Forget vitamins, aim for vitality. Eat to support women's health. Here's how..........
Wise food choices, such as low-fat dairy and antioxidant-rich
vegetables, may protect you against some of today's top diet-related
women's health issues.
Women are unique--thanks to our complex bodies, composed of a special
blend of fat and muscle and regulated by hormonal systems specific to
our sex. Though our bodies are masterfully designed to perpetuate the
species, we are at risk for gender-related health concerns, many of
which have a firm footing in lifestyle choices--in particular what we
put on our plates.
EATING TO AVOID OSTEOPOROSIS
When you go through menopause, you may experience rapid bone loss as
your estrogen production drops, which puts you at risk for bone
fractures and loss of strength and function. Two lifestyle factors
rank equally high in promoting optimal bone health: fitness and food.
"The latest science shows that nutrients like vitamin D and calcium,
plus compounds called flavonoids found in green tea, provide
bone-building action and support," says Victoria Shanta Retelny, R.D.,
L.D.N., dietitian and author of "The Essential Guide to Healthy
Since vitamin D and calcium work together to strengthen bone, getting
plenty of both nutrients (600 International Units of vitamin D for
women up to age 70, and 1,000 milligrams of calcium for women age 19
to 50 and 1,200 milligrams for those over 50) is essential.
Foods rich in vitamin D and calcium include vitamin-D fortified dairy
products, such as milk and yogurt, and fortified plant-based milks
like soy, rice and nut milks. Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon,
halibut, tuna and/or mackerel, as well as mushrooms that have been
exposed to UV light, contain significant amounts of vitamin D. In
addition, your body can manufacture vitamin D through exposure of the
skin to sunlight. Calcium sources also include green leafy vegetables,
tofu, almonds, and soybeans.
ANTIOXIDANT-RICH FOODS MAY PROTECT BONES
"Sipping a few cups of green tea daily may give women a bone-building
boost from the flavonoid EGCG, which has been shown to mineralize
bone," says Retelny. "Vitamin C-rich foods like strawberries, oranges,
pineapples, kiwi, guava, and tomatoes help collagen fibers link
together and create a strong connective tissue matrix, as well as help
protect bones from free radical damage and increase bone mineral
density or bone mass."
Physical activity is critical in maintaining bone mass. In particular,
weight-bearing activities (at least 30 minutes per day), such as
walking, jogging, tennis, and dancing; and strengthening activities
(twice a week for all major muscle groups), such as pushups and weight
lifting, cause your body to work against gravity, thus strengthening
bones and muscle and improving balance.
FOODS THAT FIGHT BREAST CANCER
An astonishing 38 percent of breast cancer cases in the U.S. are
preventable through healthful living, according to the American
Institute for Cancer Research. One of the primary lifestyle factors
that can protect you is a healthy body weight.
"Excess body fat sends out chemicals that increase the risk for
several types of cancer, including post-menopausal breast cancer,"
says Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., dietitian and author of
"Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week."
Physical activity, which can help you maintain a healthy weight and
control hormone levels, offers breast cancer protection, according to
Weisenberger, who suggests that you aim for at least 30 minutes per
day. In addition, studies have confirmed that alcohol consumption may
increase your risk for breast cancer.
"It's not clear if there is a safe level of consumption, but since
modest amounts of alcohol may help reduce the risk of heart disease,
women may want to incorporate moderate amounts into their diets--one
mixed drink, one beer, or one four to five ounce glass of wine per
day," says Weisenberger.
A diet rich in a variety of antioxidant-rich plant foods, from dark
green vegetables and citrus fruits to beans and whole grains, also
appears to provide nutrients that may suppress cancer development. And
if you're in your childbearing years, breast-feed your infant--it's
the best nutrition for your child, and also helps protect you against
A DIET TO PROTECT YOUR HEART
Here's a sobering fact: Almost every minute in the U.S., a woman dies
from heart disease. Once thought a "man's disease," heart disease is
America's No. 1 ladykiller. Fortunately, diet and exercise are key
strategies to protect your heart.
"Your total diet is far more important than any two or three foods you
might add or omit from your diet," says Weisenberger. "Fill your plate
with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. At least
two-thirds of your diet should be plant-based, with an emphasis on
whole or minimally-processed foods."
In order to gain the widest variety of nutrients, eat all types of
colorful plant foods. As for the best protein choices, choose omega-3
rich seafood at least twice a week, limit fatty and processed meats
(bacon, sausage, and hot dogs), choose low-fat dairy products, and eat
more plant proteins, such as beans, soy and lentils. Focus on healthy
plant fats in moderation, like avocados, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin
This dietary pattern is filled with heart-protective nutrients,
including fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats,
and is low in all of the heart-damaging nutrients, such as saturated
fats, trans fats, sodium, and dietary cholesterol. And maintain a
healthy weight and physical activity levels--vital elements for
optimal heart health.
MANAGING MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS WITH DIET
If you're approaching that pivotal time in a woman's
life--menopause--you're probably anticipating a variety of health
concerns, including weight gain and hot flashes. So, what's a woman to
"Hormonal changes are inevitable as women age, but many of the side
effects, such as hot flashes and weight gain, can be avoided with a
focus on sound nutrition practices and regular physical activity,"
As women's calorie needs decline during aging, weight gain is common.
It becomes even more important to make every bite count by focusing on
high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, and beans.
"Maintaining a high-fiber, plant-based diet, which is low in saturated
fat and added sugar, can ensure that your blood sugar levels are
stable, fend off cravings, and maintain a healthy body weight," adds
Retelny. You can help balance calories in versus calories out by
getting plenty of exercise.
Can diet cool down hot flashes? Some studies--but not all--suggest
that about two servings of soy foods, such as tofu, soy milk or
edamame daily may help ease them.
Ladies, great advice from Sharon Palmer, RD. We have to try to follow it as best as we can. Let's try!!! Visit Sharon Palmer's website here.
p.s. I want to thank Andee Leeds for sending me this wonderful article with great advice for us lovely ladies. I am very blessed to have wonderful friends that send me great info to post! xoxo