International Women's Day is celebrated on 8th March each year and this year too there are tons of events and activities planned around it. Men and women across the world will raise a toast to the continuing social, cultural and economic achievements of women. What started as a multitude of smaller events and marches in the early 1900s is today a global celebration of the modern woman. 8th March is also celebrated as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.
To mark the occasion, we at NDTV Food take a quick look at the unique nutrition needs of women.
How are women's bodies different from men?
Yes, we've all heard about how men are from mars and women are from Venus. Biologically speaking too, there are vast differences between the bodies of men and women. From voice texture to muscle mass, bone density, weight, height, hormone types and levels and more - there are many factors that contribute to making men and women different.
Naturally then, the nutritional needs of both sexes would be different too.
While the basics or essentials of a healthy, balanced diet remain the same for both, women need a few extra nutrients in keeping with their body's demands.
According to Shilpa Arora, Health Practitioner and certified Macrobiotic Health Coach, women are like warriors, who effortlessly sail through pregnancy, childbirth, labor, pains and aches. 'A woman's body needs to be nourished very differently from a man. The percentage of fat in a women's body ranges between 18% to 20%, which is almost double than that of men. Now this is because, at some point in her life she has to nourish a fetus from her own reserves.'
Rupali Datta, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis adds,'Women planning a pregnancy must be aware of their Iodine, Iron and folate status to avoid complications and to protect their child while pregnant. Lactating mothers need additional nutrition to meet the demands of this physiologically state.'
Our food must not only nourish, it must also help prevent the occurrence of future lifestyle and chronic diseases.
Does your body need supplements?
Our body understands food and not supplements. The best absorption of most nutrients especially iron comes from natural and real food. The best way is to give the body nourishment from a wide variety of food. According to experts, the problem with supplements is that they come in isolation, which reduces its effectiveness. Eating wholesome, unprocessed food consist of complimenting compounds thereby increasing its positive effects on the body. The bottom line is poor eating cannot be compensated by vitamin supplementation.
Generally speaking, a balanced diet is what we should all aim for. Stay away from junk foods - they not only add extra calories to your diet, they have no nutritional benefit to speak of. Here are a list of everyday nutrients that must be a part of every woman's daily diet, as per health Practitioner, Shilpa Arora.
Make sure you include at least a single serving of each of these nutrients in your diet daily.
1. Calcium for Bone Health:
Women are at a higher risk of getting Osteoporosis as they grow older. The reason is the decreasing levels of Estrogen in women as they approach menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that protects bones, among other things. As Estrogen level go down, women are prone to low bone density and osteoporosis. The good news is one does not have to take adverse bone health as a natural part of ageing. Good lifestyle habits and healthy nutrition can go a long way in making sure that women's bones remain strong for longer.
Women need around 1000mg of Calcium a day. Adequate calcium in combination with vitamin D for absorption will reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Good sources of Calcium include: Milk, curd, chia seeds, cheese, broccoli, almonds, bakchoy. Make sure you include at 2-3 of these in your diet daily.
2. Folic Acid for Reproductive Health
'Not having enough can make you irritable, tired, lethargic and depressed'. Women need 400mcg of folic acid daily. Eat lots of green vegetables nuts and seeds, chicken, spinach, meat and eggs.
3. High Quality Protein for Muscles
Proteins are required for your bones, muscles and overall health too. An average adult woman needs about 45gms of protein (not pregnant or lactating). Rely on good sources of proteins like dairy, fish, beans and legumes, eggs and poultry.
4. Essential Fatty Acids for Skin Health
Genetics aside, what you eat is largely responsible for the health of your skin. Foods rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants help maintain the skin's moisture and delay the signs of ageing. Essential fatty acids are rich in omega 3 and antioxidant rich foods help fight against free-radicals.
Include foods like chia seeds, flaxseeds, oily fish like sardines, tuna and salmon. Fruits such as Avacados and Tomatoes are very good for skin too. Nuts like walnuts also come highly recommended when it comes to skin health. Walnuts are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids that help maintain the skin's moisture and keep it glowing.
5. Iron-Rich Foods for Energy
As women lose iron with each menstrual period, and during child birth, they need to add it back in their diets. Men however should avoid excess iron, as it would lead to harmful deposits. The most common type of Anemia stems from a deficiency of iron in the body. This kind of Anemia is treatable so long as there are changes around the diet and nutrition of the woman.
Iron rich foods like red meat, eggs, raisins, dates, spinach and moringa leaves should be consumed regularly.
6. Vitamin C for Immunity and Repair
Extremely essential for absorption of iron in the body. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps maintain skin and tissue health.
There are several delicious ways to give your daily food a boost of Vitamin C. Add amla to your daily juices, include fruits like guava and oranges to your fruit chaats and have a katori of sprouts for breakfast every day.