Julie Rowley, Contributing AuthorLast Modified: 12:47 p.m. EDT, 30 July 2013
With so much in the media written about health generally and women’s health in particular, it is hard to know where to start with ensuring that we have a diet which supports a healthy body. The almost emaciated archetype which has been portrayed as the ideal woman for many years is not helpful as it encourages poor diet, which in turn can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia or EDNOS.
Once we have waded through the advertising, the newspaper and magazine articles, the websites and realized that we are surrounded by conflicting information and advice on every side, we eventually come to the conclusion that to have a balanced and healthy diet means going back to basics. We need to start at the beginning with understanding the nutrients that women need to sustain health through all the vagaries of our body’s chemical seesaw; with the fluctuations throughout puberty and adulthood, into menopause and beyond.
Balancing Finances and Diet
It is difficult for those with restricted incomes to ensure that they eat a healthily balanced diet which contains all the nutrition the body needs to maintain it. It often seems easier to just go with the flow of pre-packaged, processed convenience foods. But it is these very foods which are the basis of society’s obesity problems today. Even making room in our lives for some fresh produce is better than none at all. For those who can’t afford to buy all local organic meat and produce, there are still some things in our diet which we can change for the better. Weight for weight, fresh food contains more nutrition than convenience foods and far less in the way of chemicals that our bodies consider toxic.
Looking at the elements which go to make up a balanced diet, it's clear that we need to eat grains (including some wholegrain whenever possible); fresh fruit and vegetables; lean red meat; poultry (preferably without the skin); eggs; dairy (preferably low fat); fish; and nuts. We should use poly- or mono-unsaturated fats, such as olive oil for cooking and try to grill or bake rather than roast or fry (either shallow or deep).
The key ingredients for a well balanced diet are essential in providing women with sustainable weight control, abundant energy and remaining healthy throughout life.
What do these foods contain that we need?
High on the list of essential ingredients that our bodies need are vitamins. Fresh foods contain an abundance of natural vitamins, while many packaged foods contain laboratory produced vitamins. Natural vitamins are carbon-based organic compounds which are essential to our health. Some of these vitamins our bodies are able to produce in small amounts; while others we need to take in from external sources as these are the only way we can obtain them.
Trace minerals are necessary to help our bodies function properly. Found in many of the fresh foods that we should eat daily: zinc; iron; manganese; copper; chromium; selenium; these are some that our body needs in the right quantities to support good health.
Aside from vitamins and minerals, the foods we eat should contain fiber, a little fat, carbohydrates and protein. Fiber is invaluable in helping our body systems process the foods that we eat and maintain digestive health; it also works to reduce cholesterol in the body and to regulate blood sugar; as well as being known to significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancers. The fat we eat is used by the body for heating and insulation and for energy production (in tandem with protein). It acts as a regulator for Vitamins A, D, E and K (fat soluble vitamins) and is a source of Vitamin F (essential fatty acids).
Carbohydrates are needed by the body to provide energy and to support good brain function. Our bodies break down carbohydrates into simple sugars, which are either used by our cells as energy or stored by the liver as glycogen when the body has more than it needs. There are both simple and complex carbohydrates, although complex carbohydrates are more beneficial as they have less effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels and support better weight control.
Protein is a very important part of our diet. We get proteins from a number of sources, such as lean meat or eggs; even vegetables and grains can contribute towards the steady supply of protein our body needs for the healthy function of every organ, including the skin. The body takes proteins from food and breaks them down into the amino acids it needs. Without protein our bodies cannot function properly.
Supplementing our Nutrition
There are times or circumstances in our lives that supplementing our nutrition is advisable or necessary. This might be during pregnancy when our doctor prescribes iron for us; later in life when we need additional calcium to help guard against health issues such as osteoporosis; perhaps we are in a position where our immune system is depressed, through stress or illness, and we need a good multivitamin product to help us get back on track. Many women use products such as evening primrose oil for arthritis; or for pre-menstrual or menopausal symptom control. In cases where for some reason our body is not manufacturing or processing nutrients properly, it can help to give ourselves a boost using reputable and high quality supplements. Supplements are readily available in many supermarkets and health stores and it is a matter of personal choice whether we prefer to take healthy supplements in powder form; or perhaps in capsules, tablets or liquid.
Food for Thought
All too often we sacrifice what we know to be good nutrition and a balanced diet in favor of family members with their personal likes and dislikes. When this happens, we can find ourselves missing out on foods that we really do need to help keep our sensitive body systems in kilter. This leads to health problems down the line which we can avoid by periodically re-assessing our own dietary needs and adjusting our eating habits as necessary.
Follow Julie Rowley on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report
- Tip # 5: Diet (fromwoundstowisdom.wordpress.com)
- Lifestyle: Want to Eat Clean But Don't Know How? Here are 10 Ways to Start... (davidvalefitness.wordpress.com)
- Nutrition for Improved Athletic Performance (epicahealth.com)