods contain fibre that feed the beneficial gut bacteria and promote their growth.
  • Polyphenol rich foods such as dark chocolate, almonds, berries, apples and broccoli. Polyphenols can help to support the growth of good gut bacteria and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids such as oily fish, chia seeds and walnuts. Research suggests omega 3s promote better gut health by keeping gut bacteria diverse and healthy.

2. Eat your calcium

Calcium is needed to build healthy bones and teeth and keep them strong as you age. Bones contain most of your body’s calcium, acting as the body’s calcium ‘reservoir’. Your body is unable to make calcium. If you don’t get enough from your diet to compensate, your body will end up taking calcium from your bones and into the blood, which can lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis. This means it is important to have an adequate daily intake of calcium through your diet, so that your bone mineral strength is not compromised. Calcium deficiency can also lead to irritation, anxiety, depression and difficulty sleeping.

Women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men. In addition to this estrogen, a female hormone that protects bones, decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can result in bone loss. This means post-menopausal women are at a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis. It’s therefore vital that women get plenty of calcium, in combination with magnesium and vitamin D, to support bone health.

Consuming dairy foods is the best way to get calcium however smaller amounts can be found in foods such as leafy green veggies, certain fish, tofu and almonds.

Calcium requirements for women:

  • 19 – 50 years: 1000mg
  • 50+ years: 1300mg
  • Pregnant and lactating: 1000mg

3. Get plenty of iron

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in Australia, especially amongst women of childbearing age. Iron forms part of red blood cells and is involved in carrying oxygen around the body and delivering it to organs and tissues. It’s also important to maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Due to blood loss during menstruation, women of childbearing age need more than twice the amount of iron than men do, and even more during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Low iron levels can leave you feeling tired, weak and out of breath. Iron deficiency can also impact your mood, causing you to feel more irritable and may make it difficult to concentrate.

Iron from animal foods like red meat, chicken and fish is absorbed more efficiently by the body. Iron from plant foods such as green vegetables, legumes and oats is not as well absorbed by the body. This is particularly important for those following a strict plant-based diet (i.e. vegan/vegetarian), and supplementation may be required.

Iron requirements for women:

  • 19-50 years: 18mg
  • 50+: 8mg

4. Don’t fall for detoxes

You’ve heard all about detoxing, whether it’s a juice cleanse, a super restrictive diet or a tea detox. You may have heard that they can help you lose weight, improve skin, remove toxins and purify the body.

Unfortunately none of this is true.

While the idea of being able to drink green juices for a week and rid your body of ‘toxins’ might sound appealing, there is no scientific evidence to back this up. It’s important to understand that the human body evolved specifically to be able to naturally remove any potential toxins. Your livers and kidneys filter what you take in and remove waste from the body. Essentially, you don’t need to eat or drink anything specific to detoxify your body because your body is constantly doing this for you. However, eating a healthy diet can certainly help your natural detoxification organs work optimally.

When it comes to weight loss, yes these types of products may help you to lose weight temporarily, however, they are not effective long term. The weight you lose from a detox is usually water as well as stored carbohydrate in the body, which will return after (usually quite quickly) you finish the detox.

5. Power up with proteins from both animal and plant sources

Eating enough protein is vital for optimal health. This slow burning nutrient takes longer to digest, so it keeps you feeling full – good news for people trying to lose weight. It’s also a champion for your muscles, helping your body build and maintain them.

Eating protein rich foods, especially at breakfast has been shown to reduce the levels of the hunger regulating hormone ghrelin. This is why ensuring that your breakfast provides a good source of protein is incredibly important to help manage snacking and food cravings later in the day.

Focus on the variety of proteins in your diet including both animal sources (meat, fish, eggs, poultry) and plant sources (legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds).

Remember diet fads and trends will come and go but it is these sensible tips that will stand the test of time and support you to look and feel your best now and in the future.

Thanks for reading!

Anna and Alex
The Biting Truth

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